When Florida’s two largest for-profit charter schools each made the unprecedented move of donating $100,000 last month to the PAC of privatization advocate, it signaled some changes among the people seeking to end public education. Lets review.
Charter school giants Academica and Charter Schools USA had always operated separately from one another. The later let the former dominate the one lobby that had existed in the state until last year when another was funded with Walton family money and staffed with loyalists to Jeb Bush. Academica (06/28/2012) and Charter Schools USA (07/10/2012) made donations to John Kirtley’s Florida Federation for Children, the Florida arm of Kirtley’s American Federation for Children.
Kirtley, a wealthy Tampa investor, made his name in the Florida ed privatization community as a voucher and tax credit advocate while sitting on the board of Jeb Bush’s foundations. He signaled his move into pro-charter school lobbying when he agreed to serve on the board of the Walton funded lobby mentioned above. Kirtley is listed as the treasurer of the Florida Charter School Alliance. Its is Kirtley’s Florida Federation for Children, that received $200,000 from the two big charter school corporations. Since April 1, Kirtley’s PAC – or more precisely an Election Communications Organization (ECO) has poured $800,000 into mass media buys and mailers to support certain candidates in key primary races across the state. Lets take a look at some of them and some revealing direct donations by the parties involved.
In the Democratic Party primary race for Senate District 39, Rep. Dwight Bullard is facing Sen. Ron Saunders. Bullard is a legitimate supporter of public schools. Saunders has the endorsement and has received cash from lightening rod Michelle Rhee and from Kirtley himself. Saunders has also received donations from hedge funder and Democrats for Ed Reform leader Whitney Tilson who has made sport of disparaging public school champion Diane Ravitch.
In another Democrat primary race, Rep. Mack Bernhard, a charter school owner, will face Jeff Clemens in the Senate District 27 race. Bernhard has received Rhee’s endorsement and received a donation from Kirtley in June.
Rep. Aaron Bean has received a donation from KIPP Jacksonville charter school board chairman, Gary Charttrand and charter school advocacy group TPP United. Bean, a former representative has received Rhee’s endorsement and is facing Rep. Mike Weinstein in the Republican Party primary for Senate District 5.
Victoria Siplin is seen as more friendly to charter schools than is Rep. Geraldine Thompson in the Democratic Party race for Senate District 12 seat. Siplin or her husband has had two complaints against them detailed in the Orlando Sentinel. Siplin has received cash from Charter Schools USA and its development and construction arm to benefit her race against Thompson, a former teacher.
Charter schools badly want to use the Adelanto, California parent trigger model where the first – and only – parent trigger has been successful. Parent Revolution, who had two operatives give extremely misleading testimony to the Florida legislature earlier this year, used its corporate dollars to leverage and intimidate its way through the courts for a victory. Florida Sen Aniteres Flores said during a hearing that outside groups like Parent Revolution could not come into the state under Florida’s bill, but no such provision was there. Charter school operators Jeb Bush’s foundations and their legislative allies don’t want Floridians to know how divisive and bloody the Adelanto parent trigger fight actually was. They are pulling all the stops to overturn the 20-20 tie in last year’s senate vote that defeated it.