Business and political leaders will participate this Wednesday in the Florida Coalition of Public School Options’ second annual “School Choice Day” in Tallahassee, in a show of support for charter schools.
Charter schools are according to the states department of education are “public schools of choice,” that in 2011 served about 154,000 students.
A Florida Coalition of Public School Options press release issued Tuesday lists “Florida Governor Rick Scott, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, House Speaker-Designate Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), and other elected officials and education leaders” as participants of Wednesday’s event in Tallahassee.
Scott supports the “school choice” movement: eliminating more teacher tenure, paying teachers based on standardized test results, supporting and increasing charter schools, and offering scholarships.
In a message calling for parents to participate in School Choice Day, the Florida Coalition of Public School Options writes that “last year, Florida families worked hard to pass legislation to expand choice in the state including increased access to charter schools and virtual education, including allowing for the first time the creation of virtual charter schools.”
The Coalition adds: “While it was a big win for Florida families, the legislation has been in effect vetoed by local School Boards across the state who issued nearly across the board denials to virtual charters and the majority of brick and mortar charter school applications.”
Events to support charter schools are part of a larger nationwide movement that recently celebrated National School Choice Week in New Orleans, with the participation of celebrities and elected officials and a proclamation of support by at least 25 state governors, including Scott.
School Choice Day participants also include Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida and Cheri Shannon, president and CEO of the Florida Charter School Alliance, which endorsed National School Choice Week.
The Florida Charter School Alliance board of directors includes Jim Horne, former Florida education commissioner and president of the Horne Group; John Kirtley, the Florida corporate tax credit scholarship program founder; and Jeb Bush’s education foundation’s executive director, Patricia Levesque.
Kirtley is also a vice-chair of the American Federation for Children, “affiliated with the American Federation for Children PAC, a political committee that supports and opposes state-level candidates for elected office,” and works “to promote the benefits of—and the need for—school choice.”
A November 2011 report published by the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that American Federation for Children spent $6.3 million on the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Florida elections. The report adds that Federation President Betsy DeVos and her family have “also made significant campaign contributions in Florida, giving $682,750 over the last three cycles, with two-thirds of that given to the Republican Party of Florida.” The DeVos family owns Amway and the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
Kirtley, who “spread an additional $106,200 among 70 candidates and both major parties,” according to the report, is also co-founder of KLH Capital, a private equity firm from Tampa.
In a January article, Education Week noted that “the flow of venture capital into the K-12 education market has exploded over the past year, reaching its highest transaction values in a decade in 2011.” The publication pointed out that private equity firms looking for ”high-growth opportunities” in education include companies like Education Growth Advisors.
It also points to the presence of nonprofit venture philanthropy firms like the New Schools Venture Fund, which have invested in charter schools with the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in Green Dot Public Schools, which “operates high-acheiving public charter schools.”
The Broad Foundation’s ”mission is to dramatically transform urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.” The Foundation runs the Superintendents Academy, which seeks to “transform urban school districts into effective public enterprises.”
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and Orange County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Barbara Jenkins are graduates of the Broad Superintendent Academy.