Today's news -- April 6, 2017





“Schools of hope” plan is “separate but unequal” *

Miami Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee isn’t sugar-coating how much he dislikes House Republicans’ $200 million, “schools of hope” plan to attract corporate charter schools to Florida. “This bill, in my humble opinion, creates a separate but unequal system” that “runs afoul” of the state and U.S. constitutions, McGhee said Wednesday, when HB 5105 faced its second of only two committee hearings. McGhee will be the House Democratic leader starting in late 2018. House Pre-K-12 education budget chairman Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, and other Republicans noted that a question of constitutionality in Florida’s public education system already arises if the state continues to let students languish in perpetually failing schools for years and years. “These schools have failed these kids long enough,” Diaz said. “These are kids trapped in generational poverty, and for us to create this illusion it [schools of hope] is a separate system? It’s not.” The full Appropriations Committee sent the “schools of hope” bill to the House floor on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed. They argue the money could be better spent on bringing innovations to traditional public schools, rather than picking “winners and losers” and propping up a specific few nonprofit charter operators, whose “schools of hope” could essentially replace failing neighborhood schools. There are 115 schools in 27 counties across Florida — almost half of which are in South Florida and Tampa Bay alone — that have been graded “D” or “F” for three years or more. The 77,000 students in those schools are the ones House Republicans aim to help by bringing in these proposed “schools of hope.” A Senate companion to HB 5105 doesn’t yet exist but is poised to surface through a sweeping amendment that would replace a relatively generic charter school bill from Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, with the “schools of hope” legislation. SB 796 — and Bean’s strike-all amendment — were supposed to be considered this week but the Senate Education Committee ran out of time. It could now be taken up as early as April 17.


Duval may lose three middle schools to charters if state bill passes, board warns


Florida charter school group challenges new SBOE rule on capital funding


What the charter school industry can learn from Enron – before it’s too late


Talking student testing and education reform * (by John Louis Meeks Jr.)
If you thought that the Americans were fiercely competitive in the Olympics, take a look at public education. Instead of pride over sons and daughters standing astride the podium amid rising swells of the national anthem, we get an inferiority complex about how we teach our children. Of course, instead of leading the medal count, American schools are in the middle of the pack–neither great nor poor. This is taken for mediocrity and lack of effort on the part of a failing school system. There is more than meets the eye here. In March, the local Duval Teachers United (DTU) teachers union hosted a presentation of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the Schultz Center. PISA studies the academic performance of 15-year-old students in math, science and reading, through a random sampling of student testing in nations that belong to the PISA partnership. DTU held this gathering to look at the data from their latest survey based on student testing in 2015. The morning began with remarks from the presidents of the American Federation of Teachers and the Florida Education Association, respectively Randi Weingarten and Joanne McCall. Weingarten said that it’s useful to see what the top ranking countries are doing. For example, she said, “They actually make teachers important.” This meant, she said, using their tests to inform instruction and not for punitive measures. Another factor behind high student performance, she said, is equity. “Countries that deal with equity move up on the PISA scale,” said Weingarten, speaking of the proven results of universal Pre-K, mental health services, and other programs that can level the playing field for student achievement. Weingarten also highlighted how the long-term PISA numbers reflected education policy in Sweden and Poland, two nations that went opposite ways on the privatization issue. The results, she said, were clear. Sweden was “high flying” among other nations on testing. Then something changed. “Sweden fell in love with market forces,” Weingarten said, along with privatization and for-profit schools, which expanded tenfold. As a result, Sweden’s ranking dropped lower than the United States’ in the ensuing PISA reading surveys. On the other hand, Weingarten said, Poland had problems with schools’ performance for a quarter of a century. They made changes in 2000 that used testing to inform instruction, rather than to punish schools. Since then, Poland’s fortunes have changed. Rob Weil, AFT director of field programs and educational issues, briefed those assembled on the PISA data and provided best (and worst) practices of schools around the world. As data is only as reliable as its interpretation, I braced myself for the usual bad news; instead, I gained a better perspective of what was beneath the surface of the PISA results. For example, the U.S. ranked 24th in reading scores on the 2015 survey. Its average reading score of 497 was only four points above the international average. While the knee-jerk response is to bemoan why American students cannot even crack the top 10, consider that federalism creates a patchwork of 50 different education systems that fall in different places on the curve. It would be a mistake to treat American schools as a monolith of mediocre results. Imagine if Massachusetts were a sovereign nation. According to the PISA survey, it would actually tie with Canada for third on the 2015 survey. The average reading score for both is 527, well above the average score of 493. Meanwhile, the Sunshine State has some ground to cover. Weil referred to Florida’s 2012 PISA results, since the 2015 didn’t have a sufficient sample size to include. If Florida were an independent country, it would rank 42nd, with an average score of 467. When a team’s performance is not up to par, the blame often falls on the coach–rightly or wrongly. But is there more than meets the eye in education?

Weil challenged the current mindset that teachers are the root of public education’s woes. “There’s no research that shows that we have to fire teachers [to improve public education],” Weil said. And to the contrary, pitting schools against each other in competition for students under the guise of ‘choice’ is not the panacea either, said Weil. A 2009 PISA report confirms this statement: “…[C]ross-country correlations of PISA do not show a relationship between the degree of competition and student performance.” To explain how choice and competition could have detrimental effects on education, Weil presented Chile’s PISA scores. The South American nation has used a voucher-based system for three decades. Based on the ideas of Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, Chile’s free-market approach to education resulted in its 2015 PISA reading results (459) falling 34 points below the international average, ranking it 42nd among the 72 surveyed nations. Furthermore, according to PISA research, charter schools and competition in general are not definitive solutions to education woes. “The bottom line appears to be that, once again, it has been found that, in aggregate, charter schools are basically indistinguishable from traditional public schools in terms of their impact on academic test performance,” according to a 2013 Review of National Charter School study. “Education isn’t a competition,” said FEA president McCall after Weil’s PISA presentation, during a panel discussion that included Weingarten, Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and local education leaders. The panel also spoke of the challenges that equity presents to public schools that must serve all students regardless of background, home life or prior knowledge. “We have so many students who start behind the curve,” said McCall. What Duval County’s public schools have accomplished, Vitti said, has been an improved ratio of school counselors to students and the district ranking first in Florida counties for the percentage of students taking art and music classes. The district also has plans to provide mental health training to all of its teachers. This aligned with McCall’s vision for all Florida public school students. “We have to have wraparound service school,” she said, referring to before and after school care, to create a safe haven
for students. And how can teachers better serve their students in light of the latest PISA survey results? According to Weil’s presentation, the answer lies in allowing teachers to collaborate with each other and trusting their judgments as to how to best educate students. This includes PISA pointing out that the U.S. trails the pack in a time when teachers have to collaborate with each other and engage in peer observations for continuous improvement of their work. Currently, American schools don’t allot that kind of time to educators. Notice that the solution does not include punitive measures or adversarial attitudes toward educators and education support professionals. “We’re never the enemy,” said McCall, “We’re always on the side of what’s best for students.” Together, we can go for the gold.,17263


House approves bill that could undermine unions

The Florida House has approved a measure taking away union bargaining rights if less than half its members pay dues. The bill’s Republican sponsor Scott Plakon of Longwood says it’s unfair for as little as 5 percent of workers to decide for everyone.   But Rep. Amy Mercado (D-Orlando) questions his logic. “I take issue with that statement and that description,” Mercado says, “as we as a body of 160 total members represent 20 million Floridians—which means in other words we are less than one percent making decisions for 99+ percent.” Because Florida is a right to work state, paying dues is optional.  Democrats argue the measure is aimed at undermining left-leaning unions like teachers.  The bill wouldn’t apply to organizations representing police, firefighter or corrections officers.


Voters said yes, but Florida may change class size limits


Magistrate proposes compromise in Pasco school-related personnel impasse (USEP mentioned)


Upcoming Manatee vote on contract ratification carries little impact for teachers (Pat Barber quoted)


Gadsden passes reconfiguration plan (GCCTA mentioned)


Hearings canceled as Vero Beach teachers file grievances over testing scandal (Liz Cannon and Graham Picklesimer quoted)


Manatee district’s payroll system up for increased scrutiny


Santa Rosa district, teacher fail mediation efforts


House would ease extra hour reading requirement for struggling schools


“Yes” to daily school recess, Senate says. The House is another matter.


Parents continue challenge of Florida's third-grade retention law


More freedom to pray in public school? Lawmakers have to compromise.


Galvano drops support for anti-hazing program hidden in state budget


DeVos calls Florida's voucher program an “awesome” model


VAM, teacher bashing, and unintended outcomes


Two federal Education Department picks raise fears on civil rights enforcement


Despite inclusive policies, refugee children face major obstacles to education


Trump reiterates a Common Core promise he can't keep


Don't shortchange Florida's future by cutting university funding


Florida embraces online higher education, even as political divisions run deep


TCC president reverses decision to disband Faculty Senate (UFF-TCC mentioned)


FGCU gives state board say-so in president's bonus


Eight UF programs ranked top 10 in the world, according to new rankings


Lawmakers should not punish Miami Dade College’s frugality


House takes aim at private higher ed foundations


Sanders introduces his free college tuition plan


The wrong move on student loans


Hospitals, higher ed divide lawmakers as budget battle intensifies


Dysfunction: With Scott, Legislature at war, it's Tallahassee's new normal


Scott's search for agency law firms with legislative connections comes up empty


Visit Orlando spent $750,000 on travel show trip, report shows


Scott holds up Boston Whaler as proof of Enterprise Florida’s worth


State regulators recommend continued gas hedging despite $7 billion in losses


Majority of voters in Florida favor Medicaid expansion, survey says


State’s Medicaid block-grant request draws opposition


Increased penalties for people on food stamps considered by Legislature


Proposal to drug test welfare applicants returns to Florida


If you want to change state constitution, go to public hearing at FIU


Activists hope constitution commission will advance changes in primary system


Bill backed by supervisors of elections clears its first Senate panel


Senate panel guts Powell's vote-by-mail bill


Senate moves proposal to elect secretary of state closer to the ballot


Zika poses even greater risk for birth defects than previously known, CDC reports


State lawmakers urge Trump to make fight against Zika virus “a national priority”


Scott decisions to reassign cases are “executive overreach”


Feeling over-taxed in Miami? Maybe. But it’s four times worse in New York.


Will rising seas swallow Florida's tax base or will we revise our tax system in time?


Miami’s fight against rising seas


FPL wrote portions of bill that imposes requirements on solar


Trump signs bill making it easier for employers to hide workplace injuries


Trump meets with executives who have offshored jobs


AFL-CIO's Trumka says both parties have lost focus on workers


Rising risks for retirement savers


Judge tells T-Mobile to dissolve company-controlled faux union


Can someone brief the president on the unemployment rate?


Federal judge halts law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize


Airport wage theft battle goes national with worker hotline


This budding movement wants to smash monopolies


Court: Civil Rights law prohibits discrimination of LGBT


Nunes to step aside from House Russia investigation


Susan Rice: Allegations that Obama politicized intelligence “absolutely false”


Rice did her job


Trump, citing no evidence, suggests Rice committed crime


Rice may “be of interest to us,” says Senate Intelligence chairman


The right wing media attacks on Rice are absurd


Russian spies tried to recruit Carter Page before he advised Trump


Trump's wiretapping lie worked exactly as he intended


Poll: 55 percent of Americans approve of Obamacare


Obamacare repeal thwarted again as Pence fails to reach deal


At Trump’s request, House may tweak health-care bill before recess


As latest health plan dies, Republicans can’t agree on a culprit


Republican health proposal would undermine coverage for pre-existing conditions


Trumpcare 2.0


Conservatives fall short of another goal: Defunding Planned Parenthood


Cruz says House Republicans can salvage health-care bill


You now pay Internet companies to sell your browsing history


Republicans’ rollback of broadband privacy is hideously unpopular


Senate Republicans deploy “nuclear option” to clear path for Gorsuch


Merkley spoke all night against Gorsuch nomination (but it wasn’t a filibuster)


Gorsuch's writings borrow from other authors


How Gorsuch could pull the eight other justices rightward


Activists celebrate Democrats’ push to filibuster Gorsuch


This is what Democrats have to gain from filibustering Gorsuch


The Gorsuch filibuster is about far more than payback


The Supreme Court as partisan tool


Jefferson vs. the filibuster


Trump team already strategizing for the next Supreme Court vacancy


A full border wall with Mexico? “Unlikely,” homeland security chief says


Trump immigration adviser ordered to turn over briefing document


Trump floats new tourism crackdown that could devastate Miami's economy


Florida sheriffs denounce weekly immigration list


Don’t let Sessions undermine police reform


White House explores two new tax ideas as proposal to raise revenue falters


Freedom Caucus warns leadership on tax reform


Trump legislative director meets with moderate House Democrats


Trump bets the house


Can charities survive Trump? For some, it’s life and death


FDA nominee deflects criticism about ties to drugmakers at hearing


At FCC, Obama-era rules on chopping block


Save PBS. It makes us safer.


Why authoritarians attack the arts


GOP wants to weaken safety rules at chemical plants issued after Texas explosion


Bannon taken off Trump National Security Council in shake-up


Tracking the president’s visits to Trump properties


Trump's interests vs. America's, Mar-a-Lago edition


Trump’s web of business ties


Ivanka Trump responds to critics: “I don’t know what it means to be complicit”


First family’s needs strain Secret Service


How the U.S. ethics chief took on Trump and became a reluctant Washington hero


Fifty years later, King’s warning still resonates


America is a nation at war with itself


Personal irresponsibility: A concise history of Trump’s buck-passing



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