Charter schools back amendment effort

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Companies with ties to charter schools and a controversial federal visa program are providing the bulk of contributions to an effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would impose an eight-year term limit on school board members.

Through June, the political committee has raised $54,532 in support of Amendment 8, state election records show.

The amendment, which was approved by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, would impose term limits on school board members but would also provide more authority to the Legislature to create alternative public education initiatives, like charter schools.

The amendment also would require civics literacy instruction in the public schools.

Nearly three-quarters of the money raised by the 8isGreat group has come from companies involved with charter schools.

Red Apple Development, a Fort Lauderdale company that has helped develop more than three dozen charter school projects in Florida, donated $10,000 to the amendment effort.

GreenAccess, a Jupiter company also involved in more than three dozen charter schools in Florida, donated $15,000.

Florida Overseas Investment Center, a Sarasota company, also made a $15,000 contribution to the amendment campaign, records show.

GreenAccess and Florida Overseas Investment are both involved in the EB-5 investor visa program, which provides a path to U.S. residency for wealthy foreign immigrants.

Under the program, the foreign investors can obtain a “green card” for themselves and their families if they provide at least $500,000 for projects, such as schools, that are tied to job creation.

Critics have said the visa program is loosely regulated, while supporters have defended it as a way to direct investments and jobs to under-served communities.

Amendment 8 is one of 13 state constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot.

Each amendment will require support from at least 60 percent of the voters to be enacted.