Last week, a grand jury indicted a for-profit school management company runs four Pinellas County charter schools, and the advocacy group Florida Strong is demanding that state Senator Jeff Brandes answer for it.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Newpoint Education Partners had been indicted on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white crime. The company has, according to the Times, run into major problems at four of the five schools it manages in Pinellas, and all four are currently under pressure to tell the Florida Department of Education how they plan to address their financial situation, reported to be “deteriorating.”
The GOP-led Florida Legislature has been incredibly supportive of funding charter schools in recent years, and Brandes has been among those Republicans who strongly support such efforts. Those privately run schools have limited oversight from school districts.
“Despite the troubling charges of grand theft and money laundering that face the company in question, Senator Brandes is mum on this critical issue that impacts families throughout his district,” claims Florida Strong in an e-mail. The advocacy group has been targeting several legislative Republicans this year who are for reelection this fall.
The group says that Brandes voting record in the Legislature “says enough,” regarding for-profit charters, citing his vote to ease regulation on for-profit charter companies, backing a bill that allows students to attend a school in surrounding counties if there’s space available and supports lifting barriers for for-profit charters to expand reach across the state.
Brandes has been a champion of school choice, going back to his first term as a state representative in Tallahassee back in 2011.
“Adding insult to injury, Brandes has gladly accepted campaign cash from the for-profit industry, further demonstrating the ‘disproportionate clout’ for-profit charter schools have in the Florida Legislature,” The Florida Strong email says.
It is not the first time the advocacy group has gone after the Senate District 24 Republican. In March, the group paid for a radio ad that ran in the Tampa Bay area market questioning his ethics. They’ve run similar attack ads against Dana Young, Frank Artiles, Anitere Flores and Richard Corcoran.
A request for comment sent to Brandes Senate office was not responded to by the time of this story’s posting. The St. Petersburg-based lawmaker remains unopposed in his run for re-election to his Senate seat this fall.