Florida Republican Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam spoke to Clay County constituents at Fleming Island’s Whitey’s Fish Camp early Tuesday morning.
The current Agriculture Commissioner, a former U.S. Congressman and state representative, focused on education during his “Up and Adam” breakfast — one of several he’s been holding around the state in hopes of securing the Republican nomination.
Putnam’s message to potential voters was the importance of creating a climate that makes young Floridians want to stay in the state and rebuilding the middle class. He says both topics have a lot to do with education. Putnam said he wants more career and technical education in middle and high schools.
“Have you ever been happier in your life to see someone than you were to see a lineman in a bucket truck turn your lights back on after five or six days with no air conditioning?,” he said. “That’s an example of a great-paying job, many of which are going unfilled in Florida.”
Putnam says he wants young people to know they can go into construction, IT, logistics or healthcare and get a high-paying job.
“The education culture is pressuring students into student loan debt for a four-year degree that they may not want and may not be able to use,” Putnam said.
He also says he supports parents’ right to choose their child’s school and local school boards having more control over curriculum.
“I’ve seen how innovation and competition in our public education system has given parents and students choices that in other states they don’t have and our system is better because of it,” Putnam said.
When asked if he would have signed a recently-passed education law known as “schools of hope” or House Bill 7069, he said he had issues with it. The law is a mashup of several education bills lawmakers stitched together at the last minute behind closed doors.
“Because of the way in which it was handled, I didn’t support it because it undermined the very confidence that people ought to have in education policy,” Putnam said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m against school choice, but it means that you ought to be loud and proud and let the system work so that parents and teachers and students can be heard in getting that policy right.”
Critics of House Bill 7069 say it favors charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools and that it takes control away from local school boards. Currently Clay and Duval counties along with 11 other Florida district are suing over the law as they challenge its constitutionality.
Putnam said he also wants to increase border security, but at the same time create a better system for legal immigration that doesn’t take years.
And, he vowed that, under his leadership, Florida would be the most military and law enforcement friendly state in nation.
“Policemen and fireman and veterans will know that Florida has their back in keeping us safe and keeping our community strong,” he said.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.