Charter Schools USA encourages parents to 'thank' Gov. Ron DeSantis for education policies

Some parents suspicious about timing of email, 2 weeks before gubernatorial election
A photo of an email from Charter Schools USA to parents at Renaissance Charter School in West Palm Beach, asking them to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for his education policies, Oct. 27, 2022.jpg
Posted at 6:22 PM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-28 09:44:06-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — With less than two weeks to go until election day, one major Florida charter school group is sending an email to parents, encouraging them to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for his proactive policies on education.

While the message doesn't ask parents to vote for the governor, some told WPTV the timing raises questions about its intent.

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"I was kind of upset because I don't like mixing politics and my son's school," parent Jonathan Halpert said.

Halpert found it suspect to receive an email from his son's Renaissance Charter School, giving parents an opportunity to thank DeSantis through email or on social media for his education policies and initiatives, some of which were announced months ago.

READ: Email from Renaissance Charter School

"100% inappropriate, especially the timing," Halpert said. "Send it to me in May. Send it to me in April. Don't send it to me two weeks before the vote."

Charter Schools USA operates dozens of charter schools across the state, including the Renaissance Charter Schools in Palm Beach County.

CEO Jon Hage is a known donor to the Republican Party, and campaign finance records show he gave almost $5,000 to the DeSantis campaign.

Charter Schools USA said no public resources were used to send the message to parents, and released this statement to WPTV:

"Governor DeSantis has taken unprecedented measures to support students, teachers, and parental choice in education and we are proud to encourage our school families to thank any public servant who works hard to improve education. We have used this platform on multiple occasions to thank those who have gone above and beyond to advocate for education."

"I don’t think it’s a coincidence this email went out two weeks before the election," WPTV political analyst Brian Crowley said. "I think, underneath, we can surmise it’s intent. But legally, it isn’t violating any election laws."

Crowley said the email is carefully worded so as not to ask for a vote or campaign donation.

"They completely avoid, on the surface, making this appear political," Crowley said.

WPTV visited the Renaissance Charter School in West Palm Beach on Thursday to talk to parents about the email. Many told WPTV they were unaware, and some said they would not like to see that from their school. But they did not want to speak on camera.

"I don’t know that it will have an impact," Halpert said. "I know it's an attempt to have an impact. It's one of those things that most voters are probably decided."

Halpert just wants to keep the focus on his son's education and keep politics out of it.

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