Education

Charter school champion Fresen considers run for Miami-Dade school board

State Rep. Erik Fresen is “seriously considering” a run for the Miami-Dade County School Board, the Miami Republican said Monday in a text message.

Fresen, who is term-limited after serving since 2008 in the Florida House, would run for the District 6 seat left open by Raquel Regalado. She is stepping down to run for Miami-Dade mayor.

“Throughout my career, reforming and improving access to quality public education for all families has always been my priority,” Fresen wrote. “As such I am seriously considering this opportunity to continue serving our community, but I have not made a final decision yet.”

He did not return requests for additional comment, but Fresen’s name recognition coupled with a short election season could give him an edge in the August primary election.

Fresen has wielded considerable power over education policy and spending as chairman of the House education budget committee, and through roles on the appropriations and education committees, the joint budget commission and the K-12 subcommittee.

He has been a staunch supporter of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run — and which compete with traditional district-run schools for both students and state resources.

Critics have repeatedly questioned Fresen’s deep ties to Academica, thought to be the largest charter school operator in Miami-Dade. His sister and brother-in-law run the company. But others say Fresen’s position is no different than a teacher or other public school employee who also serves in the state Legislature.

If he runs, Fresen would likely draw the opposition of teachers unions. The Florida Education Association recently filed a complaint over a controversial teacher bonus program championed by Fresen.

“He has been attacking public education for quite some time now,” said Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade. “And then he wants to sit on the school board and pretend that public education is important to him? I think it’s very deceitful to say the least.”

District 6 runs through downtown Miami, Key Biscayne and south of Coral Gables. The term would run through November 2018.

Also considering a run for the seat: Joe Gebara, the popular immediate past-president of the Miami-Dade PTA.

“I’m still thinking about it,” said Gebara, who is also weighing a run for state PTA. “Family first, and my family needs me more than anything.”

There are five other seats open on the school board. Candidates have from June 20 through June 24 to file official paperwork to run.

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga

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