Crist tours Tampa school, takes it easy on the issues

09/24/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Politicians on the campaign trail often seem to forget that they have a day job. Today, one blog referred to Charlie Crist as Florida’s former governor, even though his term ends in January. But you might not know it by the way he makes his rounds. The governor shook hands with dozens of people in Tampa today, even though most of them won’t be voting any time soon.

The only way to describe it is cacophony. Hundreds of children line the outdoor hallway at Mendenhall Elementary School in Tampa. They’re stoked to see the governor, and the news people lugging their gear around probably didn’t take away from the excitement as Crist and the first lady pops into various classrooms.

Ostensibly, Crist is here to tour the school. It got its first A grade this year from the state. Principal Ire Carolina:

She says the school amped up its efforts in all subjects, but one problem area in particular got extra attention.

Carolina says the A grade is great news for the school, but it might have an unintended consequence - an increase in demand for enrollment may strain a school trying to comply with the class size amendment. Florida voters passed it in 2002. It caps k through third classes at 18 students, fourth through eighth grade classes at 22, and high school classes at 25.

A provision on the November ballot might soften the class size limits. Known as Amendment 8, it would use school averages to determine the maximum number of students per classroom instead. Governor Crist, whose veto of Senate Bill 6 last spring won him resounding support of teachers, supposedly supports it, though a call to his office on the question of whether he actually does was not returned by airtime. The state teachers’ union opposes it, as do more than half of Florida voters, according to a Mason-Dixon poll that came out today. But he doesn’t talk about the issue today. Instead, he talks about one school.

Crist, who left the Republican party in April to run for US Senate without party affiliation, faces an uphill battle against Republican Marco Rubio. Polls show Rubio with a comfortable lead over Crist as well as Kendrick Meek, a Democrat who comes in third in the 17-way contest for the US Senate seat. The November election is just over four weeks away.

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