Today's news -- August 18, 2017




Hamilton to join the lawsuit against House Bill 7069 *

The Hamilton County School Board approved to join seven other counties in a lawsuit against House Bill 7069 at Monday night’s meeting. “Seven districts that have committed to the lawsuit,” School attorney James Willingham said. “Bay, Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, St. Lucie, Palm Beach, and Volusia. There is indication that Pinellas and Orange county will come in. With just the seven that have committed that is over 1 million students in their total student body.” Willingham and Superintendent Rex Mitchell agreed that the House Bill 7069 is unconstitutional. The board approved that Hamilton County School District will join the lawsuit and put forth a maximum of $5,000 toward the $350,000 total, of all seven counties.


Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law *

The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School District to join other districts in a lawsuit aimed at putting a stop to the micromanaging from Tallahassee. Seven school boards around the state already have agreed to join in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of HB 7069, which Gov. Rick Scott foolishly signed into a law. Orange County is expected to officially sign on as the eighth district in the next few days. The Pinellas County School Board originally was scheduled to make a decision about joining the lawsuit in August but now appears poised to wait for at least another month. Ostensibly, the School Board is giving Superintendent Mike Grego time to meet with local legislators to see if any common ground can be reached on reforms next year. It's an admirable thought but wishful thinking. With House Speaker Richard Corcoran still running the show in Tallahassee in 2018, traditional public schools will remain under attack. The lawsuit is expected to be filed in late September, and Pinellas would be wise to get on board before then. There is nothing that would stop the county from joining the lawsuit once it is already under way, but that doesn't send a forceful enough message. Pinellas needs to show some leadership. It needs to show some courage. Other districts have been wary because of the possible pushback from legislative leaders, but that type of bullying is all the more reason for Pinellas to step forward. Large parts of the new law have yet to be enacted, and Pinellas is already feeling the effect. Because the district has not carried excessive debt, it will be required to hand over $25 million for charter school capital construction costs over the next five years. Pinellas is losing more money than any other large district in the state. In essence, Pinellas is being penalized under the HB 7069 funding formula because it managed its money responsibly and did not run up a lot of debt like some other counties. If Pinellas joins, and Polk County follows through on its flirtations, then seven of the nine largest districts in Florida will have come together as allies. With all of them aboard, they would represent roughly half of the public school students in the state. That kind of solidarity would send Tallahassee, and the courts, a powerful message about the need for more checks and balances in the education system. This is a critical moment, not just for students but for the independence of school boards in the state. Instead of trusting the officials who were specifically elected to run local school districts, the governor and state lawmakers have hijacked education for their ideological and self-serving needs. If it takes a lawsuit to get the Legislature out of classrooms, bring on the lawyers.


Let's ask Corcoran to spend some time in a sweltering classroom


At Marion school district, repair money is in short supply


Santa Rosa School Board approves smaller raises for teachers


Fractured: The breakdown of America's school districts


Educators: Charlottesville shows need for better teaching of history


DeVos calls views of white nationalists “totally abhorrent”


New York education leaders blast charter school teacher certification plan


FSU graduate assistants negotiate for more benefits *

Florida State University graduate assistants are negotiating for more generous benefits. The effort comes after the administration cut healthcare coverage for the children and spouses of grad assistants.  University graduate assistants are both students and teachers and that makes compensating them complicated. Adela Ghadimi heads the graduate assistants union at Florida State University and says her colleagues should be compensated as employees. “We teach 30 percent of all the academic credits the university is offering. We work on the research grants and research projects that the faculty work with, in the labs and things like that that are all happening," Ghadimi said. "None of this would be possible without the graduate assistants on campus.” She says graduate assistants at FSU earn less overall and have higher out of pocket healthcare costs than those at the University of Florida. “It’s gonna be hard for the university long-term to attract competitive, passionate, qualified graduate assistants to the university. Because if they’re looking at the benefits packages that they would receive here versus another university, top candidates are gonna be more inclined to go where they’re going to be more adequately compensated,” Ghadimi said. According to a 2014 report by the New America Education Policy Program typical debt for graduate students can range from $42,000 for Masters of Business Administration students, to $50,000 for Masters of Science, to upwards of $140,000 for medical and law students. Ghadimi says compensation and benefits can make a difference for graduate students, and that cutting back on that support will negatively impact the university. "That's an issue as well for the quality long-term of teaching and research that the university is able to do if they're not able to recruit, attract and retain top quality graduate students at the university." Negotiations for higher pay and broader healthcare coverage will continue this afternoon.


Warren: Education Department lawyer may have violated conflict-of-interest laws


Political battle drawn over state Supreme Court “midnight appointments”


Pediatricians say state hurts sick kids to help big GOP donors


Fix funding unfairness in state foster care system


Corcoran releases new committee assignments


Senate committees to meet three days in September


Power companies pumped $166,400 to lawmakers who control watchdog group


State flood risk study identifies priorities for property buyouts


Flood protection is being undermined, putting people and infrastructure at risk


South Florida ranked as the hardest place in nation to find affordable housing


Chandler ties Olszewski to Trump in HD 44 race


Republicans face primary in special election for Plant City-area House seat


As others keep distance, Scott dines with Trump


A billionaire-owned restaurant charged a “minimum wage” fee


Fears grow that Trump could ignore Congress on spending


The secret, dangerous world of private prisons


Russia’s election meddling backfired — big-time


Pro-Russia GOP representative met with Assange, wants Trump to hear all about it


Trump needs to stop sabotaging Obamacare — before it’s too late


Hispanic caucus demands meeting with Trump’s HHS over Latino outreach fail


Trump is about to gut Obamacare’s free birth control


They got hurt at work — then they got deported


Hospitals in Trump country suffer as Muslim doctors denied visas


Tense days for business owners without legal status


On DACA anniversary, undocumented “Dreamers” vow not to return to the shadows


How a group of refugees saved a church on the brink of collapsing


GOP fears tax reform could be victim of worsening relationship with Trump


How Trump’s tax cuts could wind up hurting most Americans


The Justice Department goes fishing in DreamHost case


After utilities complain, Pruitt to rewrite rule on toxic metals discharged into water


Mattis and Tillerson move to clarify administration policy on North Korea


Trump embraces culture war with call to preserve Confederate statues


Trump’s Confederate statue stance grew from success with “identity politics”


Mother of woman killed in Charlottesville says she won’t speak to Trump


Mother of slain Charlottesville protester says she’s received death threats


Beware: Trump may use the alt-right to turn himself into the center


Republicans in Congress may be stuck in a relationship with Trump


Corker: Trump has not demonstrated stability or competence to lead effectively


Corker isn’t the only Republican who’s increasingly questioning Trump’s stability


History will remember the Republicans who stick around


Why Kelly can’t tame the White House chaos


White House aides squirm at Trump’s rhetoric but stay put


Cabinet's silence on Trump's comments disturbing to agency employees


Third White House panel scrapped amid Trump-Charlottesville controversy


Members of presidential arts commission resign in wake of Trump comments


Trump and race: Decades of fueling divisions


Black voices on turmoil in Charlottesville: “The world we live in”


Months before Charlottesville violence, minorities felt alienated and excluded


For Jewish Americans, echoes of the Holocaust and anger over Trump's response,amp.html


Ivanka Trump and Kushner face pressure to speak out on anti-Semitism


Conservative faith leaders stand by Trump despite stance on white supremacists


Confederate leaders’ descendants say statues can come down


U.S. should renounce Confederate leaders the same way Germans renounce Hitler


America still fighting the Civil War (by Diane Roberts)


In one day, fundraisers reach goal to move Confederate monument from Tampa


The fake history of the Florida Capitol’s Confederate monument


Gainesville prepares for protests like Charlottesville


After Charlottesville, Democrats in Congress focus on Confederate statues


Eight people charged for toppling statue in Durham as scores line up to confess


Maine governor: Removing statues to slavery “just like” destroying 9/11 Memorial


When white supremacists strike, police don’t always strike back


We need to talk about domestic violence, terrorism and mass shootings


The Republicans who want to legalize running over protesters


Francis Rooney calls on Trump to show moral guidance


Trump recycles discredited Pershing tale after terrorist attack in Barcelona


Beyond the moral pale


Gorsuch speech at Trump hotel raises ethical questions


Trump White House is still holding back visitor information, watchdog group says


Three fundraising giants cancel plans for galas at Mar-a-Lago


Feds say money now available for Trump's Mar-a-Lago protection




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