Today's news -- August 2, 2017




Duval should join lawsuit against Legislature’s bullying *

Republicans in the Florida Legislature have been trying to dismantle our public school system for years now. The tactics have been varied. Budget cuts have left schools struggling to pay for things as basic as supplies. Ever-changing testing requirements have turned curricula into rote exercises, created confusion and left false impressions of schools being “failure factories,” as state Rep. Jason Fischer of Jacksonville is fond of blurting out. Behind the push by Republicans is, in part, a disdain for teachers unions. And as much as they would like to convince you that it’s all about the children, it’s about the money, lots of money, that charter school companies -- the apple of the Republicans’ eyes -- want to grab. Former Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti was absolutely right in his retort to Fischer’s “failure factories” description when he said what was being created were “profit factories.” That’s particularly true of the latest battle over House Bill 7069, a pet project of House Speaker Richard Corcoran that was put together in the last minutes of the legislative session and approved by the full Legislature. It’s a battle that the Duval County School Board should join. The bill would require school districts to share property tax dollars used for school construction and maintenance with charter schools. That would cost Duval County’s traditional public schools, many of which are more than long in the tooth, millions of dollars. Private charter school companies would be the beneficiaries. The public would be the loser when charter schools fail, which some will inevitably do. School districts across the state are fighting back with at least five planning a statewide lawsuit and a dozen more considering taking that action. The districts have a solid legal argument that the new law is unconstitutional because charter schools would end up with large chunks of public money with little oversight. Particularly troubling is the part of the law that funds a program called “Schools of Hope.” That program allows charter schools to use money from a $140 million fund to open in areas where elementary and middle schools have been rated D or F for at least three years in a row. Those grades themselves are questionable, and so is shuttering public schools that are the fabric of neighborhoods. When Duval’s board members started talking about joining in the lawsuits, Fischer and Corcoran moved into bullying mode. They called for an audit of Duval’s finances, citing questions about whether the district spent $21 million more than was budgeted in operating expenses last year. School officials had already planned to have an independent auditor look into last year’s spending. It is certainly worthy of inquiry, but the state doesn’t need to poke its nose into local business. Fischer, who served on the School Board before being elected to the Legislature, should know better. But now that he’s a big, bad state representative, he’s throwing his weight around and trying to use the threat of a state audit to get the board to not participate in what he calls a “frivolous” lawsuit. Trying to protect the funding for our traditional public schools is not frivolous. That should be the main goal of our locally elected School Board. Either join with the other districts fighting this bad law or file a separate lawsuit.


Sarasota School Board decides against entering legal fight


Conservative poll: Support for charter schools plummets


Broward school district exempts Pembroke Pines from its charter school battle


St. Lucie teachers, non-instructional employees locked into new contracts (Vicki Rodriguez quoted)


Manatee district, union begin negotiations on teacher pay (Bruce Proud quoted)


Teachers anxious about controversial education bill as new school year nears


Hillsborough school budget passes first test despite teacher and parent concerns


It's nice lawmakers restored recess, but just 20 lousy minutes?


Chicago’s school funding disaster just got a lot worse


Feds to take on affirmative action in college admissions

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times. The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities. The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses. Supporters and critics of the project said it was clearly targeting admissions programs that can give members of generally disadvantaged groups, like black and Latino students, an edge over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores. The project is another sign that the civil rights division is taking on a conservative tilt under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It follows other changes in Justice Department policy on voting rights, gay rights and police reforms. Kristen Clarke, the president of the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, criticized the affirmative action project as “misaligned with the division’s longstanding priorities.” She noted that the civil rights division was “created and launched to deal with the unique problem of discrimination faced by our nation’s most oppressed minority groups,” performing work that often no one else has the resources or expertise to do. “This is deeply disturbing,” she said. “It would be a dog whistle that could invite a lot of chaos and unnecessarily create hysteria among colleges and universities who may fear that the government may come down on them for their efforts to maintain diversity on their campuses.”


Education Department delivers troubling message about loan forgiveness program


DeVos drops plan to overhaul student loan servicing


Princeton Review praises New College again


State economy thrives, while median wages remain the same


Union reps confident about wage negotiations with Disney


State is wasting too much of our money on lawsuits


State reports first sexually transmitted Zika infection of 2017


Financial missteps and red tape delay help for sexually exploited children


South Carolina construction shutdown should signal state's nuke demise, critics say


Broward elections supervisor makes changes after being sued


July was hottest month ever in Miami


Trump is about to make America much crueler to unionized workers


Kelly’s biggest challenge will be blunting Trump’s instincts on Russia investigation


White House says Trump weighed in on son’s statement “as any father would”


Trump “obstructed justice” with role in statement, says ex-White House lawyer


Kushner says Trump campaign was too dysfunctional to collude


Tillerson spurns $80 million to counter ISIS, Russian propaganda


Russia hacked our election because the spies took over


U.S. judge denies Common Cause effort to block Trump voter commission


Court ruling throws a wrench in Trump’s Obamacare sabotage plan


Republicans urge Trump to keep critical health subsidies for low-income people


Would Trump violate the Constitution by making Obamacare fail?


Sanders preps campaign for single-payer health care, with legislation to follow


Republicans in Congress bypass Trump to shore up health law


“Time to move on”: Senate GOP flouts Trump after health care defeat


Debt-ceiling talks between White House, Senate break up with no progress


Mnuchin pushes for “clean” debt ceiling boost


Between now and the debt-limit deadline the House is in session for only 12 days


After health care victory, Senate Democrats seek compromise on tax plan


Action on Trump’s tax cut plan could be delayed until next year


Sessions steers clear of Trump’s “joke” about police use of force


Acting drug agency chief hits Trump for “condoning police misconduct”


Three Miami police chiefs condemn Trump's endorsement of police brutality


Homeland Security to bypass environmental laws in border wall work


Ryan just can’t wait to spend billions and billions on Trump’s border wall


Senate confirms Atlanta attorney Christopher Wray to lead FBI


Coast Guard still supports transgender troops, commandant says


15 states appeal EPA delay of stricter air-quality standards


FDA has six inspectors for 3 million shipments of cosmetics


Kushner on Mideast peace: "What do we offer that's unique? I don't know."


Is Trump scheming to kill the Iran deal?


Sources: Trump administration to take action against China


Lindsey Graham: Trump said he will bomb North Korea if it keeps testing missiles


State Department considers scrubbing democracy promotion from its mission


Three truths about the Trump presidency


Can anyone get a handle on the president who handles everything?


Time for Bannon to start worrying?


Trump reportedly described White House as a “real dump”'real-dump?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=AP


Trump loyalist mixes businesses and access at “advisory” firm


Lawsuit asserts White House role in Fox News article on Seth Rich


Spicer had notice of discredited Fox News story on DNC aide's death


Full transcript: Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview


Former Fox News executive said to be considered for White House job


Manigault keeping dossiers on journalists




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