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Topic: FL: Legislators are profiting at the expense of public education
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,536
Registered: 12/3/04
FL: Legislators are profiting at the expense of public education
Posted: Jul 24, 2017 3:53 PM
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*********************************
From The Miami Herald, Thursday, May 18, 2017. SEE
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article151418277.html
*********************************
Some of your legislators are profiting at the expense of public education

By Fabiola Santiago

Florida's broad ethics laws are a joke.

If they weren't, they would protect Floridians from legislators who
profit from the charter-school industry in private life and have been
actively involved in pushing - and successfully passing - legislation
to fund for-profit private schools at the expense of public education.

Some lawmakers earn a paycheck tied to charter schools.

One of them is Rep. Manny Diaz, the Hialeah Republican who collects a
six-figure salary as chief operating officer of the charter Doral
College and sits on the Education Committee and the K-12
Appropriations Subcommittee. [SEE
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/miami-dade/fl-doral-college-academica-20161021-story.html
AND
http://www.doralcollege.com/college-catalog/college-information/administrative-staff/
]

Some lawmakers have close relatives who are founders of charter schools.

One of them is the powerful House Speaker, Richard Corcoran, the Land
O'Lakes Republican whose wife founded a charter school in Pasco
County that stands to benefit from legislation. He was in Miami
Wednesday preaching the gospel of charter schools as "building
beautiful minds." [SEE
http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/incoming-speaker-corcoran-says-bill-that-would-benefit-his-wifes-charter/2271194
AND
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article151136242.html
]

Other lawmakers are founders themselves or have ties to foundations
or business entities connected to charter schools.

One of them is Rep. Michael Bileca, the Miami Republican who chairs
the House Education Committee and is listed as executive director of
the foundation that funds True North Classical Academy, attended by
the children of another legislator. Bileca is also a school founder.
[SEE
http://www.truenorthcharter.org/2015/08/03/the-dennis-bileca-foundation-commits-to-true-north/
]

These three legislators were chief architects in the passage of a
$419 million education bill that takes away millions of dollars from
public schools to expand the charter-school industry in Florida at
taxpayer expense.

They crafted the most important parts of education bill HB 7069 in
secret, acting in possible violation of the open government laws the
Legislature is perennially seeking to weaken. There was no debate
allowed and educators all across the state were left without a voice
in the process. [SEE
http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2017/may/17/richard-corcoran/florida-house-speaker-richard-corcoran-misleads-ab/
]

It's no wonder it all went down in the dark. It's a clear conflict of
interest for members of the Florida Legislature who have a stake in
charter schools to vote to fund and expand them. Their votes weaken
the competition: public schools.

This issue has nothing to do with being pro or against school choice.
It's about the abuse of power and possible violations of Florida
statutes.

The bill funds, to the tune of $140 million, an expansion of
for-profit charter schools in the neighborhoods of D and F public
schools, handing over to the private sector not only public money but
allowing and encouraging charter schools to take the best students.
In other words, instead of pouring those public resources into
struggling public schools, the Legislature is turning publicly funded
education into two school systems. In the struggling but also vibrant
public system where choice already exists through magnets, there's
oversight and regulations that ensure standards. The charter system -
which since its inception has demonstrated quite a range, including
well-documented flops - is a free-for-all. Private corporations
operating the schools make the rules.

And, as if handing them $140 million weren't enough pillage, school
districts will be required to share with charter schools federal
Title 1 funds that go to schools with the neediest students, and
funds that come from property taxes for school construction.

It's truly outrageous. It's not just a giveaway, an example of
corporate welfare, but a takeaway from public schools that
desperately need state funding. All in the name of benefiting the
expansion of an industry from which lawmakers and their families
benefit.

In the case of Diaz, he's constantly steering legislation that
benefits charter schools. His vote hurts his competition - public
schools - and benefits the industry from which he earns a living. And
when it comes to funding Miami Dade College, an institution vital to
his constituents, does he go to bat? Nope. He votes to give the
college the worst funding cut in its history - almost $14 million.
That voters don't boot Diaz out of office is a shame.

There are many more legislators in both House and Senate with ties to
charters. Their votes allowed the bill to pass in both chambers.

How much more brazen and outrageous do these legislators' ties to
charters have to be before ethics rules apply?

The education budget bill is tainted. Gov. Rick Scott should veto it
and send the Legislature back to work - not in the backroom, but in
the sunshine.

He would be sending the message that he stands with Floridians
instead of lawmakers who profit from public service.
----------------------------
SIDEBAR PHOTO: From left: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran,
Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., and Rep. Michael Bileca Florida House of
Representatives
-----------------------------
Fabiola Santiago: fsantiago@miamiherald.com, @fabiolasantiago
******************************************
--
Jerry P. Becker
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Services
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
625 Wham Drive / MC 4610
Carbondale, Illinois 62901



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