Miami lawmaker's ties to charter schools prompt lingering questions
A familiar face is back at the center of a perennial tug-of-war in the Florida Legislature between privately-managed charter schools and district-run public schools over taxpayer money for construction projects:
Erik Fresen, the Miami Republican who controls the purse for education funding in the Florida House. His connections to the charter school industry continue to raise questions about conflicts of interest.
He has fast-tracked a mid-session bill that would limit school district spending on capital needs. It would also force districts to share their construction tax money with charters.
Fresen is a $150,000-a-year land consultant for Civica, an architecture firm with a specialty in building charter schools. Many of those schools were built for Academica — which has been described as the largest charter school management company in Florida and which counts Fresen’s brother-in-law and sister as executives.
Fresen says he simply wants to hold districts accountable for the money they spend and ensure equitable funding for charter schools, which are classified as public schools.
“Nothing in this bill has anything to do with anything that I do for a living,” he said.
But Fresen, 39, is dogged by questions that his goal isn’t so well-intentioned.