Thursday, July 18, 2013

Florida Republican With Ties To Academica Defends Pitbull

Looks like Jersey Jazzman and I may have hit a bit of a sore spot for Pitbull and his pal Fernando Zulueta.  You see, Pitbull's pal Ferny is the CEO over at Academica.  Academica is running the charter Pitbull is pimping.  Academica makes A LOT of money off of charter schools. 

Ferny introduced Pitbull at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference, and Jersey Jazzman and I took some time to point out that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was speaking at a conference with a guy who seems to be less than a stellar role model for kids and a kind of odd cheerleader for the charter school movement.

And it looks like our work didn't go unnoticed.
Of course, not everyone thinks that Pitbull is a good spokesperson for education.
Enter State Rep. Eric Fresen.
State Rep. Eric Fresen? Who is he and what the heck does he have to do with Pitbull? 

THIS is Eric Fresen...

Looks like a real sincere guy, right?

What did this elected official have to say about Pitbull?
State Rep. Eric Fresen, a Miami Republican who has family and financial ties to Academica, said the rapper’s support is based on his personal experience.
“Armando is a family friend and, more importantly, has three children in high-performing charter schools and believes in them,” Fresen said in a written statement.
“He thought the sports theme was a great hook to get kids engaged in education, especially in Little Havana, so he offered to help promote and brand it,” Fresen added. “There is no financial motivation. He’s very rich on his own right already.” (emphasis mine)
You caught it, right? The family and financial ties to Academica part?  Perhaps there really is 'no financial motivation' for Pitbull (I really doubt it), but there sure is for Ferny, and apparently for Rep. Fresen as well.
Academica’s closest ally in the capital is in the family: Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, is the brother-in-law of Fernando Zulueta, Academica’s CEO. Zulueta is married to Fresen’s sister, Maggie, who also is an Academica executive.
Fresen himself is a former Academica lobbyist. He now earns $150,000 a year as a land-use consultant for Civica, a Doral architectural firm that has built several schools run by Academica — including schools on land controlled by the Zulueta brothers. Civica has ongoing contracts with many of these schools.
While working as a consultant for charter schools, Fresen has been their champion in the Legislature, where he sits on a key education committee in the House.
Earlier this year, Fresen drafted language in an education bill barring cities from imposing stricter zoning or building regulations on charter schools. At the time, the city of South Miami was considering zoning regulations that could have inhibited expansion of the Somerset Academy at SoMi, an Academica school. (emphasis mine)

Read more here:
And to top it off, ethics charges were filed against Fresen for his failure to disclose his relationship to Academica prior to a vote on a bill allowing charters to expand and add grades.
Trish Thompson, who filed the complaint, said “Fresen failed to declare a conflict of interest prior to casting a vote” in a House Education Committee meeting on April 20. Fresen voted on a bill (HB 7195) that expands charter schools, allowing highly-rated schools to expand and add grades.
“He also participated in the promotion of amendments that would enhance his relative’s ability to profit from ‘for-profit’ management company charter schools,” she said.
Thompson says Fresen’s actions are unethical because they violating a state law that prohibits elected officials from voting any measure which could help or hinder any relatives or business associates.
Making that stick could be tricky. The language in the state law limits a violation to legislators who take action to benefit just themselves or their family, but nobody else.
Fresen told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald that the law would benefit all charter school operators. (emphasis mine)
Oh, well why didn't you say that in the first place?  As long as it benefits ALL charter school operators, that makes it just fine!

How gross is that? He voted on a bill that would help his sister and brother in law make more money without disclosing his conflict, but it's OK in Florida because they're not the only ones who will profit from the law. Ew.

Let's recap, shall we?

A CEO making millions off of charter school construction brought misogynistic rapper Pitbull to a national charter school conference to grow his brand, and when a couple education bloggers cried foul, the brother-in-law of the CEO, who happens to be an ethically challenged member of the Florida House of Representatives, sang Pitbull's praises in the press, swearing his aim is true.


How blatant does this stuff have to get? Our schools are being sold out by businessmen like "Ferny" and Pitbull and politicians like Fresen. And they're smiling all the way to the bank!

An artist's rendering from the blog Eye On Miami,
that named Fresen their 2011 Shill of the Year!

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