Today's news -- April 17, 2017





Transparency on education policy? History disagrees. *

Florida lawmakers this week set into motion a budget process that will result in several highly consequential policy reforms affecting public education to become law this year in one form or another. But if years of precedent are any indication, what exactly those final laws might be will now be determined through deal-making and negotiations that will take place largely in private, behind closed doors and out of the public eye. The policy ideas -- each tied to hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding -- range from reforming oversight and student financial aid for the state’s public colleges and universities to financially enticing privately run public charter schools to compete with K-12 neighborhood schools. Citing the fact that such policies are linked to the annual budget lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass, both chambers of the Legislature made a pivotal choice on Thursday to send these substantive education bills to a conference committee. That panel of House and Senate members will be tasked with hashing out a compromise on both the policy and the funding. Conference is a common annual process for the budget, but lawmakers in recent years have shied away, in most cases, from using it as a vehicle to pass drastic policy reforms that are otherwise amended, debated and voted on in the House and Senate chambers. By comparison to the day-to-day legislative process, conference committee proceedings typically are not transparent and are more unabashedly a display of a preordained outcome. Leaders in the Republican-led House and Senate reject that conference committee decisions haven’t been open, but at the same time, they’ve also pledged to make the meetings more transparent and accessible to the public this year. “We’ll have public comments in the conference committee meetings if people want to talk,” Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said. “I would expect that bills the public has an interest in, they have every right to be there and be heard.” But some Democrats, parents and advocates of traditional public education are skeptical, given the Legislature’s penchant for treating conference committee meetings more as a mandatory procedural requirement than as anything of real substance. “When they say they’re going to go into conference, the people’s voice, the teacher’s voice, these children’s voices will not be heard. It’s going to be a horse-trading session,” said Sue Woltanski, a Florida Keys parent and public school advocate who blogs on education policy. The Florida Education Association -- the state’s largest teachers union, with which House Speaker Richard Corcoran has feuded -- is “concerned that lawmakers have leap-frogged the committee process and are dispensing with further public comments and input.” “Decisions bandied behind closed doors often become bargaining chips for leadership, and the needs of students and expert input falls by the wayside,” FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow said. Typically with budget conferences, the true negotiating and meaningful debate among lawmakers occurs almost entirely in private, while the required public meetings often last only minutes with no explanation offered publicly by lawmakers of how a compromise was reached. (The committee gathers and -- frequently without any genuine discussion -- the top House or Senate member on the committee declares the agreement the chambers came to on a particular policy, line-item or even the full budget area itself. That’s it.) Decisions of a conference committee are essentially final; bills in conference get only an up-or-down vote on the floor and cannot be amended.Before the start of the 2017 legislative session, Corcoran -- in emphasizing how he was “trying to change the culture” of the House -- said, “I don’t like the horse-trading stuff; that ends up in bad policy.” But “horse-trading” is exactly what appears to be happening as the session comes down to the wire. Several senators indicated the House desired the conference committees so that their priorities (K-12 education reforms) would be factored into the budget, and senators said they agreed to that so that the Senate’s priorities (higher education reforms) would be addressed in conference, too. Pudlow, of the FEA, said: “We are a little surprised that the Senate agreed to this process, because traditionally they more closely adhere to a more open process and keeping the public informed.”


In ads, FEA calls for proper funding for public schools *

The Florida Education Association is taking to the airwaves to call on lawmakers to better fund public schools. The statewide education association released two advertisements late last week in response to several measures being advanced by the Legislature. The proposals, education officials said, would underfund public schools and harm public school students. “Students are at the center of everything we do. That’s why we are fighting for students and for better public schools,” said Joanne McCall, the president of the Florida Education Association. “We’re fighting against too many tests that do nothing to help our children and working to ensure that schools and students have the resources they need for success.” The House on Thursday voted 70-44 to approve a $200 million plan to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The bill, a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, would offer up money to build what are being called “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods across the state, many in urban and poor areas. GOP lawmakers have framed the legislation as an effort to help children in some of the state’s persistent failing schools, but Democrats questioned whether it was designed to help the for-profit management companies that are often hired by the non-profit groups that run charter schools. According to the FEA, the ads will go out digitally to the FEA’s 140,000 members and will run extensively in Tallahassee through the end of session. “We will stand up for Florida’s public schools, for every student in every classroom,” said McCall.


House votes for plan to shift students to charter schools (Cathy Boehme quoted) (FEA mentioned)

House approves teacher bonus program


School boards should control curriculum


In a vote that changes nothing, Manatee teachers reject board’s offer (Pat Barber, Ralph McElhiney and Holly Clouse quoted)


New teachers’ organization forming in Santa Rosa (SREA mentioned)


Lake superintendent to divide district into three regions (Stuart Klatte quoted)


Volusia teachers union withdraws lawsuit against school district (Andrew Spar and Martin Powell quoted)


Magnets, social promotions, and other problems in school (by Chris Guerrieri)


Orlando middle school struggles, as state mandates improvement


Escambia, Santa Rosa schools prep for another year of tight budgets


Panel in Tampa explores challenges to public education


State economists expect an additional 1,700 PreK-12 students next year


Ravitch: Supreme Court should not force the public to pay for religious schools


Supreme Court, including Gorsuch, to hear church-state case (Alice O'Brien quoted)


Does school competition lift all boats like Jeb Bush says? Mostly false.


Study: Black students more likely to graduate if they have had a black teacher


DeVos pick to head civil rights office said she faced discrimination for being white


Trump’s budget boosts funding, so why are charter school chiefs unhappy about it?


More evidence that charter schools are a taxpayer ripoff that delivers poor results


Walker wants Wisconsin to stop dictating how much time kids should go to school


House, Senate split on university funding

The House wants to cut university funding, while the Senate wants to dramatically increase it. That's the opening posture of the two chambers as they head into the final three weeks of the 2017 legislative session with the most important task ahead of them: negotiating a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Despite the diametrically opposed positions on the university system budget, there seems to be plenty of room for lawmakers to maneuver toward an agreement in the give-and-take of the negotiations. But as they passed their budget proposal (HB 5001) this week, House Republican leaders again made a case as to why spending for the 12 state universities should be cut. "The higher education budget has grown at a faster rate than any other area of the budget with the exception of Medicaid," House Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, said. Since the 2012-13 academic year, Ahern said state spending on universities has climbed from $3.4 billion to $4.7 billion this year, or a $1.3 billion increase. But it may not be a coincidence that the House sought to contrast current spending with 2012-13, when the main source of state funding, known as general revenue, was at a post-recession low. Another way to look at the spending is to go back to 2008-09, when the universities received $3.4 billion in state funding, including $2.1 billion in general revenue and $960 million in tuition and fees from students. Since then, state spending on universities has grown by $1.3 billion, but includes an $813 million increase in tuition and fees and a more modest $310 million increase in general revenue.


College leaders fighting budget cuts


Faculty members urge UF administration to change parental-leave policy (Lisa Scott quoted)


Top-ranked universities drive Florida’s economy


Universities eye online tuition beyond Florida -- finally


Florida Polytechnic University cancels contract paid with hidden funding


FAMU faculty, students list desirable qualities for next president


Bethune-Cookman enters affiliation agreement with for-profit Arizona law school


DeVos sends clear signal that student loan borrowers won’t get a break


House approves controversial state retirement changes

Public employees planning to spend their careers in Florida could see big changes to their retirement plans, the result of a controversial move by the Florida House. Republicans pushed through a bill on Thursday that would default new hires into a 401(k)-style savings plan, rather than a traditional pension. Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, says the major policy change, which passed along party lines, places workers' savings in riskier investments, rather than a plan with defined benefits. He says similar moves have proven costly and unsustainable in other states, including West Virginia and Michigan. "This is damaging not only for the individual -- it hurts the system and, by extension, is really threatening what has become a pillar of Florida's overall economy," he explained.  Supporters of the measure say it will allow workers to keep their contributions if they leave public employment before the eight-year vesting period required by the pension plan. But Democrats say the pension system is financially healthy and shouldn't be changed. The plan now goes to the Senate, where it could very well end up being one of the bargaining chips during House and Senate budget negotiations. The Florida Retirement System currently has 630,000 active members and 400,000 retirees, and more than half of them are educators. Lynda Russell, public policy advocate with the Florida Education Association, fears this bill would be the nail in the coffin for teaching in a state that already struggles to retain qualified educators. "Do we want to encourage them to stay, or do we simply want to help them pack?" she asked. "I mean, we don't want to give them any pay, we don't want them to have job security, and now we are saying we want them to have no hope of even a reasonable retirement." Under the current system, a teacher hired today who works 35 years in Florida would retire with a modest pension of roughly $24,000 a year, but under the 401(k) plan, that drops to just $9,600. The proposal is wrapped in an appropriations bill that lawmakers must pass in order to keep the Florida Retirement System solvent in the long run. (AFL-CIO mentioned)

House, Senate remain far apart on budget


Negron vs. Corcoran: The quiet and the fiery leaders clash


Central Florida lawmakers sprinkle budget with local projects


Florida has the second-lowest state taxes per capita


State legislators must act on economy and education, CEOs say


Protect state courts from state politicians


Judicial term limits unneeded


Legislative proposals pose danger to Florida women


Lots of power, but too much secrecy


State politicians' zeal to kill eclipses their desire to get it right


Where's Scott's evidence to support the death penalty?


Amicus brief to charge Scott with voter disenfranchisement in Ayala case


Lawmakers misfire in aim to loosen “stand your ground”


Richardson: Prison contracts had “numbers fudged.” Will legislators do anything?


Legislature should fund Guardian ad Litem program


State likely won't bow out of refugee program


Some hospitals have ignored House request for financial disclosures


State's leading economist on sporting events isn't an economist


Here are millions in tax cuts that lawmakers are considering


Auto insurance reforms pass Senate committee, but don't count on rate savings


Georgia stole state entertainment productions and now targets its tourism


Water shortage warning issued for part of Florida


Central Florida's drought intensifies to “severe” in many areas


Trump retreats to Mar-a-Lago over and over, but at what cost?


Trump’s Doral golf resort owes Miami paint store chain $300,000, court rules


Loophole lets hedge fund managers dodge $18 billion in taxes this year


United Airlines’ bad week won’t matter -- and we have ourselves to blame


Electric car workers accuse Tesla of low pay and intimidation


Why don’t all jobs matter?


Wrong message, wrong coal mine


Big corporations are trying to silence their own shareholders


Former Trump adviser Page held “strong pro-Kremlin views”, says ex-boss


Page can't rule out that he talked sanctions with Russian officials


House’s inquiry into Russia points a congressman to Cyprus


Conaway emerges from relative obscurity to lead House Russia inquiry


British spies were first to spot Trump team's links with Russia


Hackers dump a treasure trove of NSA data


Trump is now destroying a healthy health-care system


Does Trump want to be the president who broke health care?


Trump’s threat prompts Democrats to play hardball over Obamacare payments


Trump's Obamacare fixes don't impress insurers


Trump gives OK for states to defund Planned Parenthood


Two Republican lawmakers face anger, from their own voters, on health care


GOP bill would make medical malpractice suits harder to win


ICE immigration arrests of non-criminals double under Trump


Sessions, unleashed at the border


Trump plan would curtail protections for detained immigrants


Border Patrol struggles to recruit agents amid immigration crackdown


Even Canadians are skipping trips to the U.S. after Trump travel ban


Trump travel crackdown turns “wedding celebration into a family separation”


Why Trump’s wall contradicts today’s immigration trends


Alleged crimes minor, dozens of Collier immigrants face deportation under Trump


Democrats must get serious about the fight over taxes


Which state sends most taxes to D.C.? Hint: It’s not a state


Women don’t cheat as much on their taxes as men do


Trump’s pledge to allow churches to support candidates may be part of tax bill


“Nobody’s got to use the Internet”: GOP lawmaker on web privacy


Trump’s multi-pronged attack on the Internet


America’s shameful poverty stats


The war on drugs is racist. Trump is embracing it with open arms


The federal workforce hasn't grown much in the last 50 years


Democrats fear that Trump has barred key federal workers from speaking to them


Nonprofits air concerns over looming federal budget cuts


EPA emerges as major target after Trump solicits policy advice from industry (Labor Department is targeted too)


Administration halts Obama rule aimed at curbing toxic wastewater from coal plants


Poisons are us


Federal climate research, targeted for elimination by Trump, lauded by scientists


Siege has ended, but battle over public lands rages on


Trump's executive orders don't always live up to his claims


White House to keep its visitor logs secret


The secret presidency


Focused on Trump’s successes, many supporters are unfazed by his reversals


Trump voters in a swing district wonder when the “winning” will start


Protesters around the country call on Trump to release his taxes


Trump fans and foes clash in Berkeley, sparking violence, multiple arrests


After a day of marches, Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes


For Trump, a steep learning curve leads to policy reversals


We don’t know where Trump stands. Neither does he.

 1 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet