Florida Media Finally Shines the Light on Voucher, Charter School and Online Education Money in Florida Politics

The narrative the Florida media is advancing on education policy has changed. And not in a way which is favorable for the state’s education power brokers. Jeff Solochek published a column in the Tampa Bay Times on the last day of 2012 in which he observed that “Florida’s reform movement faced its first significant pushback after a more than a decade of ineffective complaining.” Now in today’s Palm Beach Post,  John Kennedy builds on his newspaper’s research:

Charter school, voucher and online education companies poured more than $2 million into this fall’s political campaigns, primarily those of Republicans who are again demanding more alternatives to traditional public schools.

My post in August last year detailed the manner these groups merged.  The Post’s research is far more thorough than mine:

Top donors

The industry promoting charter schools, online education and tax-credit scholarship vouchers spent heavily on Florida campaigns during the 2012 election:

Florida Federation for Children: $1.5 million

Charter Schools USA: $215,450

School Development LLC: $138,000

Apollo Group: $120,500

Academica Management: $100,000

Fla. Association of Public Charter Schools: $35,000

Community Education Partners: $15,000

Argosy University: $11,900

Daytona Education Associates: $9,500

Connections Academy: $6,500

Sources: Florida Division of Elections, Palm Beach Post research

The Post leaves out the personal contributions which Florida Federation for Children chief, John Kirtley made. This from my August post:

The activity that John Kirtley’s group are engaging is not yet listed in Follow the Money, although he personally made two contributions to the RPOF last year of the odd total of $6128.00 which could be filtered into the PACs belonging to the GOP leaders in the Florida legislature. Kirtley’s also made 18 different $500.00 donations to Florida legislators this year, most of them Democrats. The Tampa businessman will be hosting a fund-raiser later this month for Jeb Bush’s pro-voucher foundation along with two members of t. he Florida board of education.

Kennedy’s story indicates that the education privatization money of $2 million dwarfs that of Florida’s teacher’s union total of $3.9 million it spent on campaigns. These numbers may be misleading as an Orlando Sentinel report said that the FEA had only raised $416,000 through its Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund,  implying the total spent may be from money the union already had on hand.

Still, as FEA president Andy Ford says, the money the union spends on political activities is “mostly defensive.” Indeed. Aside from voter’s passing the 2002 class size amendment, the state’s teachers haven’t had any legislative victories. And republican legislatures since then have found ways to circumvent the will of voters with new rules and clarifications.

But as a new legislative session approaches and the state’s education policy power brokers still cache their agenda around a fuzzy “choice” theme, the state’s media is beginning to report a different narrative which will be a much more difficult filter to navigate.


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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