MIAMI – Miami and Dade County taxpayers are now footing the bill for a lobbyist to advocate for local schools in Washington D.C.
The Miami-Dade school board voted Wednesday to pay the Florida lobbying firm Ballard Partners $108,000 a year to represent its interests at the federal level, in Congress and with several federal agencies, the Miami Herald reports.
Iraida Mendez-Cartaya told the news site district officials believe the move is necessary “in light of the new players in the administration” and said the aim is to “nurture good working relationships with the federal administration to continue to be able to provide a quality education to the students in Miami-Dade.”
Mostly, Miami-Dade officials are worried about promised cuts to the Department of Education that could reduce money schools receive for teacher training and after school programs, she said.
Other topics of interest include former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and an extension on the temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants, according to the Herald.
“We’ll do our best to make sure that not only do we do it in a way that makes the citizens of Miami-Dade proud, but also that we make it cost effective,” Ballard Partners president Brian Ballard said.
Ballard served as President Trump’s state finance chairman in Florida, where he helped to raise millions for his campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
His firm also lobbied for Trump in the Florida legislature over the years.
The Herald points out that Miami-Dade schools are not the only ones in Florida employing a federal lobbyist.
Broward County, Palm Beach County and others have contracts with lobbying firms, or have in recent years.
“Given the direction that D.C. is headed, I think it’s important that districts have representation up there to ensure that we’re advocating for these programs that really help to enhance our students’ education,” Broward legislative affairs director John Sullivan said.
And while some larger districts are shelling out six-figures in hopes of buying influence in the Swamp, others are relying on a far cheaper alternative with the National School Boards Association.
“While there are specific needs that certain districts have, there’s pretty broad agreement on major issues,” NSBA executive director Tom Gentzel told the Herald. “Rural, urban, suburban – school boards I think are pretty strong about the need for local leadership in education. I think there’s pretty broad support for the concept that the federal government needs to be helpful and supportive.”