Politicians using charter school students for selfish political purposes

Who were all of those cheering students at Gov. Rick Scott’s budget signing/Republican political rally in The Villages a couple of weeks ago? Why were they there? How did they get there?

And the old joke: “Why aren’t you in school?”

I had been meaning to find out, but what with one thing and another put it off until now. But this story still has legs. The outrage over Sumter County sheriff’s deputies removing Democrats from the event continues, as Scott’s office waffles on whether it was a “private event” financed by the Florida Republican Party as his staff said at the time. 

What fascinated me was reports that the students were from charter schools. Now, other public schools have all kinds of policies about not participating in political activities, so I guess this is another one of the freedoms that have been granted to taxpayer-financed charter schools.

I assumed the charter kids might be from The Villages charter schools, since they are right there.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Principal Randy McDaniel when I inquired. Wasn’t us. His kids had their noses in books that day.

As it turns out, the kids were from the P.M. Wells and Four Corners charter schools in Osceola County. Both are run by Charter Schools USA, a large charter management firm whose CEO, Jonathan Hage, served on Gov. Scott’s education transition team when Scott took office in January. Scott is a big fan of charter schools and routinely pulls them in for photo opps, although it is uncertain whether as Governor he has ever visited a traditional public school. If he has, the media has not been made aware.

“The governor’s office invited the students to come,” said Colleen Reynolds, a public relations consultant who represents Charter Schools USA.  “What they represented to us was that it was a governor’s bill signing.”

Reynolds said Charter Schools USA – not taxpayers – paid for the bus to get kids the 60 miles or so to The Villages and then back home. (Of course, taxpayers pay for Charter Schools USA under the management contracts with the two Osceola schools that get millions in state school funding.)... 

Reynolds said the event was considered a valuable field trip to help teach students about the democratic process.
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Governor Rick Scott said he wasn't sure what happened one week ago when a dozen Democrats were tossed from his first official budget-signing.  He said he had been too busy to get all the details.

But a growing number of parties are asking why either the constitution was violated or why the governor's office apparently broke state laws.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, sent a letter to the governor asking him to explain whether last week's budget-signing event at The Villages in Lake County was a public or private event.

At the event, Scott staffer Russ Abrams said it was a private Republican Party of Florida event.  But spokesman Lane Wright later said the event was public and he didn't know why Abrams would have said that.

If the budget-signing was public, Pafford indicated the removal of 12 Democrats for simply being there was a violation of their Constitutional right to assemble...

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