Charlie Crist announces his "Fair Shot Florida" plan for the middle-class

Today in Fort Lauderdale, Democratic gubernatorial would -be nominee Charlie Crist unveiled what advisers are calling the first part of his middle-class jobs and opportunity plan called "Fair Shot Florida," and it's heavy on job training and enhancing opportunities for college students. The highlights include raising per-child funding in the state to $7,405.79, persuading the state Legislature to support a plan to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and expand Medicaid (two big ifs), and also work to make college more affordable. 

"America's economy has improved since the darkest days of the Great Recession — but Florida's middle class families and small businesses could be doing better," Crist said in a statement. "To ensure that everyone has a fair shot, Florida needs a governor who will invest in them, not just the big corporations. By restoring funding to education, giving Florida workers a raise and investing in training programs that will prepare our workers for the jobs of the 21st century, we can expand the middle class and create sustainable economic growth."

The Republican Party of Florida released a "pre-buttal" hours before Crist's announcement via state Senator John Thrasher, chairman of the Scott campaign.

"It’s hard to take Charlie Crist seriously on 'jobs and opportunity’ — because he hurt Florida’s economy so much as Governor, he didn’t even want his own job. Florida lost 832,000 jobs and unemployment tripled under Crist. He piled on tax hikes and tuition increases on struggling middle-class families, only to attempt to flee to Washington instead of staying to fix the mess he created. Charlie Crist had his shot at being Governor — but he failed, then ran away.”

Here's the plan in its entirety:

Restoring Rick Scott’s Cuts to Public Schools. Rick Scott’s cuts to education have dropped Florida’s contribution to education to its lowest level – he tried to slash $3.3 billion from K-12 education in his first budget and had to settle for a $1.3 billion cut. Florida is spending almost $200 per pupil less than it was when Charlie was governor. These cuts have had a real impact: Florida’s schools were ranked 5th in the nation under Charlie Crist; under Rick Scott, they’ve fallen to 32nd. Charlie will reverse these cuts by raising per-child funding to $7,405.79 because it will take a deep investment to undo the damage Rick Scott has done in the last 3 years. Unlike Rick Scott, Charlie will make Florida students a priority and put them on a path to succeed.

Urging the Legislature to Pass $10.10 Minimum Wage. After issuing an EO raising minimum wage for state contractors on his First Day of Fairness, Charlie will work with the legislature to find a way forward in passing legislation to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10. This is not only an issue of fairness and economic security for those making the minimum wage – it is also critical to our state’s economy because those workers will have more income and are more likely to spend it.

Extending Healthcare Coverage. When Rick Scott refused to lift a finger to expand healthcare coverage to hundreds of thousands of Floridians, he was also leaving tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars – dollars Floridians paid in taxes – on the table. Charlie will bring Republicans and Democrats together to expand healthcare, which will create 120,000 jobs and generate over $5 billion in tax revenue for local and state governments.

Making Higher Education and Vocational Training More Affordable. Many of the good-paying jobs of the future will require technical training or degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields. Charlie will make it more affordable to pursue those degrees by:

Creating a loan forgiveness program for university and college students pursuing a field in science, technology, engineering, or math. Students who graduate from a state university in a field with a concentration in science, technology, engineering or mathematics will have their student loans forgiven after the fifth year, provided that they maintain employment in their field of study and have remained in Florida

Helping Floridians refinance their student loan debt. More than half of Florida’s college and university graduates carry student debt and over the past five years the individual debt amount has increased by as much as a third. The current average is $23,054 per borrower. To help students struggling with this debt Charlie will create a student loan financing authority to help young adults refinance.

Making it easier for “first in the family” students to go to college. Many American success stories begin with the person being the first in their family to go to college. Charlie will build on the model in place at the University of Florida to make it easier for “first in the family” students to afford college – and to do everything we can to help them when they get there.

Bringing Schools and Businesses Together. No one knows what skills our workers need better than the businesses that employ them – but too often, there’s no connection made between those businesses and the programs that are training the workforce of tomorrow. In addition, too many of our kids leave high school and college without any clear career path. To address this, Charlie will:

Identify the specific skills needed for each Florida region. As Governor, Charlie will work with his Administration to conduct regional “skills gap analyses” with local businesses, school districts, and community colleges to ensure those gaps are filled.

Develop career and technical education programs in our community colleges that promote/develop our cluster-based strategy. Florida’s community colleges can play a greater role in rapidly adjusting to industry and workforce needs in information technology, manufacturing, and other high-tech areas. As Governor, Charlie will empower local communities – including the local businesses, community colleges, and training institutions – to identify and tailor skills development programs to address their own workforce needs.

Encourage more students to pursue computer programming. As Governor, Charlie will work with educators to allow students to take two years of a computer programming language in lieu of a foreign language, if they wish to do so.

Add entrepreneurship coursework to both high school and higher ed curricula. As students pursue their interests and determine their potential career paths, our schools should also introduce them to entrepreneurship as a vocation. Whether or not these students pursue college degrees – and regardless of which profession they choose – students who learn entrepreneurship skills are much more likely to think creatively and innovate.

Empower high school counselors to help students develop their career plans and form connections with local business leaders. High school counselors are often overlooked during the annual state budgeting process – especially under Governor Scott. As Governor, Charlie will place additional importance on the role of counselors, asking them to participate in the local “skills gap analyses” and to connect students with local business leaders.

Expand internships, apprenticeships, and hands-on learning in targeted skill sets. As part of his initiative to bring schools and businesses closer together, Gov. Crist will work with Florida’s schools and companies to offer students more opportunities for on-the-job training.  

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