Mavericks’ Florida PAC, their Walton Family and Sallie Mae Backers and Federal Taxpayer Dollars

Sometime after July 8, 2011, Academica boss Fernando Zulueta decided to transfer the non-profit corporation he used to promote his for-profit charter school empire to someone else. Between then and April 3rd of this year, an agreement was reached to cede control of Florida Association of Public Charter Schools Inc., (FAPCS)  to the owner of controversial charter school chain Maverick’s and two well-connected charter school executives.  Only the address changed in the PAC’s (Florida’s acronym is PC’s) turnover to Maverick’s president Lauren Hollander, Salvatore Joseph Bruno and Richard Moreno which became official on the aforementioned April date. Sometime after July 2011  the decision was made to make three contributions (the only one’s made in the PACs corps 3 year existence) totalling $35,000 to the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). The donations were made in late January and early February before the three technically took over. Yesterday’s story in the Miami Herald by  Mary Ellen Klas revealed that  massive amounts from the RPOF’s coffers is transferred to PAC’s belonging to house speaker Will Weatherford and senate president Don Gaetz.

Moreno is not new to his association with Maverick’s.  He appeared at a September 2010 interview with Palm Beach School District as the representative of Building Hope, a self-described Washington DC non-profit organization involved in financing Mavericks. Moreno is listed as Building Hope’s executive director. According to his Building Hope bio, his experience includes serving as Charter Schools USA chief financial officer and chairman of the dissolved by court order Florida School of Excellence Commission. The misleadingly named state agency was established by the legislature in 2006 to promote charter schools in Florida.

Bruno is Moreno’s boss as president of Building Hope. The powerful executive turned to charter schools in 2003 as a consultant with Building Hope. He is listed on the board of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools along with Zulueta and Hollander, indicating that PAPCS may also serve as the PAC arm  of Zulueta’s for-profit Academica and Renaissance charter schools, too.

It’s interesting to note that Democrats for Education Reform co-founder and chair, Kevin Chavous, is on Building Hope’s board of directors. Some may find it amusing that close associates of his are part of a PAC that will be promoting republican candidates.

The workings of  organizations which represent charter school interests is blurred by non-profit statuses. Building Hope is no different. It’s certain that Building Hope’s executives pull down generous salaries and its board members receive generous compensatory packages. But where does the big money come from? Apparently from the Walton Family Foundation and Sallie Mae.  And federal taxpayer dollars, too,  from the Department of Education  and the United States Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund.

The initial flow of taxpayer dollars goes from two federal departments of government to an entity, Building Hope, that enjoys a non-profit status and the tax breaks that go with it. Yet it’s executives channel those dollars to PACs which support for-profit charter schools in Florida like Mavericks, Charter Schools USA and Academica through donations to the RPOF.

The obvious flow of taxpayer dollars to fund political activities of the for-profit education industry is part of the brave new world that education reform’s rocks stars like Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan really don’t want you to know about. It at odds with what American’s are used to in that it’s educators used to not be motivated financially – or by test scores. As a society we’ve come to desire some professional people to operate without such influences. Among these are members of the military, clergy, fire fighters and police officers. Teachers use to be in this group, yet a “failing schools” meme as determined by easily manipulated test scores of children has enabled ed reforms rocks stars to sell their current brand to the nation.







About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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