In 2010, Florida republican House speaker, Ray Sansom, was drummed out of the legislature by his own party amid scandal that included his acceptance of a well-paid position at Northwest Florida State College. Will this be the year Florida republicans apply the same standard to legislators who work for the for-profit charter schools and help advance legislation which benefit them. Writes Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory:
TALLAHASSEE — House leaders picked state Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., of Hialeah, to shepherd a controversial bill that would revamp the way hundreds of charter schools statewide enter into agreements with local school boards.
Yet, in the eyes of some observers, Diaz has a clear conflict of interest: He has direct ties to the charter school industry.
The Republican lawmaker has been named dean of Doral College, a newly minted private university run by the state’s largest for-profit charter school management firm.
Diaz said he was tapped to manage the charter school bill because he understands both sides of the issue. He previously worked for the Miami-Dade school district for 20 years. He is vice-chair of the K-12 Subcommittee, which is part of the House Education Committee.
A freshman lawmaker, Diaz was named academic dean of Doral College last summer. His salary is $100,000, he said.
Diaz predictably protests:
Diaz said he rarely interacts with Academica, the for-profit company that manages Doral College and the affiliated Doral Academy Preparatory School, and that the company had not approached him about sponsoring any proposed legislation.
He also said he had not been pressured by the college’s board of directors, many of whom have ties to other South Florida charter schools.
“I’m not carrying water for anyone,” he said
McGrory points out that three other republican legislators – Rep. Erik Fressen of Miami, Sen. Aniteres Flores also from Miami and Trinity Sen. John Legg have similar ties to charter schools. Fresen and Legg serve as chairmen on education committees.
It’s ironic that Ray Sansom went to work for a charter school after his departure from the House in 2010. Must be some sort of creepy, incestuous Florida republican thing. But the religious fervor that Florida republican pols advance charter schools is past being corrupt.