Today's news -- April 28, 2017





Legislative leaders reach $83 billion budget deal *

After days of contentious talks, legislative leaders Thursday morning reached an initial $83 billion budget deal. “Over the next few days, we can and we will complete our task in a timely manner that appropriately meets the needs of our growing state and responsibly plans for Florida’s future,” Senate President Joe Negron said in a joint statement with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. "As the real work begins now, I feel very encouraged that the House and the Senate will emerge united with a product that will make the people of Florida proud," Corcoran said. Both presiding officers announced the deal, while overseeing morning floor sessions in their respective chambers. As Senate leaders took a break for lunch, several senators declined to comment on specifics of the budget deal, including Senate budget chief Jack Latavla. When asked if the idea that increased transparency touted early in session was now dead, he reminded reporters that that was a largely a creation of Corcoran and House leaders. “Did you ever hear me say we are going to have a more transparent” budget process?” Latvala said as he got into an elevator. (Joanne McCall quoted)

Scott lobbies lawmakers on budget, ducks some questions about vetoing budget


Scott’s demand for budget priorities leaves Trujillo unfazed


Scott faces jarring rebuke in legislative budget deal


Does Legislature budget deal dare a Scott veto?


Voucher giveaway compromise hatched -- in secret *

Lawmakers secretly struck a tentative compromise Thursday on one of the most consequential education initiatives of the 2017 session -- a $200 million program to help students who attend K-12 public schools the state says are failing. Specifics of the proposed deal were not released, as some of it was still being finalized, House and Senate pre-K-12 education budget chairmen said late Thursday. But the general description of the agreement was enough to earn initial support from some House Democrats, who had — until very recently — staunchly opposed the concept. “We’re happy they listened to us and a lot of the ideas we had in committee,” said Broward County Rep. Shevrin Jones, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, who helped negotiate the compromise on the Democrats’ behalf. “We’re happy with the direction they’re going in.” That direction, Jones said, involves the House seeking middle ground with what school superintendents have asked for and with the Senate’s more blended proposal: Provide more financial aid and other resources to struggling traditional public schools first, before implementing more drastic options, such as inviting competition from new charter schools. A session priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Republicans dubbed their original $200 million plan “schools of hope” — in reference to the specialized charter schools that they wanted to entice to Florida and set up as alternatives to struggling neighborhood schools. The legislation (HB 5105) passed the House earlier this month against unanimous Democratic opposition. Across nine hours of committee and floor debate, Democrats argued Republicans were narrow-minded in seeking a solution to failing schools by relying almost exclusively on new charter schools as their saving grace — rather than looking for models in existing traditional public schools that managed to turn themselves around. Senators, meanwhile, only last week started to vet their more comprehensive version of “schools of hope.” They unveiled their written proposal over two days starting April 17 and have publicly spent only 90 minutes on it so far, as legislative leaders looked ahead to budget negotiations for an expected compromise. Thursday’s agreement was struck behind closed doors before any public budget conference meetings began late Thursday, despite House and Senate leaders vowing “unprecedented openness” this session and on this education policy, in particular. House and Senate leaders had also pledged public comment would be taken at budget conference meetings, so that Floridians would be able to weigh in on the pending legislation -- but given that a general deal has been reached, it’s unclear how meaningful that opportunity will be for the public. (There was no chance offered for public comment during the first pre-K-12 education budget conference committee meeting Thursday night, when the House made its initial offer on budget numbers.) The “schools of hope” proposal will likely evolve in the next few days, when the compromise language will be released. But once it reaches the House and Senate floors early next week, it cannot be amended because it’s tied to the overall budget. (Cathy Boehme quoted)  (Jean Clements quoted)

Poverty matters in school performance *

Common sense tells us that the traumas of poverty make a difference in school performance. All of us know that we don’t function at our highest levels when we are overstressed, hungry, anxious, sad, experiencing a loss or dealing with family problems. Why should we expect children experiencing these stresses to perform at peak levels in school? Nearly a million Florida children –one out of every four children – live in households with earnings at or below the federal poverty level. Childhood poverty affects all races, although black children suffer disproportionally. Fortunately, there is nothing genetic about the distribution of poverty therefore the prevalence of poverty is not left up to chance. Many poor students’ lives are filled with hardships, day after day and year after year. They often live in overcrowded, substandard and dangerous environments. They experience more family turmoil and violence. They often have little access to reading materials in the home and have limited opportunities to visit libraries and museums or experience cultural events. They may live in overcrowded housing with many needs that overburdened parents find difficult to meet. These conditions explain why many poor children have already fallen behind more well-to-do students by the time they reach kindergarten. Study after study shows that students living in poor or near-poor households perform poorer on standardized tests, graduation rates and other “achievement measures” than children from higher-income families. Sending children to largely unregulated voucher schools isn’t a fix – it is an excuse to justify privatization of the public school system by diverting tax dollars away from the students who would most benefit. Instead of continuing to expect teachers to bear the burden of overcoming problems created by poverty and policy – we should expect society as a whole to address inequality at all levels. Raising achievement levels of poor and minority children requires improving socioeconomic problems, health problems, law enforcement problems, media “problems” as well as improving schools. Educators and public education advocates have never claimed that poverty is all that matters in the quest to help all children learn at a high level. They well know that the school environment and what teachers do every day make a big difference in achievement. But they also know that while they work to help students absorb lessons, pass exams and stay in school, too many children face daunting life obstacles outside the school grounds that impede learning. The “poverty is no excuse” mantra points the finger at schools while exempting the broader community from contributing to the solution of underachievement. Making headway against our educational challenges requires the best efforts of both schools and our society as a whole. Failing to address poverty fails our children and our public schools. Public schools cannot eliminate poverty. Public officials can. It is time for all children to be provided the same opportunities without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, sex or religious preference. It is time for America to live up to its creed. Only then will America be great.


Study: D.C. vouchers have negative effect *

Students in the nation’s only federally funded school voucher initiative performed worse on standardized tests within a year after entering D.C. private schools, according to a new federal analysis that comes as President Trump is seeking to pour billions of dollars into expanding the private school scholarships nationwide. The study, released Thursday by the Education Department’s research division, follows several other recent studies of state-funded vouchers in Louisiana, Indiana and Ohio that suggested negative effects on student achievement. Critics are seizing on this data as they try to counter Trump’s push to direct public dollars to private schools. Vouchers, deeply controversial among supporters of public education, are direct government subsidies that parents can use as scholarships for private schools. These payments can cover all or part of the annual tuition bills, depending on the school. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long argued that vouchers help poor children escape from failing public schools. But Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, said that DeVos should heed the department’s Institute of Education Sciences. Given the new findings, Murray said, “it’s time for her to finally abandon her reckless plans to privatize public schools across the country.” D.C. students who used vouchers had significantly lower math scores a year after joining the program, on average, than students who applied for a voucher through a citywide lottery but did not receive one. For voucher students in kindergarten through fifth grade, reading scores were also significantly lower. For older voucher students, there was no significant difference in reading scores.


Is there really a link between test scores and America’s economic future?


Ravitch says standardized tests do nothing for kids but make testing companies rich


Did KIPP game the U.S. News And World Report rankings?


Trump’s unusual meeting with the 2017 teachers of the year


How school choice segregated the public schools of Michigan, home of DeVos


Alabama: Judge lets white city leave school district, despite racial motivation


Indiana voucher program gets outsized share of K-12 funding increase


Georgia deputies conduct warrantless search of high school, pat down 900 students


Senate offers to cull $21 million in higher-ed projects *

Sen. Bill Galvano delivered the bad news first as the House and Senate opened conference negotiations on higher education spending Thursday evening. The Senate would have to cut at least $21 million in projects from its version of the budget to reach the level agreed upon with the House, he said. “Many of you on this conference committee, as well as advocates for your positions in the audience, have what we traditionally call placeholders, in the hopes that somehow these placeholders will find additional dollars as the process goes on,” Galvano said. “I just want to manage expectations in that regard. Because when you are starting with a significant reduction, it’s highly unlikely that a placeholder is going to move in the upward direction, as opposed to either staying where it is or in a downward direction.” The higher education conference subcommittee was among the first to meet after Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced how much each subcommittee would have to play with, and who would serve on those panels, earlier in the day. The panel has $7.8 billion to spend. Galvano, serving as chairman of the higher ed conference, made the Senate’s first offer; Rep. Larry Ahern, the vice chairman, was expected to present a counter-offer around 8:30 this morning. “The gist of what the Senate is proposing, with regard to projects, is a significant reduction — a $21 million reduction,” Galvano said. “The other two big takeaways are the mitigation of the developmental ed funding in the college system, as well as the restoration of the performance funding in the state college system.” Meaning the final budget won’t hurt the 28-member state college system as badly as expected.


Professors and university staff call for campuses to shut down on May Day


GOP bill in Wisconsin would discipline hecklers at college speeches


State auto licenses, tags, issued by privatizers, could come with new fees


State worker raises in House, Senate budgets


House considers letting elected officials have secret meetings


House should not shred open meetings law


State constitution commission hears from Jacksonville residents


Constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights clears hurdle


Meaningful workers’ comp reform must protect Florida’s workers (by Mike Williams)


For once, Democrats have possible votes to block key Republican initiative


Medicaid cuts will hit $650 million, Senate chair says


House poised to ban “sanctuary city” policies across state


Will Zika return to Florida this summer? Yes, and it could be worse


Don't make FPL customers pay for fracking


“People’s Climate March” rallies set for Saturday in state and nation


It's legal to pay women less than men based on past salaries, court rules,amp.html


Can unions rebuild the labor movement in the South?


Economy grew 0.7 percent, weakest quarterly showing in three years


Income equality isn’t just about headwinds. tailwinds count, too.


Pentagon warned Flynn against accepting foreign money; he didn’t listen


Flynn’s fall tells a much bigger story


The White House's creeping fear about Flynn


White House deflects blame to Obama for insufficiently vetting Flynn


Page says he’s the real victim of the Trump-Russia scandal


Trump tax plan would shift trillions from U.S. Coffers to the richest,amp.html


Trump promised to cut middle-class taxes and target the rich; Mnuchin isn’t so sure


Economists fear Trump’s tax plan only heightens debt


Republicans’ fiscal discipline wilts in face of Trump’s tax plan


Hurdles to the adoption of Trump’s tax plan this year


The White House can’t seem to perform simple arithmetic


Health law repeal will miss Trump’s 100-day target date


Trumpcare 2.0: It’s even worse than the original (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


House GOP leaders search for votes to pass Obamacare repeal


GOP shuts out doctors, experts, Democrats as they work on Obamacare repeal


House Democrats threaten shutdown over Obamacare repeal vote


Florida Republicans cool to new Obamacare overhaul


Single-payer “Medicare for all” is the only healthcare system that makes sense


Babies, children listed in federal immigrant database of alleged criminals,amp.html


The corporation that deports immigrants has a major stake in Trump


Senate Democrats to Trump administration: Let Haitians stay


Immigrants plan May Day rallies buoyed by Trump opposition


Protect against workplace injuries and deaths (by Paul Ortiz)


Community, labor and advocacy groups tell Congress to build schools, not walls


Trump’s losing streak in courts traceable to conservative judges


Trump’s first lower court nominee would nuke campaign finance laws


The “fix” for net neutrality that consumers don’t need


EPA considers repealing programs that help prevent childhood lead exposure


Sanders unveils plan to eliminate use of fossil fuels by 2050


East coast readies for fresh climate fight as Trump eyes more offshore drilling


Nelson files bill to block more oil drilling


Watchdog group sues Trump to find out if federal workers are being bullied


Senate confirms Acosta as labor secretary


Aide: Blacks not trying hard enough to work with Trump


Coal mine reality for Trump


State Department wants to clear Haley’s remarks before she speaks


Tillerson in no rush to fill nearly 200 State Department posts


Trump warns of “major, major conflict” with North Korea


Trump’s empathetic comments about Kim Jong Un


Trump: I'll withdraw from NAFTA if we don't get a “fair deal for all”


“I was all set to terminate”: Inside Trump’s sudden shift on NAFTA


A calmer Mexico sees Trump anew: as a “bluffer” at the poker table


Trump: “We may terminate” U.S.-South Korea trade agreement


Art of the bluff: The limits of Trump’s negotiation strategy


Trump on being president: “I thought it would be easier”


Trump governs as he campaigned: impulsive, unpredictable and loud


The education of Trump (and us)


One nation, two Trumps: America as divided as ever after first 100 days


Living in the Trump zone


Trump’s first 100 days were alarming -- and relieving


Report: Trump’s aides now prefer to present him with just one option


Ivanka Trump’s White House role is a symbol of democratic decline


Funeral directors book Trump hotel -- along with Gingrich -- for PAC fundraiser


The Hungarian rise and fall of Sebastian Gorka


White House of grifters





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