Charlie Crist spoke this morning to hundreds of educators at a Florida Education Association gathering in Orlando, in what amounted to the first Democratic campaign rally of the 2014 gubernatorial race,
Teacher union members roared as the former Republican governor and likely soon-to-be Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist took the stage. Van Halen blared from the sound system:
"Now you gotta run to get even
Make future plans, don't dream about yesterday, hey
C'mon turn, turn this thing around
Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Crist blistered Gov. Rick Scott on his education record, even as he struck a largely centrist tone that wouldn't have alarmed Jeb Bush much.
"I haven't always agreed with Jeb Bush, I must admit, but I do agree with him that we should continue to push higher and never settle," said Crist, voicing his support for the Common Core educational standards that have drawn criticism from both the right and left.
"We should set a date - I believe by 2020 - we want to be in the top 10 percent, not just in America but globally in reading, math, science, and technology. We should wake up every day asking ourselves what are we doing today to help our schools succeed? Sadly, while you are working very hard night and day to make our schools great, the support you're getting from the admin is pitiful: four education commissioners in four years, budget cuts, constantly moving targets on accountability, and a governor who cares so little that he didn't even attend his own education summit - though he did find time the very same week to attends a tea party convention. Those are his priorities."
Gov. Scott over the last year has touted his commitment to education, including funding and bonuses for teachers. But Crist made clear he won't let the governor easily promote himself as a champion for schools.
"In Rick Scott's first two years education funding was cut $1.5 billion. Now that we are in an odd numbered year before an election, he wants you o believe he has been your friend," Crist said.
"He likes to criticize my decision to accept federal recovery act funds to stand up our budget during the global economic meltdown. My question for Gov. Scott is simple: Which 20,000 teachers would you have fired had you been governor and not accepted those funds? Or would you have raised taxes on struggling property owners to make up for the real budget shortfall?"
The former education commissioner said Common Core common standards "are simply better than what we have relied on," and said the debate over Common Core is what's wrong with politics today.
"It came together the way policy should, in a bipartisan and cooperative way - which is why I'm convinced Gov. Scott opposes it."