TALLAHASSEE | A Florida state representative with ties to the charter school industry has been tapped to oversee a bill revising charter school contracts across the state.
Republican House leaders recently chose Hialeah Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. to handle the bill. Diaz is a dean at Doral College. The school is run by Florida’s largest for-profit charter school company Academica.
Diaz spent two decades at the Miami-Dade County School District and says that gives him perspective from both the public and private sectors.
In his new $100,000 position, he is helping the college gain accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Diaz said he’s had little contact with Academica. The Miami Herald reported Friday that Diaz has promised to run the bill in a fair and balanced manner.
“I’m not carrying water for anyone,” he told the paper.
But some education advocates see the appointment as part of a pattern of the Legislature backing charter schools over traditional public ones.
“They aren’t even trying to be subtle anymore,” said Jeff Wright of the Florida Education Association, which represents more than 250,000 teachers and other staffers across Florida’s 67 school districts. “Lawmakers have abandoned any obligation to [traditional] public schools.”
The proposed bill would create a standard agreement that school districts and charter school governing boards would have to follow when entering into a contract. Another proposal would require traditional public schools to share underused space with charter schools.
School districts say the bill could make it harder for them to negotiate with charter schools or reject substandard charter applications.
Diaz is one of several lawmakers with outside ties to education.
Doral College President Anitere Flores is also a state senator from Miami. State Rep. Erik Fresen, whose House panel oversees the education budget, is the brother-in-law of Academica’s founder, and Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford heads the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.