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Lawmaker championing charter school bill has ties to industry

House leaders picked state Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., of Hialeah, to shepherd a controversial bill that would revamp the way hundreds of charter schools statewide enter into agreements with local school boards.

Yet, in the eyes of some observers, Diaz has a clear conflict of interest: He has direct ties to the charter school industry.

The Republican lawmaker has been named dean of Doral College, a newly minted private university run by the state’s largest for-profit charter school management firm.

Diaz said he was tapped to manage the charter school bill because he understands both sides of the issue. He previously worked for the Miami-Dade school district for 20 years. He is vice-chair of the K-12 Subcommittee, which is part of the House Education Committee.

“I was asked to run [the bill] in a fair and balanced manner and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

But Jeff Wright, who oversees public policy advocacy for the Florida Education Association, said having Diaz oversee the proposal is another example of the Legislature favoring charter schools.

“They aren’t even trying to be subtle anymore,” Wright said. “Lawmakers have abandoned any obligation to [traditional] public schools.”

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