Florida Today | by Eric Rogers | October 12, 2020
A political text message bearing the name and logo of Brevard Public Schools and targeting Rep. Randy Fine’s challenger for Florida House District 53 came from Fine’s campaign and not the school district, Fine and district officials said Monday.
The message, received Monday afternoon by some south Brevard County residents, accused Democrat Phil Moore of seeking to close Brevard County charter schools and ending school vouchers for low-income and special needs students.
Moore denied the claims and has accused Fine of using the school district as a “political pawn.”
Neither the text nor a voice recording reached at an included phone number — which calls itself the “Phil Moore ‘end parental choice’ information line” — identifies the source of the message. While the text bears the school district’s logo and tags itself as a “Brevard Public Schools Alert,” BPS spokesman Russell Bruhn said it did not come from the district.
“We’re looking into who would have sent that and why they would have used our image and used our name in a political campaign,” Bruhn said.
In a subsequent call with FLORIDA TODAY, Fine said his campaign was responsible for the text.
“I think its important that people are aware that he wants to take (hundreds of) families who get scholarships and take them away,” he said.
Fine said the text message did not identify it was from his campaign due to character space limitations. “If we had a thousand characters, of course we would have put our name on it,” he said.
His campaign was not obligated to identify itself in the voice recording because the message was recorded for free and did not generate a campaign expense, he said.
“This is completely unethical, to use the Brevard public school system to promote your own political agenda and to try to use it for your own political advantage,” Moore told FLORIDA TODAY. “I think it was wrong of Randy Fine to use them as a political pawn in this situation, and I think that’s exactly why we need new leadership.”
Fine said he had seen the text message and didn’t believe it falsely represented itself as coming from the school district.
“I didn’t think it came from Brevard Public Schools. I think it came from someone who cares about Brevard Public Schools,” he said. “I think if you listen to the recording, it’s not from Brevard Public Schools.”
Fine has spent the last few days lashing Moore on social media, accusing his opponent of seeking to close charter schools and end school vouchers. Moore said that was wrong.
“I am for charter schools and the voucher program, and so even his attack his false,” Moore said.
In a Monday Facebook post made before the text message went out, Moore said Fine was misrepresenting an interview from 2018, when Moore last challenged Fine for the District 53 seat, in which Moore said he misspoke.
“My opponent is trying to claim that I am against all charter schools. An argument we corrected in 2018,” Moore wrote. “I still believe that public charter schools and their support programs should remain an option for students. I do not support private charter schools or the funneling of public dollars to private institutions that don’t follow set standards of learning.”
Charter schools are public schools that are run by private companies.
Late Monday, Moore further clarified his comment to FLORIDA TODAY, stating he was against “any school that is going to receive public dollars and not going to follow the school system’s standard of learning, or if they’re going to discriminate against teachers or students.”
In a 2018 FLORIDA TODAY interview, Moore responded “yes” when asked if charter schools should not receive taxpayer dollars and said he would pursue repealing a law that provides incentives to charter schools to open near struggling traditional public schools.
He later said that was a mistake and that he was referring to voucher programs that provide public tax dollars to children to attend private and religious schools, not charter schools. He further clarified that he was only against providing the location incentive for private schools.