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GOP Miami-Dade school members complain about Obama campaign event at public school

First Lady Michelle Obama will stop in Miami Tuesday to recruit residents to vote and volunteer to reelect her husband, President Barack Obama.

But the spot for the political event -- Barbara Goleman Senior High in Miami Lakes -- has some GOP members of the School Board seeing red.

Miami-Dade School Board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla has called for the event to be cancelled and Board Member Carlos Curbelo has asked the board attorney to reconsider his opinion that the event meets legal muster. While School Board seats are non-partisan, Diaz de la Portilla is running for state House as a Republican and Curbelo has worked as a Republican strategist.

“Allowing the First Lady of the United States to use one of our schools explicitly to benefit the President's reelection campaign is inappropriate and sends the wrong message to our students, employees, and to taxpayers – even if the President's campaign is willing to pay for all costs resulting from the event,” Curbelo wrote in the letter to the school board attorney, Walter Harvey.

Curbelo told the Herald Monday: “ There’s a difference between official visits to schools by elected officials and the interest of having events that are for the sole purpose for advancing a political campaign.”

Said Diaz de la Portilla in a statement: "The use of public schools whose only focus should be to educate our children for political gain is downright wrong. Don’t these liberals have boundaries? Our schools are places for learning, not places for politicking."

Under the School Board policy, all groups, including political, religious and nonprofits, can apply to lease facilities from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said School Board attorney, Walter Harvey. The district doesn't spend any money on the event for the outside group and employees cannot attend the event if they are on the clock.

“They’re essentially renting the facility,” Harvey said. His opinion was essentially if someone applies to use district facilities, the district can’t deny and discriminate against the request just because it comes from a political campaign. All renters must meet certain criteria, like providing a certificate of insurance and prepaying the leasing fee.

According to the White House’s advisory, the First Lady will meet with grassroots supporters to encourage them to "register to vote and volunteer for the campaign, and thank volunteers for their hard work to help re-elect President Obama in November.”

A similar event will be held in Orlando on Tuesday afternoon.
- Laura Isensee

 

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