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The Comeback Kid? Alvin Brown is in the game.

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Accepting teacher endorsements, Alvin Brown decries charter schools … but takes Gary Chartrand’s money

Alvin Brown, challenging U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, scored some key endorsements from The Florida Education Association and Duval Teachers United Monday.

Interestingly, Brown spotlighted a different position on one key issue than Lawson in accepting the endorsements.

“Unfortunately,” Brown said, “there’s a long-running trend toward giving for-profit charter school operators greater influence in the state’s public education system. Unlike my opponent who’s put Florida’s children at risk with his reckless support for school vouchers, I firmly believe that taxpayers should not be rewarding for-profit companies at the expense of underfunded public schools.”

Brown, however, has gotten money from the most prominent of those “for-profit charter school operators,” part of a steady stream of Republican donations.

Gary Chartrand has led a list of Republican donors to Brown’s campaign, a list including Jacksonville lobbyist Marty FiorentinoPreston Haskell, former Republican Jacksonville City Councilman Stephen Yoost, former CSX President Michael Ward, current Jaguars owner Shad Khan, and former Jaguars’ owner Wayne Weaver.

The blast at charter schools, while useful fodder for a Democratic primary debate, is belied by Brown taking charter school money — and served as a distraction from what otherwise would be the standard endorsement email, with anodyne quotes such as these below.

“The Florida Education Association is proud to endorse Alvin Brown for Florida’s 5th District because he understands that the road to economic prosperity begins with our public schools,” FEA President Joanne McCall said Monday.

“In Congress,” McCall added, “Mayor Brown will be a strong voice for educators. He knows that our students are more than just a test score, that schools need adequate resources and that we must pay teachers and education staff professionals what they deserve. As a staunch advocate for Florida working families, Mayor Brown will fight for an economy that works for all — not just a privileged few.”

The local teachers union was somewhat more specific in its advocacy for Alvin Brown.

Duval Teachers United President Terrie Brady said, “Alvin Brown shares our values and vision of a Florida in which all of our children can receive a quality education regardless of zip code. Having seen his dedication to Jacksonville families firsthand, I know Alvin will work hard on behalf of all Florida students and our educators in Congress. He’s a true friend of public education who has innovated locally to position our children for success with programs such as ‘Mayor’s Mentors’ and ‘Learn2Earn.’ Duval Teachers United proudly stands with Mayor Brown because he stands with us.”

Neither group forced Brown to hammer his opponent on charter schools. That was his own decision.

Brown, billing himself as a “pragmatic progressive” these days, has evolved from his previous “conservative Democrat persona.” That evolution, at least when it comes to the gap between donor relationships and rhetoric for the voting public, is still in progress.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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