The state’s journalists are on to the targeted political activities of Florida’s big for-profit charter schools and the nation’s richest pro-voucher group. From the Orlando Sentinel’s Bob Shaw:
A handful of ECOs — short for “Electioneering Communication Organizations,” shadowy entities that often disguise huge special-interest contributions under an otherwise-benign name — are beginning to show up on the airwaves in Central Florida.
In the Senate District 12 race, a heated Democratic primary contest between state Rep. Geraldine Thompson and Victoria Siplin, the wife of outgoing state Sen. Gary Siplin whose existing district includes a big chunk of the newly drawn one, an ECO called “Florida Federation for Children” has bought a 30-second ad for Siplin.
Turns out, this is a battle between charter school interests (supporting Siplin) and the state’s teachers union (backing Thompson.)
FFC is the a state arm of the national school-choice group the American Federation for Children, and has spent close to $200,000 this summer — mostly on ads and direct-mail pieces assisting supporters of expanding school-voucher programs and charter schools. The group has raised $770,000 this year — including $100,000 each from for-profit charter-school companies Charter Schools USA and Miami-based Academica Management. The group also got $300,000 from the parent AFC in Washington.
Thompson, a former Orange County public-school teacher, has drawn $50,000 from the primary group opposing voucher and charter-school expansion: the Florida Education Association, the state teachers union. In all, the FEA warchest is roughly $416,000 — roughly half what the FFC has raised.
It’s a democrat district and it’s why money is pouring into a primary race. Siplin would likely have a similar voting record on education legislation as Thompson. There aren’t many opposition votes as it is to much of the legislative agenda that charter schools and voucher groups advance. But they do not want the voice of a public school teacher being heard on the floor of the Florida senate.