Shady groups behind school “choice” and “parent trigger”

The school “choice” movement continues to operate in secrecy and with a certain degree of shadiness. The Miami Herald reported late last night that the group “Sunshine Parents” that has been attributed  for producing propaganda materials supporting the Parent “Trigger” legislation has in fact not produced anything of the sort. These materials have in reality been produced by “Parent Revolution” the well-funded California group we discussed earlier this week. “Parent Revolution” as we’ve previously discussed is not a grassroots movement of parents but in fact a political organization funded by those who seek to profit off this proposed legislation. “Sunshine Parents” per the Herald report have no online presence nor an organizational structure of any sort that has been evident this session.

As I wrote earlier this week:

While “Parent Revolution” professes itself as grassroots organization,  its funders are not public school parents and the support for Parent Trigger has not been built organically. The thrust for parent trigger like so many pieces of voucher legislation has been through spending money in the political process and hiring high priced and well compensated lobbyists. Any implication that parents across the state want this legislation to pass is completely fraudulent. No groundswell of support for this legislation exists except where lobbyists and paid consultants have stimulated interest in the legislation.

This mirrors the effort by school voucher proponents who create shady groups of community leaders and alleged public school parents while in reality being well funded corporate interests. Between 2004 and 2012 school voucher proponents funded by outside interests such as the Walton Foundation and DeVos family spent upwards of $6 million on Florida campaign.  The DeVos family who own the Orlando Magic were also prominent financial backers of the late Rev. D. James Kennedy a Fort Lauderdale pastor whose Sunday services were beamed via satellite to a national audience. Kennedy’s weekly sermons often contained messages denouncing the separation of church as a myth and state and included frequent gay-baiting. The family have  been the single largest contributor to the various voucher groups, advocating school “choice” legislation in Florida, most notably the group they founded “All Children Matter.”

But to mask themselves the pro-voucher groups have often resorted to tactic the Herald has described regarding “Sunshine Parents.” Shady yet well funded groups of alleged public school parents from low income areas will produce videos or mailers advocating the corporate takeover of the public school system and attacking the work of the public school system. These groups have found greater success in Florida than in any other state thanks to a legislature that has become more slavish in its obedience to the wishes of right-wing think tanks and corporate funded organizations who play in political campaigns.

The danger of these groups cannot be understated. They have bought their way through the political process by hiring high priced consultants and lobbyists while using phony groups to play on emotion with a tinge of race-baiting in an effort to destroy this state’s great equalizer, our public school system.



  1. Your maniacal obsession with this issue is pathetic. For someone constantly bemoaning the lack of intellectual prowess or worldliness of Florida politicos on Twitter and Facebook…I monitor your well as on this blog you are showing your true colors. Those who have taken the time to learn about this issue and offer alternatives are the true intellectuals, those like you who serve to enslave young African-Americans in a public school system controlled by suburban white “soccer” moms that represent both your political and employment base are really the corrupt ones. More troubling is your lack of civility calling the Republicans “soviets” and in one blog post saying they have been “raping and plundering the state of its resources for political gain.” This is over the top crazy rhetoric which should have you condemned to an institution. I am a Democrat but here in Tallahassee we work with the Republicans who govern this state to provide solutions and help Florida business. You constantly talk about a lack of jobs and no jobs being attracted to the state but your solution is the failed socialist policies of the Obama Administration and your beloved Labour media Britain.

    Worse yet is your alliance with Amy Ritter and Scott/Susannah Randolph and Florida Watch Action. If one single group is destroying the Democratic brand making the party look like a bunch of whiny, suburban bitchy women it is that group. The tracking program of FWA you have promoted is the single most destructive legislative program around destroying the civility and privacy of the legislative body and the ability to make decisions to improve the lives of the state’s citizens.

    Even more disappointing is your constant attack on Charlie Crist. If Bill Nelson were to run we are all with him but in the likely case he does not run, your constant raising of ethics issues and associated slimy people with Crist all of whom I must point out are REPUBLICANS not in our party is improving Rick Scott’s lot. If you really believe Nan Rich is viable you shouldn’t be committed to a mental institution, but actually shot as you are a threat to society.

    In summary, you are a pathetic loser, someone whose angry anti-legislative rants are a horrible. You attack those Democrats who work hard and make an honest living in the political process. You attack anyone who sides with the Republicans on anything. You claim democracy depends on two vibrant parties but your solution would be to make the Democrats so marginally leftist that they would never win an election in Florida. Your goal is to take the Obama socialist agenda and impart in Florida. The electorate would reject it and the Democrats would never win.

    Good riddance to you. I am blacklisting this website from my web browser.


    1. The only thing maniacal is your comment. I understand whomever you are has probably been well compensated by the school “choice” organizations funded by corporate America and perhaps lobby for other corporate interests such as polluters and insurance companies. Am I right?

      As a Democrat perhaps you should look back and see what has gone wrong in this state and why we’ve lost so many statewide races, just about everyone running candidates of your persuasion. Florida Watch Action and other progressive groups are doing the horrible thing of proper messaging that simply ensures we have a two=party system in this state, not a single party dominated by Tallahassee elites and insiders in other parts of the state.

      Oh and Obama and his “socialism” carried Florida twice while moderate/corporate Dem approved and Cabinet nominees have lost every race this millennium save one.


  2. Concerned Democrat · ·

    great work again Kartik!!!!!!!!!!


  3. Derek Kilborn · ·

    I have written several extensive comments on this subject, including charter schools and vouchers:

    There appears to be an obsession on the political left with the process and the politics. I am more interested in the results. Without a detailed analysis of these reform solutions and a comprehensive presentation of the results, these petty squabbles do nothing to advance the value of public and private education in the state of Florida.


    1. Supporting the public school system and reforming the system from within should the solutions. This is what has been offered by Democrats in other states as an alternative. Cut bureaucracy, allow more local control for districts to innovate with special programs and pilot projects to test things. Do not force solutions from Tallahassee or Washington. This legislature seems determined to push it’s ideologically based agenda on local school districts and on parents. Yet they proclaim themselves small government conservatives but they are legislating and mandating all kinds of things specifically designed to break the public school system and impose a for-profit model whose results are questionable.

      Do you want the school system in Florida to resemble that of a third world country like India, China or Mexico where the top 5% of the population gets a great education and the rest don’t. What happens to communities when kids are taken out of the public school system and schools are closed? What happens to the kids and families left behind. In 15 years I have NEVER heard the right address effectively. They produce well funded and effective propaganda pieces but the results where implemented have been poor and they never can give a comprehensive solution to the entire structure. They want to be able to cherry-pick children and families to maximize profits, just like so much else in corporate America.


      1. Derek Kilborn · ·

        “Supporting the public school system and reforming the system from within, cut bureaucracy, more local control” are not solutions – they are goals and objectives. I am the son of a career elementary public school teacher, and I have two (2) children, one of whom will be entering a public school next year. I am an advocate for public school education. We absolutely agree on the goals and objectives, but I still don’t know what are your solutions. That is why I have spent considerable time reading your posts and then commenting in a respectful way that attempts to advance the discussion.

        This is a battle of ideas. Republicans, conservatives, constitutionalists and libertarians have put forth a cache of education reform solutions. Each of these solutions were initially designed to achieve maximum flexibility in execution, accelerate the response time to emerging problems, perfect measurements of accountability, and ultimately improve student performance despite a deteriorating family and social environment outside the schoolhouse walls.

        These reform solutions include, but are not limited to charter schools, vouchers, virtual learning centers, parent trigger options, collegiate partnerships, variable licensing requirements, longer days, year-round schedules, etc. The performance of these reform solutions are also being monitored by a new set of metrics to improve accountability, including standardized tests and teacher evaluations.

        Reformers in the political right coalition see education reform as THE civil rights movement of our time. Launching ideas into action, they have invested a significant amount of resources, in both time and money, to build institutions that will test their ideas, expand their successes, retire their failures and ultimately improve the delivery of education services to our children. They continue to do this in the shadow of overwhelming resistance and criticism from the political left.

        On this particular reform solution, yes, the proposal would promote private charter schools over public schools. I have already indicated my reservation about the ‘parent trigger’ option; my writings on the subject are not an endorsement. However, many of the other reform solutions I have noted herein could be implemented within the public school system to produce better results. For years, the political right coalition has tried to work within the existing framework of local school districts but have been met with strong and consistent resistance from administrators, the unions (who don’t always represent the opinions of the public school teachers) and their supporters. Much of this resistance is rooted in political and labor implications and not whether the ideas will actually improve learning comprehension.

        So what are you ideas?

        You say, “cut bureaucracy and allow more local control.” The political right coalition has been saying for decades, cut the federal Department of Education, keep those dollars in our local communities and invest them directly in our local children’s education.

        You say, “innovate with special programs and pilot projects.” What are the special programs and pilot projects? In your series on School Choice, you promised to follow-up with a presentation of reform solutions that are acceptable to you and the political left. We’re still waiting. We can’t evaluate ideas that are only spoken about in the abstract or not spoken about at all.

        Finally, has the Republican legislature blocked public school experiments in Hillsborough County, where the local school district has partnered with the Bill Gates Foundation? No, they haven’t. Conversely, I have seen and read a number of reports in the local press about administrator and staff resistance to change and certain accountability measures required by the program. Further, has the Republican legislature blocked public school experiments with magnet and fundamental programs in Pinellas County? No, they haven’t. In fact, parents such as myself who were just put through an extensive research, application and lottery process are wondering why the whole school district isn’t modeled after magnet and fundamental attributes. Is it fair to some kids that the demand for seats exceeds the available supply? The competition is all one needs to see to know that change is necessary.

        In conclusion, I would say stop insulting the reformers and talking in the abstract. What are your reform solutions? Unless the political left is willing to put their cards on the table, the pressure on public schools will grow. Parents are an impatient bunch. We have a small window of time to nurture and teach our children. We don’t have time to wait for change … either the public schools will adapt or we will adapt by putting are children in more responsive, private schools.


  4. I have concerns about this legislation as a Republican for some of the reasons articulated on this site. I think leaving these sorts of decisions in the hands of angry parents could be fatal, a huge huge mistake. What happens after Trigger is iniated? Too many questions and too few answers.


  5. The Judge · ·

    We have some really f’d up people pushing this. Just look at that first comment.


  6. The Judge · ·

    So if Ds act like Ds and not Rs they should be committed or shot?????

    You should be locked away.


  7. Rev. James Kennedy! Whoa that is a scary name from the past!


  8. So many Ds have become corporate shills.


  9. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    While I completely agree the left has become politically extreme and nasty this is an issue where the outrage is justified. Democrats need to stick together on this one.


    1. Barney (Not Bishop) · ·

      It is a shame that lobbyists aren’t required to register with the blogosphere before they post anonymous comments. Maniacal Nancy- take your own rants elsewhere.


      1. Nancy Texeira · ·

        Barney (not bishop), first of all I did not write the above comments mainly bc I don’t have the time or views to do so. I’m a huge Obama supporter and have been accused by many to be socialist (hey, what’s so bad about that? I’m from MA, we’re proud of that). I also respect what Kartik does on this blog and would never say some of those inflammatory things. And one more thing: I personally think the Randolph’s are awesome people doing what’s right for Dems in this state. I wish more people were as passionate about democratic politics and values. Some may not agree on my views on school choice, but it’s ok. At the end of the day I agree with 99 percent of the democratic agenda. We should stop alienating people who aren’t 100 percent with us 100 percent of the time. If we continue to require this to be involved in the process then we will keep bleeding loyal Dems. If anyone has any questions on my views you can always reach me at I’d be happy to chat with anyone.

        Thank you Kartik for what you do on this blog. I think it’s been an amazing outlet for Dems in this state. I’m just disappointed that people can get so nasty and personal anonymously on this space.


      2. Nancy Texeira · ·

        Sorry, one more thing 🙂 I know the majority of the Dems hate Trigger. I get it, I respect their opinions. But the same client that is getting railed on that bill drafted the ESE bill that passed the senate yesterday unanimously with 39 cosponsors. Sometimes not everything is as one-sided and conspiracy theory laden as it seems. People truly have good intentions on these issues. If I’ve learned anything in this process, nothing is ever black and white.


      3. Nancy Texeira · ·

        Barney, elected officials should probably be required to post under their real names too.


  10. It is sick what people are writing. Why would one be so obsessed with masking the truth about Crist and any corruption. There are Rs that stood up against this bad education including Lynn and Dockery.

    The issue is the corruption from the majority of groups like Florida Revolution. DS like Lawson has be bought off as well as the former girl that work for Senate Victory from the Ds.

    I would not be shocked if Art Johnson was tied into the mix. Both aides are sick on this. It is just sad that our kids have to suffer.


  11. Dems forever · ·

    This site is so valuable…Internet bullies be damned. Go on speaking the truth brother Kartik!


  12. Really shameful that these groups cannot be honest and disclose who they are and who funds them and what the agenda of those who fund them are.


  13. This is hilarious to read. Some nut jobs are really scary!


  14. […] proponents using the dollars from big money corporate backers have cynically manufactured artificial  support for various schemes that are unconstitutional and damage public […]


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