Armando Christian Perez, aka the rapper Pitbull aka Mr. 305 aka Mr. Worldwide, is starting to look like Mr. Education as well.
The Miami-born son of Cuban exiles is helping build a Little Havana charter school that opens next month and was a featured speaker at the 2013 National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, D.C., where he wowed the crowds.
But Pitbull, the essence of South Florida cool, said he was a little uncomfortable talking about education policy and his family -- he has six children; three attend charter schools.
"I'm so used to making records that to be up here speaking to you all actually makes me nervous, imaginate (imagine)," WUSA 9, a Washington television station, reported.
"Every day I see firsthand how my children are becoming highly motivated, thanks to the charter schools they attend," he said.
Pitbull also spoke about the school he's helping build, Sports Leadership and Management. Called SLAM, it's designed to emphasize sports management and has a relationship with the Miami Marlins.
Billed by his common name instead of his stage name/s at the conference, Pitbull's involvement in charter schools is another defining moment in the school-choice movement. He brought major attention to SLAM this February in a Today show feature.
Privately run public schools, charter schools are becoming increasingly common and accepted, though they were initially resisted by Democrats. But as blacks and Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic, increasingly turn to charter schools as a quasi-private alternative to public schools, some of the partisan opposition has given way.
Still, teacher unions are opposed. The American Federation of Teachers criticized Pitbull and SLAM.
The liberal-leaning National Education Policy Center took Pitbull to task for his misogynist lyrics and pointed out that SLAM is affiliated with the for-profit company Academica, which was featured in The Miami Herald's "Cashing in on Kids" series two years ago.
Conservative media, from the Heritage Foundation's blog to Townhall to The Daily Caller, have meanwhile given Pitbull favorable coverage for his newfound position in the school-choice movement.
Pitbull's politics are tough to pin down; he appeared with President Obama last year, apparently attended Sen. Marco Rubio's 2010 victory party and waded into the recent political controversy over Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba.
Put it all together and it's clear that the rapper, sometimes mocked for his use of the word dale -- roughly equivalent to "hit it" -- has a pretty wide range beyond rhyming about parties.
State Rep. Eric Fresen, a Miami Republican who has family and financial ties to Academica, said the rapper's support is based on his personal experience.
"Armando is a family friend and, more importantly, has three children in high-performing charter schools and believes in them," Fresen said in a written statement.
"He thought the sports theme was a great hook to get kids engaged in education, especially in Little Havana, so he offered to help promote and brand it," Fresen added. "There is no financial motivation. He's very rich on his own right already."
In Washington, Pitbull sounded like the typical charter-school booster. He told the conference that schools like SLAM, in his old neighborhood, give a chance to kids who otherwise don't get them.
"I constantly gave a wrong address to go to a better school," he told WUSA. "I don't want anyone in America to have to lie about where they live."
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