The Latin Builders Association is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in Miami-Dade County. For more than 30 years, the LBA and its members have lorded over the reckless growth in West Dade that has overcrowded schools, clogged roads, and stretched police and fire services to the limit. The group has also done an amazing job of making sure all their homeboys get most of the lucrative construction contracts.
Now the LBA has figured out a way to continue its monopoly by using taxpayer money. In August, the LBA opened its own charter high school in west Hialeah. They've started by enrolling 40 kids from that city, Hialeah Gardens, Miami Lakes, and Miramar, says the principal, Gyovania Marante, and in three years the school expects to increase to 500 students. Although the academy is private, it is managed by Miami-Dade County Public Schools. It's the first time the district has partnered with a business association to operate a school.
According to the academy's brochure, all the elective classes are designed to prepare students for careers in the construction industry or to turn them into successful entrepreneurs like LBA founder Sergio Pino. Students will also use iPads and get internships with LBA members, Marante says.
That's great, except that only 2 percent of the student population is African-American and non-Hispanic white, according to school counselor Julia Muñoz. Those numbers are incredible, but they don't surprise me. The school is located in the nation's most Cuban-American city, too far west for kids to commute from heavily black cities such as Opa-locka, North Miami, and North Miami Beach.
Marante, who taught my son Luther Jr., insists LBA Academy is not intentionally targeting Hispanic children. "We've reached out to parents in North Miami and North Miami Beach," she says. "We've done mail-outs to every zip code."
It's not enough. I'd certainly like to see Miami-Dade County Public Schools approach me and other entrepreneurs in Miami's entertainment industry to open a charter school to offer kids business careers in music, television, and film. And you better believe that school would be more reflective of Miami-Dade's diversity.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.