The state’s largest teacher union announced Wednesday that it is backing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in her bid to unseat Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in Senate District 18.

“Rep. Janet Cruz has been a tireless champion for our educators, students, and parents,” said Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall. “While Republicans, including Senator Dana Young, voted to underfund public education, undercut teachers, and emphasize testing over teaching, teachers have always been able to count on Rep. Cruz.”

Cruz said she was “honored to receive this support from our educators.”

“Because of the failed leadership in Tallahassee, Hillsborough County schools are having to cut teachers, including bilingual classroom aides, and can’t even afford to repair air conditioning in certain schools — while brand new for-profit schools are being funded and built with tax dollars that should be going to our public schools,” Cruz said.

“It’s unacceptable. Tallahassee has to change. We need more teaching, less testing, higher teacher pay, and lawmakers who show up, just like educators and school staff do every single day without fail.”

The job cuts Cruz referenced are detailed in a Tampa Bay Times article on Hillsborough County Schools’ $38.2 million budget shortfall for next school year, which caused the district to cut 800 jobs, including 220 elementary school teachers, 116 custodial workers and 106 bilingual classroom aides.

Cruz launched her SD 18 campaign on April 10. Fellow Democrat Bob Buesing, the 2016 nominee in SD 18, exited the race and announced encouraged his supporters to back Cruz. The move left Cruz as Young’s lone challenger for the Hillsborough-based district.

Through three weeks in the race, Cruz’ campaign and an affiliated committee reported raising $146,600 – more than Buesing did in three months. Including money

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