Today's news -- April 20, 2017



Testing bill shapes up as education train *

A bill aimed at scaling back the number of standardized tests administered in Florida passed its final Senate committee Wednesday after picking up amendments dealing with recess and other education issues. The growth of the measure (SB 926) quickly drew complaints, even from some supporters, that it was becoming an unwieldy "train," a term for late-session bills that glom together different proposals in order to ease passage for one or more of the ideas. The bill, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Rules Committee, would still make several changes to the state's assessment system in the hopes of addressing what critics call over-testing. It would require school districts to begin testing later in the year, eliminate requirements that students take four end-of-course tests in high school and allow students who do well enough on college-entrance and other advanced national exams to skip some state tests. But other provisions that have experienced trouble gaining traction on their own are now traveling along with the bill. One of the more significant changes would require schools to give elementary school students 100 minutes of "free-play recess" each week, including at least 20 minutes each day. A bill requiring recess has passed the Senate but ground to a halt in the House. "We hope that it will give members of the Legislature, both in the Senate and the House, more reason to vote for this great bill," Sen. Anitere Flores, the Miami Republican sponsoring the legislation, said of the amendment. Catherine Baer, chairwoman of The Tea Party Network and a supporter of Flores' recess bill, complained about the amendment --- which ran more than 400 lines and was filed after the deadline for the committee meeting. "We just oppose trains because they lack transparency and are a poor way to legislate public policy," Baer said. The bill was also amended Wednesday to include provisions dealing with excused absences for treatment of autism-spectrum disorders, rolling back caps on teacher bonuses and exempting students in varsity sports from the requirement to take a test in physical education. Some educators have raised concerns about the PE amendment because they say the topics covered on the exam encompass healthy skills that go beyond sports. One amendment that would have set a new standard for "grade level" on state tests was withdrawn after causing confusion at the meeting. The amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would have set the bar for grade level at a higher score than is currently used to determine whether, for example, students are allowed to move from the third grade to the fourth grade. Doing so could cause tens of thousands of additional students to miss the mark, and increase the number of schools that receive poor grades on school report cards, according to opponents --- if it were applied to those sections of state law. But staff members told the committee that the language in those sections would likely have to be addressed separately. Brandes pulled the amendment, but said he would likely bring it back when the bill hits the Senate floor. And, during discussion of the idea, he defended it. "I don't think we want to promote children out of third grade who aren't at grade level," he said.


Duval School Board won’t counter with offer to superintendent (DTU mentioned)


Orange teachers union calls for schools to become sanctuary zones (Wendy Doromal quoted)


Palm Beach schools approve plan to protect immigrant families


Jefferson board inks five-year contract with for-profit charter company


Lawyers outline venue arguments in Florida third-grade retention case


How much does the public understand about effective teaching and learning?


Forgotten purpose: civics education in public schools


What DeVos’ emphasis on “choice” means for school segregation


DeVos, Weingarten lay down arms for first-ever joint school visit (Randi Weingarten quoted)


U.S. Supreme Court weighs state aid to church programs


Supreme Court jumps into a playground fight over a phony war on religion


Supreme Court case could pave the way for vouchers -- or do just the opposite


Where did all the black teachers go?


New contract for Seminole State president includes extended pay, free car


Artiles asks for forgiveness after offensive remarks


Legislative complaint seeks to expel Miami lawmaker from Senate


Defiant Artiles ready to fight back at black lawmakers calling for his ouster


Artiles should resign from Senate for racial slurs


Artiles' slurs a reminder of Florida's racist past


Artiles' conduct is unbecoming of a senator and a gentleman


Let’s hope someone loves Artiles enough to get him some help


Insider Poll: Artiles should resign or be booted from office (Andy Ford and Ron Bilbao mentioned)


Artiles delivers Negron his first crisis as Senate president


Scott calls Artiles' comments “disgusting” but doesn’t say whether he should resign


Another session will end with the reviled write-in loophole intact


State’s chance to fix its “rigged” election system


Federal funds for hospitals could free up money for budget negotiations


Speaker seeks more details on use of secret state money


Courts are underfunded, under attack


Legislature should stop raiding affordable housing money


Businesses like House workers comp bill; workers, lawyers don’t


Welfare changes in Florida include tougher penalties for recipients


Tax dollars for pro sports will keep flowing,amp.html


Judge asks Bondi for proof she properly required businesses to donate to charities


Trump adviser’s visit to Moscow got the FBI’s attention


Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election


The continuing fallout from Trump and Nunes’ fake scandal


Trump threatens to sabotage Obamacare


Veterans gained health insurance coverage under Obamacare, study says


Mother of four deported to Mexico as lawyer decries “heartless policy”


California chief justice: Courthouse is not the place for immigration enforcement


The problem with how Sessions talks about crime


FCC chairman moves to roll back telecom rules


Scientists: Trump budget cuts would devastate medical research in South Florida


Trump’s EPA is reconsidering a rule that limits mercury from power plants


EPA plans to offer buyouts as part of Trump push to shrink workforce


Trump’s missing 90-day cyber plan


Trump and his aides sow confusion by sending mixed signals on foreign affairs


The risks of the Trump administration hollowing out American leadership


Paging the Trump armada


The North Korea-Trump nightmare


Trump administration grudgingly faces reality on the Iran nuclear deal


No, Mr. President, you can’t do what you want


Adelson, corporate interests boost Trump inaugural fundraising to record levels


Trump's campaign legal fees top $4 million


Stone helped Trump get elected president -- now he’s helping himself


Trump gets his 100-day report card


Trump’s claim that “no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days”


This is what the beginning of the end of democracy looks like


The March for Science could save lives


March for Science on Saturday — get off sidelines, make a difference


Sanders rallies Democrats in Miami to push back against Trump




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