Ethics Optional: Conflicts of Interest and Corruption Run Amok in Tallahassee


Ethical conduct is the moral glue that binds Americans to their government and ensures that there is public trust and confidence in our representative democracy.

A recent in-depth investigative piece from WLRN reporter Jessica Bakeman detailing the infrastructure of the charter school industrial complex exposes a startling dissolution of ethics by Florida State Senator Manny Diaz and State Senator Anitere Flores.

Both of these elected officials who have sworn an oath to the Florida Constitution and are charged with acting in the best interest of their constituents are instead passing laws that directly benefit the industry where they are paid salaries equivalent to more than the income of 90% of Americans.

According to the article, Senator Diaz sponsored and voted for a bill that created the charter school takeover of Jefferson County and then added another 2 million dollars to the effort to sweeten the pot.

In turn, Doral College, where Senator Diaz is the COO, was paid a consultancy fee by Somerset Academy which provides dual enrollment courses at those very charter schools in Jefferson County. Can you say tit for tat? Quid pro quo?

Senator Flores wrote the original legislation that directly benefited Somerset Academy as they launched their charter school incursions into the state. She then went on to work for Doral College herself. The foxes are truly guarding the hen house.

Unfortunately, budgeting is a zero sum game: funding of self-enriching charter school deals by Florida legislators results in underfunding of our public schools. Earlier this year, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Education lost more than $1 billion on charter school waste and fraud.

This is money that it is being stolen from our teachers and our children and that we, in Miami Dade County, had to supplement by proffering a local tax referendum that asked voters to finance safety and security in our schools and a much deserved teacher salary increase.

And in the end, all of these shameful, self-serving efforts by our state “representatives” result in a product that does not even make the grade. While our Miami Dade public schools continue to be A-rated, nationally-acclaimed and open to everyone, many of the charter schools are mired in mismanagement, staffed by unlicensed teachers, and exclusionary.

Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence that our own local elected officials are the ones taking us for a ride in Tallahassee, we fail to elect candidates who are truly pro public education and continue to vote in carpetbagger legislators.

As parents, teachers, and constituents we cannot become inured to these blatant conflicts of interest and brazen money grabs that corrode our democratic institutions and produce a product that often lacks merit and oversight. Our children, our families, and our state deserve better.

Karla Hernández-Mats is the president of United Teachers of Dade, the fourth largest teachers’ union in the country.

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  1. If the allegations are true, where is the Miami-Dade County State Attorney or the Florida Attorney General when you need them to investigate? It sounds like crimes, not just ethical violations.

  2. Sounds like Fake News. To claim that there has been one Billion dollars wasted in Charter School operations without specific details, is just wild claims by a democratic party, and its Left Wing Media stooges!!
    Nothing but pure Politics!!! Nothing changes with the Radical Left Wing Community Newpaper, under publisher
    Grant Miller and his brother Michael..I am sure that if we had a Democrat Governor, and a Democrat House and Senate, that we would hear nothing but praises for the same actions by the Fake Media!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Right wingers like yourself only believe the news is fake when it doesn’t tell you what you want to hear and confirm your own beliefs. However you love fake news when it promotes your own beliefs and prejudices. You also make every issue about partisan politics creating political polarisation where you demonize the other political party while ignoring all the sins of your own political party. Both the Democrats and Republicans demonize each other while both ignore the sins of their own political party.

  3. I’ve said it more than a thousand times, I don’t trust ANY politician. To me they’re ALL CORRUPT, LOW LIFE THIEVES!! Politicians, ONLY cater to their ” PAID CONSTITUENTS”, at the expense of us regular citizens!! Who needs politicians!! I certainly don’t. The world would be better off without them!!

  4. First of all the perspective of a Teacher’s Union member is laughable and hardly unbiased. Wont get into al the failure of the UTD for as long as I can remember (and even swindled their teachers in the 90s). Second, lovely how this very loosely written article only mentions one charter company that has consistently received the highest marks i the country, and whose students also out-perform the Public Schools in Miami Dade with graduation rates and testing. Considering my husband worked in 4 different Miami Dade County Public Schools before finally giving it to the allure of the Charter School system, and considering the miserable conditions at all of the public schools where he worked (Southridge, Horace-Mann Middle, & Miami Senior High), perhaps we should be talking about giving ALL our tax money to Academica. We even finally switched our own kids this year after the public school got rid of the music program to add more reading because their kids weren’t passing the FSA. So sadly this article is a load of bull. I could go on and on with all the reasons (and first-hand accounts) from my retired school teacher mom and my current teacher husband, but alas I don’t have the time. Please next time get some real perspective on this. As far as the politicians go that is an entirely different issue, but to single out one charter school and mention some BS fraud on the national level is what I call bad journalism.

  5. This is terrible reporting, one sided without a rebuttal from the other side. Second, our public school education has been strengthened through competition, accountability and transparency. Maybe you should be thanking those who are responsible
    instead of making them out to be corrupt politicians. Every Legislator is an expert in a certain field that they know but if you read the statute it clearly says “inure”. Therefore if the legislation monetarily gives the Legislator money it is an offense. This is clearly not the case.
    No matter what the corrupt teachers union says. The teachers union represents the quest For power and mediocrity. They have been kicking and screaming every step of the way fighting programs that work.
    Please explain why Florida’s K-12 education system is ranked 4th in the Nation?
    I think it’s Time for the naysayers to be quiet and do what’s best for FLORIDA and it’s children.

  6. You know it takes a ton of courage to write this piece and even more when you pat yourself on the back for this clever think piece. I can’t wait for your next piece on how the Hamburglar has a conflict because even though he steals Hamburgers the records show that he is employed by McDonalds. Karla Mats I cant wait for your next piece on your hero for Public Schools Gary Farmer (Senator but you know a cool one)and an actual conflict of interest with a CHARTER SCHOOL LOBBYIST. Manny Diaz is a decent coach and I hope he resigns from office so he can focus on coaching. Also Community Newspapers we know what you do at night. A walking contradiction. Let’s look into that.

  7. It may be a bit disingenuous to state: “…our Miami Dade public schools continue to be A-rated…” According to the Preliminary 2018-2019 School Performance Grades for all schools, released by the Florida Department of Education, fewer than half (47%) of all Miami-Dade schools received “A” ratings. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that only 16% of M-DCPS senior high schools received “A” ratings. Given these numbers, it’s unclear to me how the M-DCPS district is rated “A” by the state.

  8. Plenty of corruption in the United Teachers Of Dade union who supports our corrupt local School Board and corrupt SuperIntendent Alberto Carvalho and lied to ignorant voters falsely claiming the tax money from the referendum would only go to public schools when in fact the tax money would go to charter schools as well since the language of the referendum didn’t prohibit the tax money from being shared with charter schools. Fire your traitorous union leaders who collaborate and conspire with the enemy and demand these local tax referendums that benefit charter schools be repealed and ban unions from raising money for politicians and political parties.

  9. The headline for this article is not news or anything new in more than 30 years.The Fl legislature works on behalf of lobbyists and other monied interests.Corruption is what operates government.Have we forgotten Pat Tornillo?

  10. CORRUPTION, CORRUPTION- That is what we get in Miami Dade, and all you have to do is to look at your property taxes. I agree that politicians should be eliminated. How do we end up paying taxes for a private self profiting institution like charter schools? Bananas, yes we are been sold Bananas as if they were made out of gold. Only in the Republica Bananera.

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