- Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Wednesday endorsed seven school board candidates across the state
- The move comes shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis extended his seal of approval to twenty-six school board candidates
- The trend of endorsing local non-partisan candidates could shape how education is politically approached in future election cycles
As educational policy has taken center stage through the past legislative year, the two likely gubernatorial general election candidates — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Charlie Crist — have turned to school board endorsements to offer snapshots of their policy ambitions.
Crist’s campaign on Wednesday publicly endorsed seven school board candidates across Florida. The move comes less than 24 hours after the Representative announced his education platform that includes provisions to declare a teacher shortage, invest more in teacher pay, and increase per-student spending. The initiative plays antagonist to DeSantis’ educational policies and serves as a setup for an eventual point of contention between the two.
Crist’s endorsements ring familiar to DeSantis’ approval of 26 school board candidates that subscribe to his pro-parent ethos. The Governor’s endorsements marked the first time in recent memory that a major partisan public official has imposed their opinion on a non-partisan local race.
Just as DeSantis arranged ducks in a line, so to speak, Crist is making an attempt to show potential voters that he supports the opposite candidates of the governor. Crist is championing those that will “remove politics from classrooms,” by the way of advocating for policy that contradicts that of DeSantis, including the Stop WOKE Act and the Parental Rights in Education bill.
“Governor DeSantis is politicizing our classrooms, taking away parental rights, and limiting Florida students’ freedom to learn,” A press statement put forth by Crist states. “Florida deserves dedicated public servants on our school boards that won’t inject politics into the classroom, but rather work every day to fight for the best interests of our students and educators. I’m proud to endorse this incredible slate of candidates to serve on school boards across the Sunshine State.”
Crist’s endorsements include Lee County board Chairwoman Debbie Jordan, Marion County board Chairman Eric Cummings and Hillsborough County board member Karen Perez, Polk County candidate Sara Jones, Indian River County candidate Cindy Gibbs, Pinellas County candidate Brian Martin, and Hillsborough candidate Damaris Allen.
The two candidates are jockeying themselves to represent opposite sides of the educational binary. While DeSantis seeks the eradication of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender or sexual education from early elementary curricula, Crist advocates for the reinstating of local autonomy of school districts, enabling each district to approve or deny learning plans at their discretion, which may include elements of CRT.
“We have drawn a very clear line in the sand that says our school system is for educating kids, not indoctrinating them,” DeSantis during a Mom’s for Liberty event last weekend. “We have drawn a clear line in the sand that says parents have a fundamental role in the education of their kids.”
With the political pawns set on the proverbial chessboard of the gubernatorial race, some may find similarities in the educational posterizing to that of the 2021 gubernatorial election in Virginia. The winner, Glenn Youngkin, took a similar approach as DeSantis is now, rallying against CRT-based curriculum, and finding overwhelming success in doing so. Upon taking office, Youngkin’s first piece of legislative action was to sign an executive order to root out CRT from the state’s education system.
His opponent, Terry McAuliffe, in the leadup to his ultimate defeat, carried himself with a similar cadence that we can see now in Crist. While campaigning, McAuliffe pledged to invest $2 billion annually into public education, much like Crist proposes in the form of elevating per-student spending.
Youngkin’s rhetoric struck a chord with parents across Virginia. If current polling is to be believed, the same can qualify as true for DeSantis, who seems all but certain to retain his spot in the state’s capital. As the populace approaches the general election, the trend of school board endorsements could expand and proliferate. Perhaps soon we see individual endorsements of principals or school administration at large. Nonetheless, this election cycle could stand to serve as the new precedent for the political approach to education.