Gov. Rick Scott — a strong supporter of publicly funded, privately run charter schools — speaks today at the annual summit of Charter Schools USA in Orlando.
Charter Schools USA is a for-profit education management company that “currently operates 31 charter schools on 27 campuses in three states with plans to open another 20 schools in the next 3 years.”
The Orlando Sentinel reports today that Charter Schools USA “operates a school system larger than a majority of Florida’s public school districts” and “is busing its employees to Orlando Thursday for a rally to kick off the new school year.” The Sentinel adds, “It’s an expense that public school systems facing a budget crisis say they wouldn’t even consider in light of funding cuts from the state Legislature.”
According to the Sentinel, “the company is bringing more than 2,000 teachers, administrators and other employees to the Rosen Plaza Hotel on International Drive to hear pep talks by Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools, and other education reformers.”
Rhee — an informal education adviser to Scott — is the former Washington, D.C., public school chancellor; a supporter of the tough-on-teachers brand of school reform; and founder and CEO of Students First.
Rhee spoke in Fort Lauderdale last month and repeated her support for better teachers, better school principals, choice, competition, accountability, fiscal responsibility and the right government structure — policies promoted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who as chairman of the board and president of Foundation for Excellence in Education is working at the national level to support the implementation of choice, competition, school vouchers and testing.
Jonathan Hage — the current chairman, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA — was a member of Scott’s education transition team and served as director of research for Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. Hage has also worked for George H.W. Bush and was a member of Charlie Crist’s education transition team.
Hage is currently listed as a education “reformer” on the Foundation for Excellence in Education website.
The Sentinel reports that Charter Schools USA “officials declined to reveal the cost of the rally, saying they are footing the bill.” “Any of the extra events that Charter Schools USA puts on come out of their own budget,” spokesperson Colleen Reynolds told the Sentinel.