PTA president David Perez, a public school advocate, has vowed to fight "all attempts to shift public funds to for-profit charter schools."
A Florida father who leads the PTA at his local elementary school is taking on a Republican state representative who has earned hundreds of thousands from the charter school industry.
David Perez, PTA president of North Hialeah Elementary, located near Miami, is running for seat Florida Senate. He has vowed to fight against "all attempts to shift public funds to for-profit charter schools."
Perez's opponent, Manny Diaz Jr., who currently currently a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, has used his position in politics to help steer business toward charter schools, and in the process has enriched himself.
Diaz backed legislation, later signed into law by Republican governor Rick Scott, that allowed charter schools to hire teachers who haven't been licensed by the state.
Parent groups and teachers' unions opposed the bill, but Diaz pushed it along from his position as chairman of the Florida House's PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
He did so even though, as the Miami Herald noted, he faced "lingering questions about his ties to the charter school industry."
While serving in the House, Diaz also collects a paycheck as the Chief Operating Officer of Doral College. The same type of charter schools that Diaz advocates for while in session also funnel money to Doral. One company, Academica, paid millions to Doral for college courses. At the same time, Diaz earned a six-figure salary from Doral.
In addition to the bill allowing unlicensed teachers, Diaz also pushed for pro-charter legislation to allow schools to continue operations even while under investigation, which passed after being put into a bigger bill. Diaz even supported an amendment to the state constitution that would take control of charter schools away from local school districts.
At the launch of his campaign, Perez described himself as "a product of the public school system — elementary, middle school and high school." Perez, who is a firefighter lieutenant, also highlighted his PTA credentials and the fact that his 12-year-old son is currently in public school.
Perez said, "I see what is happening to public school funding and that is an issue for me."
In a release, he said Diaz has "sold out public education for personal profit."
Despite Diaz's entrenched position in state government, recent fundraising reports show Perez with a slight edge over the Republican.
Diaz has spent years doing the bidding of the charter school industry, while steering money into his personal bank account as a byproduct.
Perez's campaign is advocating for local schools and students, which Diaz appears to have forgotten.