Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

How close is too close for a school board member?

Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 9:15am

The Florida School Boards Association's decision to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Florida's voucher program has drawn some clear dividing lines in state politics.

Step Up For Students, which administers the program, has highlighted school board members around the state who oppose the lawsuit. Step Up founder John Kirtley has clearly stated he would use his political influence to challenge board members who back the suit, and back candidates on his side.

One of those pro-voucher board members is Duval's Jason Fischer. He's now facing pushback from activists who consider vouchers a drain on public education.

Duval columnist and activist Julie Delegal of Save Duval Schools suggests in a new piece that Fischer is too tightly tied to Kirtley and other voucher proponents - perhaps too close to serve as a public school board member. How close?

"Fischer, who started working for Ureteck Holdings in July 2013, appears to have a conflict of interest. While Fischer lists his position with Uretek on his LinkedIn page, he omits it on his other social media accounts.

"Uretek Holdings, a 'foundations stabilization company,' (think engineering, not philanthropy) lists none other than voucher-program founder John Kirtley as its Director. The company's chairman and CEO, Kathleen Shanahan, served as chief of staff for former Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as for former Vice President Dick Cheney when he was Vice President-elect. Floridians know Shanahan from her days as a member of, and as chairman of, the Florida Board of Education.

"To say that Fischer has ties to high profile privatization proponents, and that those ties might influence his opinion on local board matters, would be understatements."

Fischer told Delegal that his support for vouchers came before he took his job, and that "I don't take instructions from anyone."

Florida statute states: "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state that no officer or employee of a state agency or of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state, and no member of the Legislature or legislative employee, shall have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect; engage in any business transaction or professional activity; or incur any obligation of any nature which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties in the public interest."

Do you see a conflict here?