Today's news -- April 18, 2017





Counties push back on charter school giveaway *

Administrators at some of Florida's largest school districts are speaking out in opposition to House Republicans' $200 million "schools of hope" plan that would pit new, specialized charter schools against the districts' perpetually failing traditional public schools. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is "actively lobbying against" HB 5105, a spokeswoman said, and Duval County schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti sent a lengthy letter to the Florida Senate on Monday morning urging lawmakers to "please use logic and reject" the House's bill. The Senate has yet to formally discuss the "schools of hope" legislation that the Republican-led House passed last week along party-lines. The legislation seeks to attract specialized, out-of-state charter schools to come to Florida and compete with struggling traditional schools so that students currently attending such schools have another option. Because both chambers agreed to send the House-approved bill to upcoming budget conference negotiations, it all-but ensures some form of the policy will become law in 2017-18. The bill is a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. However, school district administrators -- echoing some of the opposition expressed by House Democrats -- say they have concerns about the proposal. In his five-page letter, Vitti said the bill "seemingly attempts to address the authentic need" of improving schools that serve students who largely face the challenge of generational poverty "but does so without a research-based, data-driven, realistic or sustainable solution." In defending their plan, House Republicans have repeatedly dismissed any criticism and cast opponents as supportive of the current system, which they argue lets struggling schools fail for years on end without significant improvement despite existing turnaround strategies that are available. To preempt that argument, Vitti implored lawmakers to take his words to heart. "This is not a letter written by a supporter of the status quo or a protectionist for lower standards, expectations or failing schools," Vitti wrote. "This is not a political critique. Please do not deflect the arguments below with rhetoric or accusations." Vitti then detailed a myriad of criticisms he has with the "schools of hope" plan, including that: "Students are not stuck in lower performing schools as is popularly stated by supporters of HB 5105. The state of Florida has one of the most robust choice systems in the country." Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho isn't planning a formal letter like what Vitti sent, but Associate Superintendent Iraida Mendez-Cartaya emailed Miami-Dade House members last week urging them to vote against the bill. "The district has serious concerns with the bill in its current state. The language currently bypasses school boards and in essence creates state schools," Mendez-Cartaya wrote. District spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego added Monday in a text message: "We agree with Vitti in that in the state of Florida, there is scant evidence of high-performing charter entities with a track record of turning around traditional schools."


FEA calls for increased education funding *

The Florida Education Association has launched two video ads online and in the Tallahassee market, calling on state lawmakers to improve public education funding. Deeming the state's current situation "on the brink of a crisis," the state's largest teachers union uses evocative language to make its point. The group says lawmakers have starved the schools of needed funds, resulting in the suffering of students and teachers. The ads emerge shortly after the Florida House and Senate approved dramatically different education budget proposals, with the Senate recommending more than $500 million more than the House. Comparisons have shown Florida consistently near the bottom of the nation in per-student education spending. "Students are at the center of everything we do. That's why we are fighting for students and for better public schools," FEA President Joanne McCall said. "We're fighting against too many tests that do nothing to help our children and working to ensure that our schools and students have the resources they need for success."


Teacher shortage growing concern for St. Johns district, reality for nation (Michelle Dillon quoted)


Educators talk teaching in Florida (letter by Marcus Hochman, FEA mentioned)


Gulf district still asking teachers to pay back bonus money


Charter school’s behavior invites rare Sunshine action


Orange middle school struggles, as state mandates improvement


Hillsborough school times will remain the same next year but could change later


Report: Growth will mean more debt and painful rezoning for Hillsborough schools


Bush’s education foundation praises Miami lawmaker in web ad


The erosion of American education has turned into a DeVostating mudslide


Absences, fitness, atmosphere -- new ways to track schools


Is repeating third grade -- again and again -- good for kids?


$2.5 billion in California charter school support and the results are disappointing


Washington state: Where billionaires get richer, and schools get shafted


UF extends counter offer in GAU health care negotiation (Bobby Mermer quoted)


Latvala says budget unlikely by May 5

While it remains unclear whether lawmakers will reach a state budget deal by the May 5 scheduled end of the legislative session, two key players, Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Jack Latvala, seem to be reading from the same script. On Monday, the Clearwater Republican told a Capital City Tiger Bay Club luncheon he does, however, expect the Legislature to reach an agreement by the end of June. “The way the constitution is set up, the governor takes over the budget on July 1 and decides what will continue to be funded,” said Latvala, Senate Appropriations Committee chair. “I know there is no way the House of Representatives is going to allow that to happen. We’ll be done by July 1.” Latvala talked like a man planning on spending June in Tallahassee. He told the nearly 200 gathered for his talk that he had started the session with “high hopes.” But the optimism quickly faded as the House moved to cut spending and turned its focus on economic development. Six times in the first four minutes of his remarks Latvala used the past tense whenever he mentioned "hope" and the issues he had wanted to work on, including job creation, education, and clean water. “Instead we get involved in an all-out assault on Florida’s economic apparatus,” said Latvala. The House wants to eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s chief economic development agency. The agency’s ability to lure job creators to the state is Gov. Rick Scott’s pet project. Latvala is in Scott’s corner.  He was a member of the Legislature in the 1990s when Enterprise Florida was created and said he remains a supporter.


$1.5 billion health care deal with Feds may not be a sure thing in the House


Latvala, Lee feud persists as session nears end


Reject flawed plan for courts


CDC urges doctors to screen for Zika-related epilepsy


Wildfires burn more than 126,000 acres across Florida this year


Put the hose down -- South Florida water supply is low


In breakthrough for water plan, Scott endorses reservoir, faster fixes for dike


Negron raises concerns as farmers, enviros welcome Scott's announcement


Despite clear bipartisan support for a ban, state may be paving the way for fracking


Reclaiming public goods under Trump


How the airlines became abusive cartels


British official says Trump borrowed from Russia during financial crisis


Congress needs to reach a budget deal soon. What could go wrong?


That GOP “middle class” tax cut might be a big fat Trojan horse for the rich


How Republicans have already backed themselves into a corner on tax reform


Trump plans to reward tax cheats


Americans are proud to pay taxes -- except when they think others are cheating


Sorry, Republicans, but most people support single-payer health care


Trumpcare retreats on pre-existing conditions


The GOP’s problem on health reform is they’ve spent years hiding their real position


A senator listens to voters’ quiet desperation


Mnuchin warns health care debacle will delay tax reforms


The Trump administration might put the “extreme” in “extreme vetting”


Trump's new rules could swamp already backlogged immigration courts


Planned Trump order will discourage hiring of low-wage foreign workers


The human cost of Trump’s rollback on regulations


Leaked Trump plan to close Chicago EPA office puts 1,000 jobs at risk


Trump officials turn to courts to block Obama-era legacy


Trump finds himself on the defensive on a pair of government transparency issues


Hearing first arguments as member of the Supreme Court, Gorsuch jumps right in


The dangers of Trump’s strategic impatience with North Korea


Russian state TV says Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong-Un


Trump congratulates Erdogan on Turkey vote vastly increasing his powers


Rep. Steve King endorses the Hungarian government’s anti-dissent crackdown


How America is losing the credibility war


Spicer argues that more public disclosure is unnecessary, even harmful


White House says Trump won’t release 2016 tax returns because of audit


Trump’s unreleased taxes threaten yet another campaign promise


Why Trump cannot brush off demands for his tax returns


Republican senator booed for defending Trump for not releasing his tax returns


Palm Beach Trump tax return protest organizer: No one paid us


Tallahassee “Indivisible” video taunts Trump on taxes


White nationalist claims Trump directed rally violence


Trump 2020 committees paid Trump companies close to $500,000 already


Poll: Big drop in number who think Trump will keep promises


Trump’s ethical transgressions are multiplying. What if there are too many to track?


Watchdog group expands lawsuit against Trump


Trump has spent one out of every five minutes of his presidency in Palm Beach


When vacations cost millions


Trump’s cake and golf presidency


What happens when women legislate


Science strikes back: Anti-Trump march to draw thousands to Washington


St. Petersburg will march for science Saturday




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