Latvala spars with Weatherford on pension issue

Having already clashed on the ethics bill, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, are at odds again on another piece of legislation. Weatherford has been championing HB 7011 as one of his top priorities. It would prohibit state workers, teachers and  county employees from enrolling in the Florida $132 billion pension system. Weatherford wants them instead to enroll in 401(k)-style investment plans that he says will help stave off a financial crisis with an unfunded pension years from now. While Weatherford’s bill easily passed the House, along party lines, the Senate has yet to take it up. In fact, the chamber has drafted rival legislation, from Weatherford’s friend and business associate, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, that is a more moderate than Weatherford’s bill. It would only encourage workers to enroll in 401(k)s, not require them. Yet its progress has stalled as well. A Senate floor vote on it was delayed again Thursday. Weatherford said he prefers the HB 7011, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, but says he’s only requesting the Senate vote on it. He said he thinks it will pass, and isn’t asking for a vote to keep score of who supports it and who doesn’t. But Latvala says otherwise. On Thursday, he told the Times/Herald that Weatherford is insisting on a vote despite knowing it won't pass. “He brings it up every time I talk with him,” Latvala said. “I’ve told him he doesn’t have the votes. At this point, if he wants a floor vote, let him have it. It won’t pass.” Asked why Weatherford wants it despite a doomed fate, Latvala said: “He just wants to know who’s with him and who’s against him,” he said.  Latvala said Weatherford’s demands are breaching legislative protocol. “We have our bills, they have theirs,” Latvala said. “We pass our bills, they have ours. It would be fairly unprecedented for him to do this. We don’t do things like that around here.”


Could a compromise be coming for the parent trigger?

Could a compromise be coming for the parent trigger? It's anybody's guess what will happen with the controversial proposal, which would let parents demand sweeping changes at failing public schools. More senators have been on board since Sen. David Simmons added a provision that would let school boards override parent petitions. Among them: Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. But earlier this week, Sen. Kelli Stargel, the Lakeland Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said she intended to have Simmons' language stripped. "I want to make sure parent voices are actually heard and not just taken under advisement," she said. On Thursday, Simmons said he was working on a compromise. The new language would still let school boards reject parent plans. But if the school failed to improve, the school board would have to adopt the parent turnaround proposal the following year. "We would be keeping local school board control, but also making sure that school boards are accountable to the people they serve," Simmons said. Simmons believes he can get to 21 votes if the amendment passes. "A group of senators have made it clear that they will vote for the bill with that amendment," he said, adding that the language may also assuage concerns Gov. Rick Scott and state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett have with the bill. It won't, however, be enough to win over the teachers' union. "Nope," said Jeff Wright, the Florida Education Association's director of public policy advocacy. "We would definitely still have issues with the bill."


Education reform party is over: What a mess!

Back when "Dandy Don" Meredith was host of Monday Night Football, when the game was all over but the shouting, he would break into song. We need a 21st century way of saying the obvious. Test-driven school "reform" failed. To borrow a phrase regarding "closing time," test-driven "reformers" do not have to go home, but they can't stay here in our children's schools. In the short run, educators can read the tea leaves and speculate how and when the big boys will pull the plug on Michelle Rhee. D.C.'s local school system, such as it is, does not seem curious about the extent of cheating in its schools. Maybe, it will be the billionaires who say that she is no longer the face they want to put on "reform?" Could it be Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who calls for an investigation of Rhee's disinterest in the "smoking gun" memo describing the possible extent of cheating under her watch? If Rhee is subpoenaed, the chances are that she will again have to reinvent herself. This time, I suspect that Rhee will be reborn as a Fox News analyst. Now is the time to discredit the technocrats' theories by showcasing the sheer absurdity of another bit of teacher-bashing, also pioneered by Rhee. The idea of using an algorithm, known as a value-added model, to drive the supposed improvement of teaching, never passed the smell test. It was a weapon to defeat teachers, as opposed to helping students. At bottom, value-added evaluations were collective punishment of teachers whose crime was opposing test-driven accountability. It is conceivable that some accountability hawks merely saw high-stakes value-added as a tool not unlike the proverbial club used to get a mule's attention; once the mule/teachers were compliant enough, then those "reformers" hoped to rebuild schools in their own image. By now, however, it seems inconceivable that wonks could still believe that value-added evaluations are a tool for helping students. The idea of creating evaluations that are systematically unfair to teachers in the toughest schools in order to encourage new teaching talent to flock to those schools is no longer tenable. For awhile, the accountability hawks' political skills kept their educational defeats out of the news. As recently as last year, the bubble-in crowd was able to get away with using test scores as part of the evaluation of D.C. school janitors! In the medium run, I expect that litigation will help drive a stake through the heart of bubble-in "reform." To nail down such a victory, we need is a high-profile case where a teacher is deemed Unsatisfactory under an evaluation system in a way that outrages everyone. Perhaps it will be a case where a teacher is punished for the performance of students who she never had in class. Even better, it might be a Teacher of the Year who the district tries to fire. And, to seal the deal, perhaps it will be a "reform" leader, like Florida, which is imposing collective punishment on teachers to meet its Race to the Top commitments. Perhaps, it will be the case of Kim Cook and these other teachers. Too often, educators have relied on evidence and logic to oppose the contemporary reform movement. We would have been smart to showcase the laughable aspects of its theories. But, these quirky ideas have often been implemented as parts of a whole that is truly reprehensible. Perhaps, while we have the "reformers" on the ropes, we should appeal less to reason and more to moral outrage at what they have done to children.


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