On April 15, the board of Doral Academy selected state Sen. Anitere Flores to run a new college proposed by the charter school network. As the college president, Flores will work side by side with Academica, the influential charter school management company that will also manage the college.
At the time the Doral Academy board selected her, Flores, who sits on an education committee in Tallahassee, was also sponsoring a bill in the Legislature to create online virtual charter schools, a new school model expected to dramatically expand the charter school industry. Since the proposal passed, Academica has applied for 19 virtual charters — including two with Doral Academy, state records show.
Flores, a Miami Republican, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, though this summer she said her new job did not create a conflict. But the arrangement illustrates the extent of Academica’s reach in Tallahassee, where the company has long cultivated influence among state lawmakers.
Academica’s owners, Fernando and Ignacio Zulueta, have steered $150,000 in campaign donations to Tallahassee lawmakers and political committees through real-estate companies they control since 2007, state election records show. The Zulueta family has donated a further $75,000 in the past five years, and Academica executives and school contractors donated a further $54,000, records show.