Expense records indicate that school district funds were used to pay for Leon County School District employees to attend the “All Together Now” (ATN) conference sponsored by Equality Florida.
Equality Florida is a left-wing progressive group that advocates for LGBTQ issues and was recently in the news for attacking Governor Ron DeSantis via television advertisements. The group is registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is also affiliated with the Equality Florida Action PAC .
The PAC is touted as the “largest organization in Florida devoted to electing pro-equality candidates to all levels of government.” The PAC also endorses candidates, which are overwhelmingly Democrats. For example, during the 2020 election cycle, the Equality Florida PAC endorsed 14 Democrats and no Republicans in Florida U.S House races.
One of the methods used by Equality Florida to promote its mission and influence school district policy is through the “All Together Now Conference.” Equality Florida states ATN provides “dynamic programming that includes sessions such as a superintendent’s roundtable discussion, family acceptance panels, GSA workshops, and legal expert testimonials.”
The annual ATN conferences began in 2016.
School District Funds Paid for Conference
Expense records obtained by The Florida Capital Star show that Leon County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Rodgers was reimbursed approximately $3,300 for attending the ATN conference with three other adults. The conference was held in Boca Raton, Florida on March 7 and March 8 in 2016. In addition, Dr. Rodgers was compensated for attending the 2017 ATN conference held in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 15, 2017.
Rodgers, who recently retired, worked with the Leon County School District for over 30 years. She served as the assistant superintendent for the Office of Prevention, Intervention, Equity and Support Services where she had oversight for DJJ, Foster Care, Homelessness, DCF, Attendance and Discipline. Dr. Rodgers also served as the district’s equity officer for students and the Title IX coordinator.
Previous reporting by The Capital Star found emails from an Equality Florida official that addressed Rodgers as a “team member.” Rodgers was a speaker at the 2016 ATN.
Given this school district expenditure, it raises questions about how many other school districts have paid for employees to attend conferences facilitated by Equality Florida – a partisan political advocacy group. In 2020, Equality Florida noted that the ATN conference had 225 attendees.
The Capital Star requested expense records related to the ATN conference from several Florida school districts. The Capital Star has also submitted questions to elected officials seeking comment on the expenditures.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.
Republished with permission from The Florida Capital Star.