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In 2018 Florida Governor's Race, Dems Focus on K-12 Funding, Republicans On Career Training

Photo: Erik Hersman, Flickr.
Photo: Erik Hersman, Flickr.

Democrats and Republicans will pick their candidates for governor on August 28th. The five Democrats in the governor's race have made public school funding a top priority. The Republicans are concerned with career training.

PATRICK: Next question, it's on education funding. You all say we're underfunding education." As the moderator noted during the first primary debate in April — the Democratic candidates sound pretty similar on public school spending. Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham: GRAHAM: "We have got to start putting resources …" Former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine: LEVINE: "We can never spend enough." Entrepreneur Chris King: KING: "We need to spend the amount of money it takes to honor our commitment …" And Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum. GILLUM: "We have proposed a $1 billion dollar increase." Palm Beach County developer Jeff Greene joined the race later. GREENE: "We're gonna invest in our kids. We're gonna in our future." Levine and King are businessmen and have stressed the importance of strong public schools in powering the state's economy. Graham says the state's spending on public education is much less now compared to where it was more than 20 years ago … when Democrats — like her father — were in office. And Greene — he operates his own private school — says Florida needs more money for pre-K … and more technology in classrooms. One of the most specific proposals we've heard so far was from Gillum. GILLUM: "I'm the only one who has stood up to demand that we make sure that new teachers earn a starting salary of $50,000 a year." That promise came up recently when Gillum visited Miami-Dade College to meet adjunct professors from around the state. GILLUM: "Thank y'all for the opportunity, and I wish you the very best." (applause) Broward College adjunct Carolina Ampudia [Care-oh-LEE-nah Ahm-POO-dee-ah] asked him: Why just K-12 teachers? AMPUDIA: "If you compare their situation with us, they're in heaven." She pointed out: Full-time teachers get benefits — and most earn at least twice the income of adjunct professors. He assured her, colleges are his priority, too. GILLUM: "The teaching profession — whether it's at the K-through-12 or the community college or the university level — should not be a sacrifice of your quality of life." Her question highlights a difference that has emerged along party lines in the governor's race so far. While Democrats have focused on funding for K-12 schools … Republicans have talked more about learning trades — both in high school and community colleges. … Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam in a campaign ad … PUTNAM: "Today, liberal elites look down on people who work with their hands. I'll make vocational training a top priority." His opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, has also proposed bulking up career and technical education. That's aligned with the priorities of his biggest ally. TRUMP: "My great friend, a tough brilliant cookie." President Donald Trump recently visited Tampa to highlight a technical school there — and hold a rally for DeSantis. TRUMP: "And he's going to be your next governor, Ron DeSantis." (applause) Overall, the Republican race has been less about state policy and more about national politics. There hasn't been nearly as much talk of education among the Republicans. This is DeSantis … DESANTIS: " … reforming our education system, including opposing Common Core ..." … with the only mention of education during the first Republican primary debate, in late June. Putnam is a centrist on school funding. He told WPLG TV in Miami -- he went to public schools, and so do his kids. PUTNAM: "The vast majority of our students are in a traditional public school, and we need to make sure the resources are following those students …" But it's fair to say either Republican candidate would support Tallahassee's agenda of promoting charter schools and vouchers. DESANTIS: "How do we empower parents to make the decision that's best for their kids?" DeSantis recently told a Sarasota TV station WTSP — that could mean public schools, charters, or homeschooling. A recent campaign ad from DeSantis featured him doing some home-education — with his young daughter. This is his wife, Casey. CASEY: "He's teaching Madison to talk." DESANTIS: "Make … America … Great … Again …" The winners of the primary will face off November 6th.

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