Staff, Tax Money Used To Peddle $800 Million School Bonds





The law seems pretty clear:


106.113 Expenditures by local governments.

(1) As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Local government” means:

1. A county, municipality, school district, or other political subdivision in this state; and

2. Any department, agency, board, bureau, district, commission, authority, or similar body of a county, municipality, school district, or other political subdivision of this state.

(b) “Public funds” means all moneys under the jurisdiction or control of the local government.

(2) A local government or a person acting on behalf of local government may not expend or authorize the expenditure of, and a person or group may not accept, public funds for a political advertisement or electioneering communication concerning an issue, referendum, or amendment, including any state question, that is subject to a vote of the electors. This subsection does not apply to an electioneering communication from a local government or a person acting on behalf of a local government which is limited to factual information.

(3) With the exception of the prohibitions specified in subsection (2), this section does not preclude an elected official of the local government from expressing an opinion on any issue at any time.



So why are the School Board members and Superintendent Robert Runcie spending taxpayer resources like money and staff time to promote the $800 million bond referendum?

Here is from the School Board’s own website:

“The Washington Economics Group, Inc., (WEG) was retained by the Broward County Public Schools system (BCPS) as independent consultants to estimate the economic impacts and economic development benefits to Broward County that could be generated by the passage to the General Obligation Bond (GOB) to fund capital improvements.” Here is the link.

Now, exactly what does “the economic impact and economic development benefits” have to do with improving our children’s education?

Its only use is to promote the bond issue as a job generator.

In one sense,  the study backfires.

The School Board, which does nothing cheaply or economically, would create slightly more than 8,800 jobs by selling $800 million in bonds.

These jobs would cost more than $90,000 apiece in taxpayers’ money…not including the interest!

If you believe the study.


Who Paid?


A School Board member remembers Runcie mentioning in a private meeting that he was commissioning the study. She doesn’t know who paid for it.

“We never saw this. We never voted on it,” the member said.

Unless the WEG did the work for free, the school system used public money to peddle the bonds.

At very least, the school system is using the public’s website. 

This use of public resources to promote passage of the referendum is disturbingly recurrent during the campaign.  It may not be strictly illegal — opinions have differed on what is illegal and what is allowed under Florida law — but is that how taxpayers want their money spent?

I am told that Sheela VanHouse, a school system in-house lobbyist, is making campaign calls from the School Board HQ and using her paid time to plan the campaign.

Every time Runcie appears at a meeting promoting the school bonds, he brings along members of his staff. Are we expected to believe they are not being paid?

When the  pro-bond political committee was created, it was envisioned tapping the school system’s list of parents so that they could be targeted for mail advertising, according to political consultants who discussed the matter with Runcie.  Parents are already being bombarded by pro-bond messages on school websites and material delivered to their home.

Is this what taxpayers want the staff to be doing with their time?

Perhaps the worst is that School Board members and Runcie have been asking for donations to the pro-bond campaign committee, several sources say.

Asking for donations is questionable. Business types have to believe there is an implied quid pro quo in return for their donations.

The School Board members engineered the endorsement of the $800 million bond referendum by the Broward Democratic Party. They did so by negotiating directly and privately with Democratic Chair Mitch Ceasar, a lobbyist who plies the hallways of the School Board.

The School Board is allowing all this:

  • School staff campaigning for the bonds on the taxpayers’ dime.
  • The website being used to promote the bonds.
  • Members and Runcie begging for campaign donations and endorsements.
  • Deals with lobbyists to support the bond referendum.


One thing is for sure: This campaign is proving that some members of this School Board are as ethically challenged as the last one.

Appearance is everything in politics and the appearance is, nothing has changed at the School Board.




24 Responses to “Staff, Tax Money Used To Peddle $800 Million School Bonds”

  1. Spartan says:

    Mr. Runcie was at my school in the middle of the day. I bet he was being paid.

  2. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    Interesting Fact Charter schools receive 28% less funding per student then public schools. Fact even with 28% less funding, they make a profit or close. This was before calculating the impact of 800 million dollar bond. How come Charter Schools can get similar results and have higher parent satisfaction with so much less money?

  3. Mitch Ceasar says:

    To be clear, I, the officers and many precinct people were approached about the Bond issue. I was no “gatekeeper.” The entire audience of precinct people passed the resolution unanimously. Do you understand how difficult it is to pass anything without dissent in any political organization!

  4. Maple Flag says:

    For the millionth time THEY HAVE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SET IF RULES! They exclude ESE students at a tremendous rate, the have different building code. The list goes on and on. And with all that, several have shut down a could months into the school year because they don’t know what they are doing.

  5. truth says:

    95% of legislation passed by city governments and the legislature is either by consent, or unanimous vote.
    In short, Mitch is full of crap.

  6. Ha Ha Ha says:

    … “Charter schools are frequently not accountable. Indeed, they are stunningly opaque, more black boxes than transparent laboratories for education.”

    Rather than having to show their books, as public schools do, Noguera contended, “Most charters lack financial transparency.” As an example, he offered a study of KIPP charter schools, which found that they receive “‘an estimated $6,500 more per pupil in revenues from public or private sources’ compared to local school districts.” But only a scant portion of that disproportionate funding – just $457 in spending per pupil – could accurately be accounted for “because KIPP does not disclose how it uses money received from private sources.

    In addition to the difficulties in following the money,” Noguero continued, “there is evidence that many charters seek to accept only the least difficult (and therefore the least expensive) students. Even though charter schools are required by law to admit students through lotteries, in many cities, the charters under-enroll the most disadvantaged children.”

    This tendency of charter schools operations provides a double bonus as their student test scores get pushed to higher levels and the public schools surrounding them have to take on disproportionate percentages of high needs students who push their test score results lower. Noguera cited a study showing that traditional schools serving the largest percentages of high-needs students are frequently the first to be branded with the “failure” label. …

  7. A joke says:

    I happened to drive by the Broward County Teachers Union on University Dr. in Tamarac and why was I not surprised to see about 40 Charlie Crist signs posted and not a single one for Scott. I was under the impression that Teachers Unions are not supposed to show support and let me guess the so called Chicago boss man for the Teachers union Runcie I am betting is behind it

  8. Uh Oh says:

    Wow, Mr. Ceasar…democrats voting unanimously to tax and spend? What is the world coming to…….

  9. Lisa Wattley says:

    To Mitch Ceasar – if you are referring to the meeting in Plantation, I was in the audience. Two to three questions were asked and then a member of the audience moved to end “discussion” and vote on endorsing the bond. Didn’t feel very “democratic” to me. More like rubber stamping.

  10. Come on Andrew says:

    Andrew Landowski’s post is misleading and he knows it. Charter schools cost of doing business is not the same as public schools. Charter schools aren’t mandated to educate children with disabilities, provide transportation, meet stringent state requirements for their buildings, etc. There are certainly serious questions about the bond and the people who are going to be administering the bond money. But using flawed logic like Mr. Landowski does in his post isn’t the way to criticize it.

  11. Insider says:

    Is anyone surprised? The SBBC is doing everything it can to get this bond to pass. On our daily school email there are “POP UP” alerts about the SMART bond. We recently go a schedule of important BCAA games with the SMART BOND propaganda printed on the back for distribution to all students. How much does this cost?

    At school, administration is ramming the benefits of voting YES for the bond. Those that have opposing opinions do not speak out due to FEAR or reprisals. I guess the 1st amendment is nullified if you have a contrary view of what the SBBC thinks is best!

    SBBC is a system that uses intimidation and overt threats to get you to conform. If not you conform you are labeled a troublemaker and/or you get unsatisfactory evaluations.

    Look at all the coverups and how they “circle the wagon” to protect their own. Whether that be incompetent and/or ineffective administrators and/or staff.

    To go against the “system” at the SBBC is an invitation for “self-mutilation.”

  12. Floridan says:

    I happened to drive by the Broward County Teachers Union on University Dr. in Tamarac and why was I not surprised to see about 40 Charlie Crist signs posted and not a single one for Scott.

    Why would any teacher vote for Scott?

  13. LCG says:

    Buddy, is it legal for a school to print the bond information on school purchased paper? It seems to me the paper, which is paid with school money, pushes this beyond the point allowed by the law.


    Here is what a South Florida political consultant says:

    “Neither the school board nor it’s members nor its employees can use any public resources (read school board time, phones, office supplies etc.) for advocacy. They can, however, provide “information” and under that proposition can conveniently only tell their side of the story…

    For example, the use of school board robo calls to parents explaining how the proposed money will be spend comes dangerously close to ethical problems, especially when those representations are not entirely accurate.”

  14. Michael says:

    Which school board members are promoting this mess? We need to know now for 2016. I can only think of three or 4 to keep. Hope not all involved. Say it ain ‘t so.

  15. Lies Assessment says:

    Staff and tax money used to sell the bond, broke pro-school bond committee begging for cash, new campaign manager to sell the bond… I’m looking at these headlines and noticing one common theme, Runcie and his minions will go to any lengths to pass this bond. We all know our schools are in need but why would we entrust the spending of 800 million dollars to a liar? He knows that safety sells so he continues to lie to voters. We have seen this “Needs Assessment” and we know it’s full of lies! My favorite is the line under Mechanical that says Stoneman Douglas… “Replace Variable Frequency Drive Location: Swimming Pool” That may pose a problem since Stoneman Douglas DOESN’T have a swimming pool! They are also receiving $641,000 for a single point of entry that was installed over three years ago and signed off! It has the door, the covered walkway, the STAR System and the fencing. What happens to that $641,000 if the bond passes and they “discover” Stoneman doesn’t need that single point of entry? Do we build a new building to house all these new positions that keep posting? Bringing in more Chicago staff and programs? The reason Runcie can’t pass this bond is because it is shrouded in deceit and corruption.

  16. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    To answer your question:

    Because those charters pay their teachers 30% less and they are 20% more administratively efficient, so they basically operate at a 20-25% margin.

    My city insists on paying our charter schools teachers at least as much as district teachers, but we are at least 20% more efficient in administration. Without capital funds for public schools, that’s how we end up at 66 cents on the dollar. It produces a deficit.

    We could turn it around by paying our teachers less. We refuse to do that to the teachers who do so great a job with our kids. Last year we had a financial crisis that resulted in our scaling back teacher salaries to the district pay plan. We had been paying teachers a bit more than the district paid theirs.

    It was one of the most painful things my city commission ever did. Had we not done it, our system would have fallen into bankruptcy. Begrudgingly, our teachers supported the plan which saved their jobs. But the price for that was a salary cut that could have been avoided had the school board not supported a categorical denial to fund capital at any charter school which — as I’ve mentioned many times — is an arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory and intentionally harmful stab at parent choice.

    Different charter models different results. But generally, since teacher salaries are the single highest expenditure of any school, it’s nearly impossible to make a profit absent capital funds without lowering teacher pay.

    In Pembroke Pines we believe that the best teacher pay scale in the state is still woefully inadequate and way too low in comparison to what teacher pay should be. We think the better public policy is to pay our teachers better. In the public education business, no operator has been able to pull that off for long except for Pines Charter and then only by bleeding our reserves each year to plug a deficit.

    It’s a recipe for bankruptcy.


  17. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    Myth is Charters schools do accept all students with disabilities. My son is an ESE student with severe disability and attends a charter school. Charter schools, just like your home school do not accept students who would be better served in a cluster program which Broward County has several. I always state facts and put my name behind it. I never take anyone seriously who puts an anonymous post up.

  18. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    @Angelo, I would like to see pay equality. Teachers at charter schools should be paid equal to those of public schools. Teachers are teachers. We fight for equal pay by gender and sexual orientation, we should have equal pay for all public schools.

  19. Juliet Hibbs says:

    Because people have been asking me why I dont support the bond I wrote this

    Buddy, your article again demonstrates that they have NO regard for LAW! SHAMEFUL

  20. @Andrew says:

    Why do you think McKay was created? Because most charters figure out a way to not accept ESE students without technically not accepting ESE students. CSUSA is one of the worst offenders. You are a numbers guy. Check it out. They are actually in a legal battle as we speak regarding the underrepresenation and rejection of special needs students. Disgraceful.

  21. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    That could and should happen. But not if capital funds are categorically begrudged to all charter schools. Under current policies, the numbers would not work. Bear in mind also that there are some charter and district facilities that lease buildings or would otherwise be ineligible to collect capital funds. You can’t use public dollars to improve private facilities, but some capital funds could be used for other eligible expenses at all of those public schools.


  22. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    There’s no end to anti-charter propaganda. The status quo is challenged by it and fight back in the only way they can. With lies.

    First, it was that charters are private schools but now everybody knows that all charters are public schools. Then it was that charters don’t adhere to class size requirements, which also isn’t true. A whole bunch of other lies in between, and now it’s that charters don’t take in ESE students, also a lie.

    The fact is parents ask the questions when they care about the education of their own children. They ask the questions directly and get the answers. Parent choice in public education is here to stay.

    Currently charter schools account for 15% of all public school students in Broward and that number will continue to grow despite the smear and lie campaigns, despite the propaganda. This is a good thing that brings out the best in public education. And that can only be good news for our kids.



    The anti-charter propaganda isn’t working. Parents are voting with their feet as they walk away from the traditional public system and put their names on waiting lists for charter schools.

  23. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    @@Andrew show me the numbers, show me the documents, and numbers where a charter school in Broward county is cheating the system. Better yet tell Browardbeat, they would love to break the story. At my son’s charter I specifically requested the Data on ESE and would gladly share it. WE have similar ratios of ESE as the adjacent public schools, we did have a slightly higher socio-economics, which is the only data that concerned me. Socio-economics does drive schools performance.

  24. @Andrew says:

    They are the main organization that taking legal steps to exclude ESE students from their schools. Just ask the charter school and ESE departments at the district. They will give you everything you need.