Today's news -- August 24, 2017




Legal challenge to education law grows to 10 districts *

Ten public school districts have now lined up to challenge Florida’s new charter-friendly education law. A lawsuit is expected to be filed against the state by October 1. The districts represent 1.35 million public schoolchildren, with Orange County the latest to sign onto the suit, according to Michael Dyer, general counsel for the Volusia district who presented an update on the suit during a board meeting this week at the district’s DeLand office. He described the suit as “a work in progress.” The 274-page law that went into effect July 1 covers a wide range of education provisions, some of them easing the ways in which charter schools can open and secure tax dollars toward their operations. Among Volusia’s arguments on the law’s unconstitutionality is a “Schools of Hope” provision, which would allow private operators to oversee schools in areas afflicted by chronically low-performing public schools. The provision cuts past “the local school board approval process,” Dyer noted in a memorandum to School Board members in July, when Volusia became the sixth district to join the suit. “The good news is that the more school districts that do join and the larger they are, that reduces our overall cost,” Dyer said. Districts involved are sensitive to the cost of the lawsuit, according to Dyer, with Volusia covering nearly 5 percent of total costs — up to $25,000 as approved by School Board members. Even in a year when Volusia is facing a $1.8 million budget deficit, that cost is “a minor amount of money to challenge what seems to be an inappropriate law that takes money away from public education,” said School Board member John Hill. He’s hopeful that additional districts joining as plaintiffs will translate into “more recognition” by the state as well as the general public of the concerns. Hill’s board colleague, Ida Wright, is “comfortable” potentially spending $25,000 on the suit, noting the dollar amount is not yet final and that the “money is worth the exploration.” “We as a district can’t allow another piece of legislation to actually further cause us to be financially destitute,” Wright said. Dyer couldn’t comment on what the specifics of the collective complaint will look like or the length of the litigation, but he anticipates the suit will be heard by the Florida Supreme Court.


Orange School Board votes to join lawsuit *

The Orange County School Board voted Tuesday to join a proposed lawsuit that will challenge the constitutionality of parts of a controversial education law the Florida Legislature passed this spring. Orange’s board, which voted 8-0 to join the legal fight, is the 10th district to do so, deciding to enter the multi-school-district effort about an hour after the Polk County School Board, said Woody Rodriguez, the board’s attorney. Board members are convinced the law, HB 7069, has unconstitutional provisions related to charter schools, publicly funded institutions run by private groups. “This is not about whether we are pro-charter or anti-charter,” Chairman Bill Sublette said. “This is about upholding the constitution of the state of Florida.” Orange has more than 30 charter schools — which need board approval to open — now operating, he added. But he and others said the new law unjustly requires school boards to share some local taxes with charters and allows some “schools of hope” charter schools to open without local board approval and to hire uncertified teachers, among other issues. Orange has no traditional public schools that would qualify for a “schools of hope” to open nearby, but board members said they still view the measure as unconstitutional. Orange’s board plans to send a letter to legislators saying if they rescind those portions of the law, Orange’s board will withdraw from any legal action. “We’re willing to work with you, but we want to see some changes,” board member Joie Cadle said. “And if we have to, we’re willing to fight this out in court.” The education law — a multi-pronged piece of legislation — has been controversial since it was unveiled. Many educators urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto it, but he signed it in a June ceremony in Orlando.


Polk schools will join lawsuit over HB 7069 *

The Polk County School District will join school districts across Florida in a legal challenge to House Bill 7069, a controversial education-conforming law that critics say will undermine local control and expand the charter school system. The Polk School Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to spend up to $25,000 to start work on the lawsuit, joining school boards in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Volusia and other counties. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law in mid-June, opening the door to a legal attack. Polk School Board Attorney Wes Bridges encouraged board members during a Tuesday morning work session, and again during an afternoon board meeting, to join the lawsuit against the Florida Legislature, as “it appears to erode the School Board’s constitutional authority to manage, direct and govern public schools.” Board member Tim Harris missed Tuesday’s vote, but the remaining five board members seemed eager to join the fight. “It’s time,” board member Hazel Sellers said. “I’ve watched the slow erosion of our authority, and it’s having a deteriorating effect on our students, especially the last two years.” Board chairwoman Kay Fields agreed. “This is something we need to do,” she said. “It’s the right thing for our students. We’re not jumping up and down (to enter into a lawsuit) but it has to be done.” School Board member Billy Townsend was especially critical of Tallahassee lawmakers. “They say we all want the same thing, (but) that is a lie,” he said, calling Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran a dictator for backing a bill that undermines public education. “Tallahassee is a disease on education. This lawsuit is a way to try to cure that. Let’s get to work and change this model.”


Law firm selected in HB 7069 lawsuit


Pasco teachers, district unlikely to dump VAM in evaluations (Don Peace quoted)


Bold new school start times proposed for Indian River School District (Liz Cannon quoted)


Turn the heat up on AC problem in Hillsborough schools


Guns on campus? Debate to continue for Lee schools


Citrus School board ponders teacher vacancies


Bill to count computer coding as foreign language resurfaces in Legislature


Two bills take aim at school board operations


Should state revise its rules for which students get bus rides to school?


Better research needed on choice programs, review finds *

A 2016 report from EdChoice asserted that tax credit scholarship programs through Scholarship Tuition Organizations (STOs) have saved state treasuries billions of dollars since 1998. The report analyzed savings from tax-credit scholarship programs. However, an academic review of the report questions the calculation method and claims made regarding the estimated financial savings for state governments. The report, The Tax-Credit Scholarship Audit: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?, was reviewed by Luis Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, Teachers College, Columbia University, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Twenty-one programs in 17 states now distribute scholarships to students via STO tax credit programs sometimes called "neovouchers." The programs allow individuals and corporations to contribute to a nonprofit organization that distributes the money in the form of scholarships. According to the authors of the report, states can save money as a result of students leaving public schools and entering private schools. Huerta and Koutsavlis in their review note that because states do not collect or publish data on scholarship recipients, no formal accounting exists. As a result, they recommend that policymakers "develop statutory language that will allow researchers to develop better and more accurate answers to thorny policy questions." They add that the findings of the report are too speculative to provide useful guidance for policymakers. In their conclusion, they write: "When weighing the implementation of TCSPs, policymakers must look beyond measures of cost efficiency and seek more balanced and empirically robust assessments that would allow them to make informed decisions about how to proceed with effective and equitable school reform polices."


There Trump goes again bashing public schools

He can’t seem to help himself. Just about anytime President Trump talks about or does something in regard to public schools, it is in a disparaging manner. He did it at his January inauguration — saying America has “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” In February, he invited 10 teachers and parents to the White House, but less than one-third were involved in traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of America’s children. In March, he made his first trip as president to a school — a Catholic elementary school in Florida, a visit in which he promoted alternatives to public education. In April, he welcomed the Teachers of the Year to the White House but didn’t, as past U.S. presidents have done, give time for the National Teacher of the Year to make a speech. In May, he released his first budget, which slashed Education Department funding and promoted school choice. Both Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are big supporters of charter schools, publicly funded but privately operated, sometimes by for-profit companies, and of voucher/voucher-like programs, which use public funds for tuition and educational expenses at private and religious schools. Let’s jump to this month, where Tuesday, in Phoenix, he did it again. During a diatribe against the media, he said: “Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets, the failures of our public schools, the destruction of our wealth at the hands of the terrible, terrible trade deals made by politicians that should’ve never been allowed to be politicians.” In fact, the U.S. media often reports on problems with the public education system, with regular news stories, investigations and analyses. But the larger effect of Trump’s remark is not that it is wrong but rather that it is part of a pattern of his — and of DeVos’ — to disparage public education as they promote programs that take resources away from public school systems. DeVos called public education a “dead end” before becoming education secretary and has continued to talk about it in less-than-flattering terms, refusing to acknowledge the value of what has been America’s most important civic institution. Such sentiments by Trump and DeVos, consistently expressed publicly, reinforce the myth that traditional public education is broadly failing students and that the answer is using public money for privately run and/or owned schools.


Why charter schools have lost support from Democrats (Becky Pringle quoted)


On vouchers, the evidence is in, and it’s not good


Schools throughout the country are grappling with teacher shortage, data show


Ohio: Another virtual charter school bilked taxpayers


Tucson’s Mexican studies program was a victim of “racial animus,” judge says


Past deadline, UF, GAU continue contract negotiation (Bobby Mermer quoted)


Graduate students won right to organize, but that victory is in peril under Trump


USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


Minorities are more underrepresented at top colleges than 35 years ago


Pressure mounts on White House to delay black colleges' event


Protect home rule and let cities work


Major GOP donor wins regulatory fight with local governments


Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns


Temperature rising in Miami Beach over looming minimum-wage hike


Bills filed to link more pro bono attorneys with state's special needs kids


Democrats begin looking to make changes in 2018 session


Under Trump budget, state water could get a lot dirtier


Confederate monuments bedevil state leaders,-who


Bend the trend: Reviving unionization in America


Half the jobs in America pay less than $18 an hour


Democrats on Trump’s voting commission iced out


Uncounted Kansas ballots fuel fears about Kobach's proposals


NAFTA failed U.S. workers. Here's how Trump can fix our trade woes


Labor wants to make NAFTA its friend. Here’s the Problem.


Top Trump aide's email draws new scrutiny in Russia inquiry


Trump clashed with multiple GOP senators over Russia


Why did a Russia-friendly Icelandic fund want to invest in Trump projects?


Russia’s attacks on democracy aren’t only a problem for America


How Dershowitz went from Clinton donor to Trump’s attack dog on Russia


McConnell, in private, doubts if Trump can save presidency


Trump, McConnell haven't spoken since angry phone call, sources say


Trump widens rift with Congress as critical showdowns loom


Escalating feud, Trump blames McConnell and Ryan for “mess” on debt ceiling


The never-ending battle against higher premiums


Can Trump actually shut down the government over wall funding?


Trump's immigration crackdown is traumatizing a generation of children


The Trump White House’s ugly new strategy: Use “dreamers” as a bargaining chip


The U.S. deportation system is verging on lawlessness


Spanish thrives in the U.S. despite an English-only drive


Feds retreat from demand for info on Trump inaugural protest website


Regulatory activity dips to new lows in Trump administration


Trump sides with Wall Street; you lose


Is anybody home at HUD?


Federal electricity study hints at future support for coal


EPA taps Alabama business lobbyist to lead Southeast region


Trump team goes to bat for NRA-backed bill, deleting Park Service concerns


Military transgender ban to begin within six months, memo says


Trump's vague, shifting strategy for Afghanistan


Afghanistan: 16 years, thousands dead and no clear end in sight


Pence: U.S. to use its power to restore democracy in Venezuela


Some U.S. diplomats in Cuba diagnosed with serious health conditions


Kushner finds common ground and complications in Mideast trip


McMaster adds muscle to Kushner’s Mideast peace effort


Tillerson suggests North Korea may soon be ready for talks


I’m a nuclear weapons expert. Trump’s presidency is my personal nightmare.


Kelly moves to control the information Trump sees


Military leaders consolidate power in Trump administration


Trump paints himself as the real victim of Charlottesville in angry speech


At rally, Trump revises history, exaggerates accomplishments, makes false claims


Truth, lies and numbness


As Trump ranted and rambled in Phoenix, his crowd slowly thinned


Police use tear gas on crowds after Trump rally


Trump is deteriorating before our very eyes


The president turns on his own


Trump’s identity politics


Trump helped Charlottesville recruiting pitch for white supremacists


Different day, different audience, and a completely different Trump


For two weeks in a row, Trump undercuts his own rhetoric on “unity”


Why Carson’s appearance in Phoenix was likely a violation of federal law


67 former state attorneys general have a message: Condemn hate bluntly


U.N. panel condemns Trump’s response to Charlottesville violence


U.S. Ambassador to Israel says Trump's Charlottesville response “was not fine”


Malaysian leader in billion-dollar scandal is invited to White House


Trump takes aim at the press, with a flamethrower


Trump bashes the media but still loves good press


In Trump's war on press, Pence gamely nods along


Trump retweets bigoted conspiracy theorist


Breitbart editor pledges to do “dirty work” for Bannon


How resentment came to define America





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