One reason Arza wants to meet with school board members and candidates is to intimidate you. To let you know that powerful, wealthy people are behind the charter school industry. This is no joke. Arza recently showed up in Polk County after the district denied an application for BridgePrep Academy encouraging board members to “reconsider” their vote. In a letter to the Polk County School District, Arza “mentioned that he had met with (Florida Department of Education Commissioner) Richard Corcoran yesterday and informed him of the vote Tuesday, and said that Commissioner Corcoran had suggested he contact the district,” he continued in the email.”
It’s very important to understand who Ralph Arza is. When he makes an appointment with you or simply shows up at a school board meeting, he’s dragging every powerful board member from the Charter School Alliance plus folks like current Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran into the room with him, even if you don’t see them.
- Ralph Arza, Director of Government Relations, Florida Charter Schools Alliance (lobbyist)
- Agreeing to cooperate with Arza, take campaign dollars or push his agenda as a school board member isn’t just obligating yourself to him, but rather to a powerful political machine using him as its messenger. See below.
- Removed as co-chair of DeSantis fundraiser on September 14, 2018, over past racial slurs:
The Miami Herald reported that the DeSantis campaign blocked a former Miami state lawmaker who left office after using racial slurs and threatening a colleague from co-chairing a fundraiser for his gubernatorial campaign. “Ralph Arza’s name was removed because of hurtful and disgusting racial slurs that he has used in the past. He is not affiliated with our campaign,” the DeSantis campaign said in a written statement.
- Ralph Arza was charged and convicted of witness tampering and leaving racially charged, threatening voice messages for which he served 18 months’ probation and agreed not to run for office in an upcoming election.
- Arza was forced to resign as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2006 due to inappropriate behavior. “Arza resigned as a state representative in 2006 after he and a cousin left threatening messages on the voice mail of a fellow lawmaker who had filed an ethics complaint alleging that Arza used racial slurs when discussing Miami-Dade’s black schools chief. Arza had previously denied calling Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew a “n—-er,” but admitted that he used the word in recorded voice messages left for state Rep. Gus Barreiro.”
- Listen to Arza’s racist rant here, including “n” word: https://soundcloud.com/user-620575819/ralph-arza-cousins-racist-threatening-call
Why does Arza want to talk to school board members and candidates for school board?
- One reason Arza wants to meet with school board members and candidates is to intimidate you. To let you know that powerful, wealthy people are behind the charter school industry.
- Arza wants to offer you campaign donations in the hope that you will be his point person when the time comes to approve his clients charter applications.
- Arza has led the effort to intimidate school board members in Duval, Palm Beach and multiple other districts by threatening them with public records requests over charter school votes.
- Arza and FCSA would like to see school boards stripped of all power to authorize charters as Amendment 8, recently struck down by the Florida Supreme Court, sought to do. As failing charters drain millions of dollars from districts, a well-funded lobby led by disgraced former representative Ralph Arza of the Florida Charter School Alliance has declared war on school-board authority, calling the denial of charters “unethical.” Arza’s intense focus on Palm Beach County has led the school board to mount a legal challenge against a charter school operator who is appealing a denied application. Arza represents wealthy for profit charter chains such as Charter Schools USA, and Academica who serve on the Florida Charter Schools Alliance board, his employer.
Florida Charters v District Schools:
- 4,200 K-12 public schools in Florida – run by school boards/districts
- 650 charter schools – receive taxpayer funds but managed by for profit private corporations not under the oversight of districts
- 2.8 million traditional public school students vs 276,000 charter school students
- Florida has lost at least $70 million in public tax funds to closed charters
- Charters expect a cut of taxpayer school capital funding, so they can buy, develop and improve property the public may never own
How do school board members and candidates become compromised by associating with Ralph Arza?
- As a school board member or candidate, sitting down with Ralph Arza and/or taking money he sends your way via an affiliated PAC is a grooming effort to make you obligated to push, promote or vote yes on new charter school contracts.
- Look closely at the FCSA board below. This is who you are in effect agreeing to serve when you accept campaign/PAC money, agree to help push charters or assist the FCSA/Arza in any way.
- You will be threatened with a “choice friendly” opposition candidate in your next race if you don’t vote pro-charter development as a school board member. John Kirtley has targeted multiple school board races, unseating members who do not promote charter growth. In 2018 alone, Kirtley, who is chair of the Betsy DeVos PAC Florida Federation for Children spent $360K on the state primaries, electing both GOP and Democrats as charter school proponents.
Florida Charter School Alliance Board of Directors:
Florida Charter Schools Alliance President & Chair – testifies/lobbies in Tallahassee frequently for passage of charter-friendly legislation including unmitigated expansion, access to locally raised capital outlay and referendum funds, removal of school board authority over charter authorization.
CEO, The Horne Group
Partner, Strategos Group, Lobbying
Florida Commissioner of Education – 2001 appointed by Jeb Bush; resigned in 2004 after three turbulent years to become a lobbyist
Former Florida State Senator
Pushed and helped enact Florida’s controversial high stakes A-F school Accountability plan, including mandatory third grade retention and what would become the Corporate Tax Credit voucher
Former Florida Commissioner of Education – Resigned after three years on the job. Former legislator, close Jeb Bush reform ally, an accountant with zero education experience. “When Gov. Jeb Bush took office in 1999, Horne was a powerful member of the Florida Senate. Then in 2001, Bush appointed him education commissioner. And Horne was a horrible education chief. An accountant by profession, his primary education qualification was unstinting support for Bush’s agenda of high-stakes testing and vouchers. Horne resigned as education commissioner in 2004 amid numerous, embarrassing examples of the lack of accountability in the state’s corporate voucher program and in other voucher programs. A lot of the mess was Horne’s fault. He championed laws with few safeguards and — according to a report by then-Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher — failed to implement even those.” – Sun Sentinel
Chairman, Step Up for Students voucher program, receives 3% of the gross diverted tax dollars used to fund the program, holding a monopoly on all Florida vouchers. At least a billion dollars for Corporate Tax Credit vouchers has been diverted to primarily religious schools since the program started, there are 4 voucher programs now: Corporate Tax Credit, McKay, Gardner and Hope – all administered by Kirtley’s Scholarship Funding Organization (SFO), Step Up for Students. The voucher lobby is a powerful presence in Tallahassee.
- KLH Capital – owner and hedge fund manager
- Florida Charter Schools Alliance Treasurer
- Chairman, Florida School Choice Fund
- Board of Trustees, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future
- Board Member, James Madison Institute – free market policy group heavily tied to Jeb Bush and the Milton Friedman School/Chicago School of Economics
- Chairman, American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos PAC)
- President of Florida Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos PAC)
- Funds RedefinED, a pro-charter/voucher blog used to espouse his views, which are often not printed in the legitimate press
Through his Betsy DeVos funded PACs, Kirtley targets school board members, hoping to convert them to hardened choice advocates. He is known to focus on Democrats to break up party caucus positions and split floor votes.
Since 2010, Kirtley has spent 2.3 million dollars to ensure voucher proponents were elected to the Florida Legislature.
Targeting School Board Races
As retribution for a 2014 lawsuit filed by the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) and other groups opposing the diversion of a billion potential tax dollars to fund vouchers, Kirtley spent $1.3 million to take out incoming FSBA president Diane Smith, Volusia County and immediate past FSBA president Karen Disney, Indian River County as well as pro-public education Representatives Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland, Mark Danish of Tampa, Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor and Joe Saunders of Orlando. Every seat was turned over to a “choice” groomed pro-charter/voucher politician.
When you agree to take campaign money or PAC donations from Ralph Arza or the charter school industry, these are the vendors who work with the FCSA and profit off of charter schools. As a school board member, you might be asked to promote or approve contracts from these FCSA “exclusive” vendors.
Fake pro-choice school board
Kirtley is believed to support the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM) an artificially constructed group of approximately eight who hold public schools in open disdain and work on the local level to push vouchers and charters. Perhaps the most prominent is Erika Donalds, Collier County, who was appointed to the recent Constitution Revision Commission and was responsible for writing Amendment 8 which severed school boards from all authorizing authority over charters. Amendment 8 was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court and will not be on the November ballot. As a sitting school board member, Donalds was actively involved in the governance and expansion of Hillsdale Classical Charters in the state. Other controversial school board members who have received considerable Kirtley cash include Bridgette Ziegler/Sarasota, Shawn Frost/Indian River and Jason Fischer/Duval.
In the 2018 primary, Kirtley put $360,000 on school board and legislative races and openly celebrates these wins:
- Gayle Harrell in SD 25 (R)
- Kim Daniels in HD 14 (D)
- Susan Valdes in HD 62 (D)
- Spencer Roach in HD 79 (R)
- Patricia Hawkins-Williams in HD 92 (D)
- James Bush III in HD 109 (D)
- Bridget Ziegler, School Board District 1, Sarasota County Public Schools (NPA)
Executive Director, Foundation for Florida’s Future – Jeb Bush and Executive Director, Foundation for Excellence in Education – Jeb Bush
Patricia Levesque, under the auspices of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, is either the author or a key advisor for every piece of education reform legislation presented in Florida, including the Federal waivers. She and Foundation lobbyists enjoy unprecedented access to every level of Florida government from the Governor’s office and cabinet to Senators and Representatives and the Florida Department of Education. During committee weeks, the Foundation for Florida’s Future is present assigning priority bills, often related to ALEC, to legislators and lobbying “leadership” and key staff.
In 2013, Levesque was called out in the press for being a registered lobbyist while dictating policy to the Florida Legislature. As a result, she resigned as a lobbyist for her firm, Meridian Strategies. However, it seems that this was only for show, as Levesque clearly continues to lobby, even winning the Golden Rotunda Award for her efforts to influence legislation.
Guided by her boss, Jeb Bush, she also works to pass key pieces from the suite of Florida Education “reforms” across the nation. She also facilitates the annual Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit which operates like a K-12 Education ALEC, providing a nexus of funders, politicians and policy experts interested in carrying out the “reform” agenda. Patricia Levesque connections include:
- 2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission, Education, appointed by Sen. President Joe Negron
- Former Managing partner of Meridian Strategies, LLC, a communications, strategic planning, and governmental consulting/lobbying firm in Tallahassee, Florida.
- 2010, Governor Rick Scott, educational transition team
- Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor Jeb Bush
- 2007-2008 Taxation and Budget Reform Commission
- Married to George T. Levesque, general counsel to Florida Senate: 2012-2018; former general counsel to Florida House; current attorney at GrayRobinson
Emilia May Fanjul
- Founder, Everglades Prep & Glades Charter Schools
- Wife of Jose “Pepe” Fanjul, worth $8.2 billion
- Pepe Fanjul, Jr, (son) Board of Trustees Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future
- Fanjul Corp. U.S. and Dominican Republic:
Domino Sugar, Florida Crystals, C&H Sugar, Redpath Sugar, American Sugar Refining, La Romana International Airport, La Romana Resorts/Dominican Republic, Former Tayte & Lyle Sugar (European Union)
Judith W. Stein, Ed.D.
Executive Director, National Institute for Educational Options
- Former director, Magnet Schools of America
The National Institute for Educational Options, established by the Fischler School at Nova University in South Florida, encompasses research, professional development and support services through the assistance and grant support from foundations such as:
- The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
- William Simon Foundation
- Alliance for School Choice
- Walton Family Foundation
- Hosts an annual International School Choice and Reform Academic Conference in January
Founder/CEO, Charter Schools USA
Hage has parlayed an initial $5,000 investment into one of the most lucrative for-profit charter chains in the nation. It should be noted that Hage does not sent his own children to his schools.
- Red Apple Development, Charter Schools USA land acquisition and construction
- Board of Trustees Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future
- Board member, Center for Education Reform
- Donor, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit
- Former Director of Research, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future
Charter Schools USA has schools in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan
- 77 charters, including 53 in Florida
- 8,000 employees
- As of 2015, 65K students enrolled
CEO School Property Development
- Main focus is use public tax dollars to acquire property and build/develop charter schools that the public will never own. Look at this document to see what district dollars are paying for. Sister of Mark Rodberg (see below) “Rodberg’s sister, Lauren Hollander, later joined the company as manager of Mavericks. She’s a real estate broker in Palm Beach Gardens, and became a 20 percent owner of Mavericks in 2008, after lending Mavericks a cash infusion of $1.2 million.”
- Frank Biden, staff of School Property Development, Mavericks Charter Schools – closed now, education consisted of putting at risk students into inexpensive online courses, keeping the balance of tax dollars as profit. Background here:
- Mark Rodberg, staff of School Property Development, works through Rodberg Construction, Inc., for Red Apple Development – Charter Schools USA; White Hat Management and 9 charter schools for Mavericks in Education Florida.
Joseph D. Chislom
Vice President School Development at K12, Inc. – 100% on-line virtual charter
- Former staff at Edison Learning, Inc.
- K12 Donor, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit
- K12, Inc. board member Kevin Chavous is the founder of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and a founding board member of the Betsy DeVos American Federation for Children PAC. https://www.k12.com/about-k12/our-team/senior-management.html
- K12, Inc: The wealthiest charter entity in the nation, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under LRN, with extraordinary power to fund national and state lobbying efforts and influence elections.
K-12 Financial Highlights for the Year Ended June 30, 2017
- Revenues of $888.5 million, compared to $872.7 million for the full fiscal year of 2016.
- As of June 30, 2017, the Company had cash and cash equivalents of $230.9 million, an increase of $16.9 million compared to the $214.0 million reported at June 30, 2016.
Founding partner, Academica, the wealthiest charter chain in Florida
- Brother of Fernando Zulueta, the CEO of Academica Corp.
- Married to Maggie Fresen, brother of state Rep. Erik Fresen
- Fernando and Ignacio Zulueta own 100 Charter schools in Florida
- Controls at least $115 million in tax-exempt real estate
- Rents real estate to Academica Schools for at least $19 million per year in public tax dollars
- At least 9 Academica schools pay rents that exceed 20% of their revenue stemming from the per pupil dollars funded by public schools
- Earns at least an annual $9 million in management fees from public tax dollars
- Andreina Figueroa, vice chair of Doral College’s Board of Trustees, was paid at least $160,000 between January 2015 and July 2016 to lobby for policies to benefit Academica, including to Rep. Manny Diaz, the COO of Academica’s Doral College.
- Investigated by the U.S. Department of Education
Academica Inside Ball:
The following legislators have been installed to promote unmitigated charter school growth. Aided by House and Senate leadership, they have been central to the passage of every charter/voucher expansion bill, led the charge to encroach on school board authority and worked to leach capital building tax dollars away from districts to help for-profit charters build, develop and improve real estate the public will never own. For example, a bill was passed in 2018 that wrests $96 million in locally levied property taxes from Florida school districts and gives it to for-profit charter chains. Keep in mind that there are 4,200 traditional district schools and only 650 charter schools.
Florida Representative Manny Diaz, District 103, (2012- present)
- Chief operating officer of Doral College, a private unaccredited junior college managed by Academica
- Currently running for Senate District 36 in the 2018 General Election.
- Former House Chair PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee; Appropriations Committee; Education Committee
Florida Senator Anitere Flores, District 39, Appropriations Committee (2010-2020; Florida House 2004-2010)
- Development director at the A.C.E. Foundation, which provides support for charter schools and appears is closely linked to Academica, with Lili Zulueta sitting on the board
- Former president of Academica’s Doral College until 2015
Florida state Rep. Erik Fresen, longtime chair of House Education Appropriations (2008-2016)
- Brother-in-law to Fernando Zulueta, CEO Academica who is married to Fresen’s sister, Maggie
- Works for Civica, an architecture firm specializing in building charter schools – many for Academica using public funds
President and Chief Financial Officer, Edison Learning
- Edison Learning/Bridgescape Schools owns Mavericks – see FCSA Board member Lauren Hollander above and relationship to Mavericks
- Virtual/Online learning for the lowest performing 25% in public schools.
- Students successfully completing/passing these virtual classes in Florida hovers around 30% of those enrolled
- Targets drop outs or students at risk at dropping out, among the most unreliable sector, one that Edison refers to on their website as a 1.3 million annual student market or 25% of all high school students nationally.
- EdisonLearning bought Mavericks, absorbing six Florida schools
- Catapult Learning bought Edison Learning in 2014
- Edison Learning course completion/pass rates are low – often in the 30% range.
- Lax rules mean that enrolled students may or may not attend classes , but that does not impact the funding Edison schools continue to receive from the state. “Auditors have accused for-profit dropout recovery schools in Ohio, Illinois and Florida of improperly collecting public money for vanished students.”
- Uses financial incentives to attract students: “Mavericks’ new parent company, Edison Learning, hands out Walmart gift cards for student referrals at its “Bridgescape” schools in Illinois and Ohio. It posted pictures on Facebook this past spring of students displaying their prizes. EdisonLearning officials said the gift cards enable low-income students to buy essentials.”
- Florida Bridgescape schools:
- Main Street High School – Charter in Kissimmee
- State funding through property taxes: 524 students x $7,300 FTE = $3,825,200 per year
- $286,296.00 capital outlay/property taxes 2018/19 (Total of $678,764 since 2016)
- Eligible for Federal Title 1 dollars
Additional Florida Edison Learning Schools
- Andrews High School in Pompano Beach
- Chambers High School in Homestead
- Mavericks High School – Palm Springs
- Sunrise High School in Ft. Lauderdale
C.G. Bethel High School in Miami
Ralph Arza Background
Ralph Arza racist rant: https://soundcloud.com/user-620575819/ralph-arza-cousins-racist-threatening-call
FLDOE CHARTER SCHOOL CONTACTS: http://app4.fldoe.org/CSA/PostToWeb/DistrictContactList.aspx
CLOSED FL CHARTERS UP TO 2014: http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7695/urlt/closed_charter_schools.pdf
Charter Schools USA Vendors: http://flcharterschool.org/vendor-marketplace/
Joseph D. Chisolm, K12, Inc
Emma May Fanjul
Florida Federation for Children https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/cgi-bin/TreSel.exe
524 students Main Street High School: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/florida/districts/osceola/mavericks-high-school-5378
North Carolina: For profit charter lobbies for work place schools https://www.apnews.com/9494efd4aff843b8a08f99f8223e933f
Additional Must Reads:
Hidden Costs of Charter School Choice, Integrity Florida Study, 9/18, by Alan Stonecipher, Brad Ashwell and Ben Wilcox http://www.integrityflorida.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/charter-school-report-final.pdf
Cashing in on Kids, Miami Herald Series: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/cashing-in-on-kids/article1939220.html
Academica: Florida’s richest charter school management firm, Cashing in on Kids series, Miami Herald, July 10, 2012 https://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/cashing-in-on-kids/article1939207.html
Florida lost $70M to closed charters: https://www.google.com/amp/amp.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article49565370.html
$96 Million in Capital funds taken from districts and given to charters: https://www.google.com/amp/amp.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article158934284.html
Kirtley/Vouchers: Schools Without Rules series, 2018, Orlando Sentinel https://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-schools-without-rules-story-gallery-storygallery.html