TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pulling state funding from four private schools that he claims have alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
2 of the 4 schools are in Central Florida
In a news release sent late Friday, the governor said he ordered the Florida Department of Education to suspend the availability of school choice scholarships to the four alleged schools:
- Lower Sagemont Preparatory School in Weston, Florida
- Upper Sagemont Preparatory School in Weston, Florida
- Parke House Academy in Winter Park, Florida
- Park Maitland School in Maitland, Florida
DeSantis alleges schools have ties to Chinese Communist Party
DeSantis said in the release that the four schools have "direct ties to the CCP (Chinese Community Party) and their connections constitute an imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare of these school’s students and the public."
"The Chinese Communist Party is not welcome in the state of Florida," he said in a prepared statement. "We will not put up with any attempt to influence students with a communist ideology or allow Floridians’ tax dollars to go to schools that are connected to our foreign adversaries."
DeSantis was not specific in his press release about what the alleged link to the Chinese Communist Party is.
Not DeSantis' first actions against China
In May, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that prohibited any school affiliated with a "foreign country of concern" from being included in Florida's school choice scholarship program, which allows parents to choose where their child goes to school – public, chart, private, virtual – and provides supplemental funding for low-income families to send their kids to private school.
It's not the first measure DeSantis has taken against China. He's blocked TikTok access on school servers and devices, and prohibited state colleges and universities from partnering with any institution based in China, including accepting grants or soliciting or accepting gifts.
'I am so sick of DeSantis'
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. mirrored DeSantis' statement about "not (putting) up with any attempt to influence students with a communist ideology."
"The Chinese Communist Party has no place in our schools. I am grateful for Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their work to keep students and our communities safe from foreign countries of concern," he said in a statement.
Rep. Anna Eskamani criticized DeSantis' latest move on her Facebook page.
"Park Maitland is literally one of the best schools in our area. I am so sick of DeSantis using every opportunity to politicize and demonize our educational institutions," she wrote.
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JULY 22: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 22, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. The event features student activism and leadership training, and a c
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4 schools part of education network owned by China-based firm
All four schools are part of Spring Education Group, which describes itself as a "multi-brand education network of superior private school institutions spanning infant care through high school."
Based in California, Spring Education Group boasts over 200 schools across the U.S. in its network.
It's majorly owned by Primavera Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong-based investment firm, according to its website.
"Spring Education Group is controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, an investment firm (together with its affiliates) principally based in Hong Kong with operations in China, Singapore, and the United States, that is itself owned by Chinese persons residing in Hong Kong," read a footnote on its website.
Photo: Screenshot of parkmaitland.com, sagemont.com
Six schools in Florida are part of Spring Education Group's network, according to its website, including the four DeSantis mentioned in his press release.
FOX 35 has reached out to the schools for comment.
'(Our schools) do not have ties to any government'
Saturday morning, a spokesperson from Park Maitland Schools said in a statement that the school is seeking more information about the suspended and that it was not alerted ahead of time that its Florida Choice school scholarships would be suspended.
"We have received notice from the State that our eligibility for Florida Choice school funds has been suspended. We were not contacted in advance and are seeking more information regarding the basis for this decision. In the meantime, we will be working directly with our families to ensure they can remain enrolled in our school," he wrote.
"We are regularly acknowledged as one of the best private schools in our area and have a track record of delivering outstanding educational outcomes, which is why parents choose us. Our schools are locally run, abide by local, state, and federal laws, and do not have ties to any government or political party, either foreign or domestic. Our curriculum is accredited, standards-based, and academically rigorous."
What happens to students affected by pulled funding?
The Department of Education said it's working with non-profit scholarship funding organizations to help impacted students find and enroll in nearby eligible schools.