Today's news -- August 28, 2017





Legislature unconstitutional toward schools *

The Florida Constitution is adopted and amended by a vote of the electorate. While the Legislature can vote to place a proposal to amend the constitution on the ballot, the amendment does not become law unless passed by the voters. The voters elect their representatives to the Legislature, which is charged with adopting bills to address the needs and interests of the state of Florida, including the operation of local government entities, such as school districts. In adopting such bills, the Legislature is required to act within the constraints of the constitution the people have approved. When the Legislature fails to act within such constitutional constraints, the authority in place to provide a check on the legislative action is the judiciary. The tool used by the entity that believes its interests have been adversely affected by an unconstitutional exercise of legislative authority is a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such an action. A local government entity, such as a school board, that knows the Legislature has passed a bill that usurps the authority bestowed upon that board by the people of the state of Florida has a responsibility to use the legal means in place to challenge the legislative act that is inconsistent with the will of the people. Article IX of the Florida Constitution states: “The school board shall operate, control, and supervise all free public schools within the school district.” This is the control and authority the people of the state of Florida have determined should be held by the local school board. House Bill 7069 infringes upon this constitutional authority in multiple respects.  To protect its interests, a party to a lawsuit does not fully reveal its theory of recovery or legal strategy. Therefore, all examples of such infringement cannot be addressed in this letter. Yet, an obvious example is the portion of House Bill 7069 concerning “schools of hope.” Under the legislation, an entity designated as a “hope operator” by the State Board of Education can simply provide notice to a school board of its intention to establish a school in proximity to a low performing district operated school. Upon receiving such a notice, the school board is required to approve establishment of the school and enter into a form contact created by the Florida Department of Education whereby the school is provided public funding for operation. If it fails to comply, the school board is penalized by loss of a portion of the fees used to provide support services to all of its charter schools. Legislation that removes all school board authority to decide whether and where a public school will be established in its district is a clear violation of the school board’s constitutional authority to “operate, control and supervise all public schools within the school district.” It is the local school board which most directly answers to its voters, and is constitutionally endowed with the authority to decide where schools will be established in its district. Other provisions of the bill require school districts to share capital dollars with charter schools. Few charter schools construct their own facilities, but rather lease the space from for-profit management companies. Upon closure of the charter school, the building is owned by the management company, so there is no building to be turned over to the school district. The taxpayer dollars have rather gone to the for-profit company, which now has a capital asset that will provide an income source for years to come. There is a cost involved in the filing of this lawsuit. While it is difficult to calculate, it may reach a few hundred thousand dollars. The Lee County School Board carefully considers the expenditure of every dollar entrusted to it by local taxpayers. Though the cost is substantial, the damage done by this bill is much greater. The bottom line is that the Legislature passed a bill that takes away local control which the people of Florida decided should be entrusted to the local school board. It is unfortunate that the Legislature and the governor did not listen to the significant opposition to HB 7069 prior to it becoming law. To defend the wishes of Florida voters, and the interests of its students, and the Lee County School Board.


Short shrift *

In business, as well as in government, there must be someone on staff who is looking beyond the visible horizon. In my 26 years in uniform, that meant training for war and praying for peace. It meant being able to deter our enemies from taking any action, along a spectrum that ranged from isolated acts to terrorism to thermonuclear war — and having a response at each level should they choose to ignore the rational choice. Having lived and worked in the public school system in Marion County for more than 22 years, I have come to realize that there is a strategic imperative much closer to home. We are faced with a daily challenge to ensure that every child, regardless of their external situation, is afforded the opportunity to become the educated, productive American citizen upon whom so much of our collective future depends. Yet we observe that many of those charged with sustaining that lofty goal, whether in Washington, Tallahassee, or right here at home, lack the ability to think beyond the end of a yearly budget plan or a two- to four-year election cycle. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our failure to properly fund public education.


Duval School Board mulls lawsuit against state over HB 7069


Democratic senator files bill to modify HB 7069 provisions


Angry teachers say principal’s second chance proof of a double standard (Justin Katz quoted)


As crisis deepens in Venezuela, fleeing students flood classrooms in Miami-Dade


Indian River district, charter schools reach agreement over funding lawsuit


St. Lucie district, CWA ink new contract through 2020


Lee, Collier schools closed today because of flooding


Schools give attention to “soft skills” as a way to head off behavior problems


Why it’s a big mistake to run a school like a business *

For years many policymakers in education have been making decisions about how to “fix” public schools and assess the “value” a teacher brings to student achievement that don’t really do either. The idea has been to apply principles from the business world — where competition is the key — to a civic institution, the public education system. It hasn’t worked in the way supporters had hoped. There have been serious consequences for students, schools and teachers, and in this post, one educator talks about the real effects on real teachers as a result of some of these policies. The author is Justin Parmenter, an educator for 22 years who is teaching seventh-grade language arts at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, N.C. He is also a fellow with Hope Street Group’s North Carolina Teacher Voice Network. He started his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania, taught in Istanbul and on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. He was a finalist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Teacher of the Year in 2016. In this post, Parmenter refers to value-added measurement, or VAM, which has been a popular method of evaluating teachers since the start of the Obama administration. VAM purports to be able to take student standardized test scores and measure the “value” a teacher adds to student learning through complicated formulas that can supposedly factor out all of the other influences and emerge with a valid assessment of how effective a particular teacher has been. Statisticians repeatedly warned against using VAM in schools for high-stakes job and educational decisions, because the results were unreliable and invalid for such purposes, but policymakers used it anyway. As part of VAM mania, school districts experimented by adding tests in many different subjects in an attempt to evaluate teachers, and in 2011, students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina where Parmenter works, helped field-test a total of 52 new standardized tests in every single subject, kindergartners included. That effort was abandoned, but teachers wound up being evaluated in many places by the test scores of students they didn’t have and subjects they didn’t teach in cockamamie evaluation programs. In 2016, when the Obama administration realized its education policies had put too much emphasis on standardized test scores and after No Child Left Behind was replaced with a new federal K-12 education law, states began to lessen reliance on those scores for teacher evaluation, but most states still use it. In this post, Parmenter writes about the fallout and notes that the notion of applying business principles beyond VAM to public education is still popular. Indeed, President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos believe it and are big advocates of increasing competition in education by offering alternatives to traditional districts, including programs that use public funds for private and religious school tuition.


In the fight against bullying, a glimmer of hope


A moment of moral clarity on Labor Day (by Randi Weingarten)


Austin visit highlights the power of union membership (Randi Weingarten quoted)


No salary agreement between UF and grad assistants (Josh Papacek quoted)


When controversial speakers come to campus


Why it's harder for African American women to report campus sexual assaults


The biggest misconception about today’s college students


Adjuncts support fast-food workers in Labor Day strike


The future of state’s Bright Future scholarships


State agency spent $100,000 on employees instead of homeowners


Corcoran wants answers from local tourism agencies on spending


Visit Orlando hides spending records for millions of tax dollars,amp.html


Corcoran vows crackdown on Visit Orlando


Santa Rosa tourism council under investigation for possible Sunshine Law violation


Lawmaker pushes rules to promote transparency in local government spending


Don't kill Florida's public campaign financing


Shut down the government, and this time, investors will care


Is living in poverty really a “mind-set”?


Unemployment in black and white


OSHA scrubs worker deaths from home page


Trump’s business sought deal in Moscow while he ran for president


Washington lobbying firms receive subpoenas as part of Russia probe


Report: Mueller investigating if Flynn sought Clinton emails from Russian hackers


If he’ll pardon Arpaio, why wouldn’t Trump pardon those who ignore Mueller?


McConnell’s role in the Russian hacks


Trump’s threats on health law hide an upside: gains made by insurers


In Trump states, Sanders tries to push Democrats to the left on health care


Study: Proposal to replace Obamacare particularly bad for Florida


Will the Republican tax bill be aimed at the economic past, or the future?


How Republicans may break their promise that their tax plan won’t raise the debt


We need higher taxes


Educators decry Trump proposal to tear apart immigrant families (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


Trump threatens to terminate NAFTA, renews calls for Mexico to pay for wall


In response to Trump tweet, Mexico reiterates it won't pay for the wall


Most Americans don’t want the wall and don’t think Mexico will pay for it


Conway wants you to forget promise that taxpayers wouldn’t pay for a border wall


ICE left 50 immigrant women and kids stranded at a bus station before hurricane


Trump’s refugee ban is splitting our family apart


Ex-Trump adviser helps Iraqis president wants to deport -- for a price


“Dreamer” plan that aided 800,000 immigrants is threatened


I am a “Dreamer.” I cannot rest easy.


University of Miami to cover all expenses for eligible DACA students across Florida


Miami Republicans tell Trump to save DACA


Trump’s legal U-turns may test Supreme Court’s patience


Women’s Equality Day: The gains we’ve made are at risk (by Lily Eskelsen García)


Trump’s most popular Cabinet secretary is Obama holdover


As Pruitt guts rules, EPA will allow fracking waste dumping in the Gulf of Mexico


Trump’s plan to put fragile national monuments in danger


Bankers and economists fear a spate of threats to global growth


Trump to fully restore military surplus transfers to police


Trump gives Mattis wide discretion over transgender ban (by Lily Eskelsen García)


Transgender troops say Trump directive will create “complete inequality”


Zinke's veteran daughter excoriates Trump in response to transgender military ban


North Korea fires short-range missiles from its east coast


Trump tightens Venezuela’s access to U.S. financial system


Trump saves Citgo, repped by his ex-aides, from new sanctions


Trump's sanctions against Venezuela garner praise from South Florida lawmakers


Trump forges ahead on costly nuclear overhaul


Trump vents in Oval Office, "I want tariffs. Bring me some tariffs!"


If report says Iran is abiding by nuclear deal, will Trump heed it?


Gorka is forced out as White House adviser, officials say


Gorka’s overdue exit still leaves numerous figures to haunt the White House


Gorka says he's heading back to Breitbart


Trump pardons convicted Arizona sheriff Arpaio (Randi Weingarten, Lorretta Johnson and Mary Cathryn Ricker quoted)

Latinos express outrage after Trump pardons Arpaio


I was one of Arpaio’s victims. He doesn’t deserve a pardon.


The year I spent in Arpaio’s tent jail was hell


Trump asked top aides months ago if Arpaio case could be dropped, officials say


The Arpaio pardon encapsulates Trump’s identity politics


Trump resurrected Arpaio from irrelevance


What you need to know about Arpaio’s record on illegal immigration


Why Trump’s pardon of Arpaio follows law, yet challenges it


Trump’s brand of law and order leaves leeway on the law


Schumer, Ryan criticize Trump for Arpaio pardon


Arpaio, 85, hints at return to politics after pardon from Trump


Yoho praises Trump for pardoning Arpaio


Does Trump represent U.S. values? Tillerson: “The president speaks for himself”


Trump frustration with Tillerson rising fast


Biden: “We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation”


Trump’s chilling contempt for future generations


Don’t let the new lies make you forget the old ones


Fascism, American style


What if Trump ditched the GOP?


GOP needs to think in terms of a shadow government during the Trump era


Late wages for migrant workers at a Trump golf course in Dubai


Hey, who cut the eyeholes in Mar-a-Lago’s white tablecloths?


The trouble with Ivanka Trump’s business partner


Trump’s flagrant Friday night news dump


When the White House press secretary says “I’ll get back to you,” she rarely does


A judge ruled Texas’s second try at voter ID laws is illegal. She’s right.





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