Today's news -- April 13, 2017


Compromise ahead for state education budget

Disputes over Florida's education budget proposals have found the state Senate and House $538 million apart, with leaders on each side sounding resolute to stand their ground. Yet as the chambers move to adopt their spending plans and related bills Wednesday, the walls appeared to be coming down. House Speaker Richard Corcoran spoke of "collegiality" and predicted the differences will be smoothed over. Senate PreK-12 Appropriations chairman David Simmons similarly talked of the "opportunity to meet in the middle," and anticipated consensus "on many issues." He said that conversations had already begun on the measures that each body has set as priorities, and that revisions are likely in order to reach a deal. One area he mentioned was the House proposal to make permanent the controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus and expand it to include more educators including principals. "It was an excellent idea that was born in the House," Simmons said. "With some amendments we're going to have something that is agreeable to both the House and Senate." He also pointed to the House $200 million proposal for the creation of a "schools of hope" charter system, and paired the idea with his long-term effort to extend the school day for low performing schools. "The concept that is being proposed is an excellent concept," Simmons said. "The status quo regarding schools that continually, repeatedly and chronically have D or F status (cannot continue). Something different is needed." The disadvantaged children in these poor performing schools deserve better, he added. But charters should be only a piece of the puzzle, he continued. "Traditional schools should have the opportunity to do the same thing," Simmons said. "I think it can be done in many respects by our traditional schools receiving additional assistance." He spoke of the community schools concept that many districts are experimenting with, in which the students and their families can receive wraparound social services that help them to succeed. But paying about $7,400 per student is not sufficient to provide added services, he noted.


FEA: Legislature missing the mark on education (Joanne McCall quoted)*


$200 million charters is not the answer, Democrats say


Report dismissive of charter school segregation and stratification, review finds


The Tallahassee power grab (by Andrew Spar)


Audit finds local dollars in Gulf paid bonuses


At Pinellas elementary school, “English language learners” are beating the odds


Charters want funding of public schools and autonomy of private schools *


Virtual schools expand despite poor performance *


DeVos announces Education Department hires


FSU returns some secret money, offers few expense details


Will Trump administration move make it harder for student loan borrowers?


Whose side is DeVos On?


House pushes changes in retirement system

The Florida House is poised to adopt major changes in the state retirement system, although the legislation remains in doubt in the Senate. House members Wednesday took up a bill (HB 5007) that, beginning in January 2018, would make a controversial change for new public employees who don't make a choice in their retirement plans. Under the bill, those employees would go into the state's 401(k)-type investment plan rather than the traditional pension plan. Currently, undecided employees default into the traditional pension plan. In both scenarios, new employees can opt to join either plan. The legislation would also bar newly elected officials, including state lawmakers, Cabinet members, judges, county commissioners and school board members, from joining the traditional pension plan after July 1, 2018. They would receive retirement benefits through the investment plan. The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation today, after the Republican majority defeated an amendment Wednesday from Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee. Ausley's proposed amendment would have eliminated the controversial revisions sought by GOP leaders, while authorizing changes in the annual contributions paid by state government, school districts, county governments and other public agencies. The Senate in past years has rejected attempts to limit the traditional pension plan. The new House bill would tie such revisions to the annual contribution changes that are required to make sure the pension system is fiscally sound for the long term. Ausley warned that if the bill is rejected by the Senate, it could hurt the financial stability of the $149 billion pension fund. A Senate bill (7022), which only has the contribution changes, says the rate increases would bolster the fund by $149.5 million in the next budget year. "The Florida retirement system is at risk of being underfunded," Ausley warned. "This (the House approach) is a very risky move." But her plea to pass "a clean rate bill" was defeated in a voice vote.


With $1.5 billion federal boost, Senate passes budget proposal


Trump administration agrees to $1.5 billion for Florida hospitals' uninsured care


Partisan divisions in House over Republican spending plans


Citing “collegiality,” Corcoran forecasts a smooth finish to legislative session


Scott warns state not seeing “big deals” because of Legislature's actions


What people want – and don’t want – from constitutional rewrite panel


How three dozen people could help or hurt the state


Hundreds of concerns automatically signed up to lobby constitutional review board


Don't undermine independence with judicial term limits


Another shot at Medicaid expansion, but same result


Georgetown's Alker: House Medicaid plan “worst I've seen”


Do private prisons save money as promised? Legislature keeps approving


Local tab for Trump’s Palm Beach visits closing in on $4 million


Republicans float a tax reform plan that could threaten Social Security


Court approved wiretap on Trump campaign aide over Russia ties


Trump won’t let reality stop him from lying about Susan Rice


Government office investigating Trump's transition process


To detain more immigrants, Trump administration to speed border hiring


Detained immigrants may face harsher conditions under Trump


Border agents can look at all on your cell phone. Congress should change that.


Trump's border wall plan hits snag as congressman backs environmental suit


ACLU sues for information related to Trump travel bans


Florida economists join national letter urging embrace of immigration


The hidden cost of Trump’s anti-sanctuary city measures in Florida


The broken Supreme Court


Americans are using alpacas to dodge taxes, senator warns


The hypocrisy of Pruitt’s request for around-the-clock bodyguards


U.S. takes sharper tone on Russia’s role in Syria


Trump’s fickle diplomacy


Trump’s weather-vane presidency gyrates wildly with the winds


Trump keeps returning to past victories -- and old foes


Trump’s bushel of false claims in his Fox Business interview


Trump, king of flip-flops (continued)


Trump reversals hint at Wall Street wing’s sway in White House


Trump backs off fiscal pledges and adopts centrist policies that he once fought


Corporate America and Trump


The best people? Trump's personnel picks haunt him


Trump undercuts top adviser Bannon, whose job may be in danger


Trump says he didn’t know Bannon until campaign, but they met in 2011


After campaign exit, Manafort borrowed from businesses with Trump ties


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