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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

RPOF "violated the public trust" with pro-Scott teacher video, Democrat says

18

July

Gov. Rick Scott should scold the Republican Party of Florida for using interviews with Teacher of the Year finalists at a mansion event for a political-style video without their permission, said Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, on Thursday.

"As titular head of the Republican Party of Florida, I hope you will express your strong opposition to using Florida’s best teachers in a political advertisement without their consent," Castor Dentel wrote to Scott in a letter blasted by the Florida Democratic Party. "Public servants should feel secure when they attend education events at your invitation that they are not being used as political pawns or props for inappropriate advertising."

About 40 teachers went to Tallahassee at Scott's invitation in late June for two days of events, including a roundtable discussion and an awards ceremony. Employees of Scott's press office pulled some teachers aside for one-on-one video interviews at a June 26 welcome reception at the governor's mansion. The press office and Department of Education released eight videos to the media on June 28 ("What they are saying: Teachers of the Year Applaud Governor Scott's Commitment to Education") here.

"A quote in front of my door  says, 'Imagine a world where education is the only thing that mattered.' So when you invest in education, the result is going to be a future. And I think Gov. Scott is a visionary. He's a brilliant businessman. And I think he sees that vision," said Dorina Sackman, an Orange County teacher who later won the state's top teacher award, in one of the videos. "And I think he sees the vision for Florida. What he's done in the business world for Florida, I think he can incorporate that into education, and see, okay, wait a second, we have to invest in our children by investing in our teachers, and that's what I am so looking forward to as a teacher."

RPOF spokeswoman Susan Hepworth said the party used some of those videos for its two-minute video, "What teachers are saying about Gov. Scott's investments in education," on July 2. The video ends with "#ItsWorking for Teachers."

Hepworth said there was no coordination between the governor's office and the party, and the party has used similar publicly available videos from the governor's office for its own purposes in the past.

In a statement, RPOF chairman Lenny Curry brushed off the criticism, "We want all Floridians to know that teachers recognize and appreciate what he has done to help our teachers and students."

Castor Dentel's letter and the video are as follows:

Dear Governor Scott,

A recent article in the Tampa Tribune reported that the Republican Party of Florida used footage of public school teachers without their consent in a political ad supporting your campaign for reelection. According to the article, The Teacher of the Year finalists were attending an event paid for with public dollars and were interviewed by public employees - - only to later find themselves used by your Party in a political ad to enhance your campaign for reelection.

As a teacher, I know personally how important the strong support of our political leaders is to Florida’s teachers. As Governor, you recognize this too because you invited some very talented teachers to Tallahassee for a nonpartisan event celebrating the achievements of all Florida’s educators.

However, the videos of this public celebration surely were misused by the Republican Party’s partisan distribution of the videos without the knowledge or consent of the educators who were interviewed. At least one of those educators called the use of her video “inappropriate.” Educators and fair-minded citizens across the state are very disappointed by the lack of judgment of the Republican Party. Teachers like myself are public servants who strive to be good role models for Florida’s children. I know you try to do the same, but your Party has violated the public trust.

As titular head of the Republican Party of Florida, I hope you will express your strong opposition to using Florida’s best teachers in a political advertisement without their consent. Public servants should feel secure when they attend education events at your invitation that they are not being used as political pawns or props for inappropriate advertising.

Sincerely,

Representative Karen Castor Dentel

[Last modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 5:45pm]

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