Today's news -- August 7, 2017





Joanne McCall on “The Usual Suspects” *


The Wild West of privatization and testing industries *

This spring, the Florida Legislature passed and this summer Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 7069, a school reform promoted by organizations linked to the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos. Florida has been a poster child for conservative ideological education reform for some time. Going beyond even the federal No Child Left Behind -- or as the critics call it, No Child Left Un-tested -- reform of the Bush era, it became one of the most frequent testers of students in the nation. Basically, from February to May, students in Florida prepare for and take an endless array of tests. Florida instituted evaluation of teachers tied to student test scores years ago, motivating teachers to spend the whole year teaching to the test. On top of this testing regime, Florida has enacted many right-wing reforms: eliminating K-12 teacher tenure; grading schools A to F; and changing curricula to emphasize only what is tested, for example, eliminating recess. Well, after a decade of this, parents began to revolt. Last year, a statewide survey highlighted two priorities for needed school reform: stop all this testing or at least cut way back -- and restore recess for our children. PTAs mobilized behind these changes. The Legislature began to respond by formulating the “Recess Bill” -- intended to cut testing and restore recess. However, the ending point of this effort was very different than the starting point. Basically, the Recess Bill was hijacked by business -- two businesses in particular -- the testing industry and the charter school promotors. The result, passed in the last hours of the legislative session, with scarcely any discussion, was House Bill 7069. This terrifying school reform is being called “the death of public education” by its critics. The bill gives a sop to the protesting parents – it restores 20 minutes of daily recess in K-5. But it only eliminates two of the many tests that students are forced to take. It also allows school districts to opt out of evaluating teachers by their students’ test scores. However, this was just the superficial bow that tied up a major reform package that basically turns public education over to private companies to start charter schools.


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

The continued push for school vouchers, which transfer scarce taxpayer dollars out of public education and into private schools, is “a triumph of ideology over evidence that should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children.” That’s how one scholar described President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education. DeVos has been called the “four-star general” of the voucher movement, and getting her in place was a breakthrough for voucher advocates. But parents and policymakers must not lose sight of an extremely important truth: There is more evidence than ever before that the basic premise of the voucher movement is a lie. Evidence has been accumulating over the last two years that many students in voucher programs have lost significant educational ground in math and reading. One study released last year was actually financed by a pro-voucher foundation and conducted by a pro-voucher think tank, and even it found that voucher students in private schools did worse academically than their peers in public schools. Just this month, the Brookings Institution examined the evidence. It reported that four rigorous studies, using different research designs, reached the same result: “On average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools.” One of the remarkable things about the well-funded effort to delegitimize and undermine public education is that some “reform” advocates demand in the name of accountability that public school students be subjected to relentless high-stakes testing to measure their academic progress. Test scores are often used to grade schools and evaluate teachers. But when it comes to private schools accepting voucher funds, demands for transparency and accountability evaporate.


The hidden costs of vouchers *

Taxpayers shouldn’t be funding private elementary and secondary schools just because Republican lawmakers think public education – which changed the face and fate of North Carolina in the last 100 years – is an expensive pain, and some kind of liberal entitlement.


Expensive lessons for school reformers and families

Having the ability to invest billions is not enough to guarantee success. That’s one of the lessons a growing list of mega-donors and large foundations is learning from their efforts to transform and improve public education. In many cases, the initiatives they have launched have been more disruptive than effective. Missing from much of their work has been a recognition of the need to work with families and communities and a willingness to engage in the often-messy work of building success from the bottom up.


Parents play key role in child’s school successes (by Scott Mazur)


Clay unions launch First Book campaign for kids (Renna Lee Paiva quoted; CESPA, FEA and AFT mentioned)


Next to go in Hillsborough: IEP assistants (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


Lake impacted by reduction in teachers (Stuart Klatte quoted)


Budget constraints force late change to schedule at Volusia high school (Andrew Spar quoted)


Polk School Board member wants policy to prevent problems from romance (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Where all the school’s a stage, and the list of success stories is long


Pinellas' idea of “unstructured, free-play recess” includes math, engineering centers


State DOE seeks full dismissal of third-grade retention suit


Buying and selling charter schools as investment properties: a repellent practice


Teachers in Puerto Rico vote to join AFT (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Like it or not, DeVos has made a mark in six months as education secretary


Abstinence-focused education could be on the rise under Trump


Britain turns to Chinese textbooks to improve its math scores


Ohio: Charter schools and Republican hypocrisy


Black people aren’t keeping white Americans out of college. Rich people are.


Affirmative action policies evolve, achieving their own diversity


State college enrollment sees uptick


Sly moves unmasked in UF search for president


Do not allow Scott to pack Supreme Court on his way out the door


ACLU to help on voting rights restoration


Broward voter rolls case has national implications


Our costly court cases


Legislature, agency let $20 million in aid for drug, mental health care end


Local officials bristle at being overruled by Tallahassee


Flooding in Miami is no longer news -- but it’s certainly newsworthy


Climate threat to Tampa Bay area


Thousands of Palm Beach properties now in high-risk flood zones


Businesses bucked Scott's rule to notify public about pollution


White House hosts Florida county commissioners


State's Trump critics are all over cable TV, but paying a price


Report: Pro-Rubio nonprofit primarily funded by two anonymous megadonors


UAW accuses Nissan of “scare tactics” as workers reject union bid


CEO of Apple partner: “Managing 1 million animals gives me a headache”


Spotlight on NLRB, labor trade bureau


How Mueller is closing in on Trump


Mueller seeks White House documents on Flynn


Rosenstein: Mueller can investigate any crimes he uncovers in probe


Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns


The Russia investigation is getting serious -- and Trump is feeling the heat


Trump is a one-man assault on the rule of law


Leak investigations triple under Trump, Sessions says


Sessions suggests it may be time to send more journalists to jail


Reporters not being pursued in leak investigations, Justice Department says


Sessions' broad attack on leaks aimed at an audience of one: Trump


Federal employees step up defiance of Trump


Republican senator is on a mission to rescue the health care law


McConnell to consider bipartisan plan to pay health insurers


Inside Sanders’ campaign to save Obamacare


Trump says banning immigrants helps U.S. workers. A leading economist disagrees.


Ryan casts doubt on Trump's plan to cut legal immigration


Ignorant immigration reform


A storm is brewing for DACA this September


Trump’s border wall would slice through wildlife refuges and cut off U.S. territory


Republican says Trump was joking when he vowed Mexico would pay for the wall


Why immigration proposal would have barred a great teacher from America


Once backer of expanded immigration, Rubio strikes different chord


Immigration in the age of Trump: What it means for Palm Beach


Jacksonville business owner could get path to citizenship under Rutherford bill


“Merit-based” proposal causes a stir among Big Bend immigrants


Their relationship at a low, Trump and Congress cast blame on each other


What’s the deal, Mr. Trump?


A debt-ceiling crisis is on its way. Yes, again.


Tax writers see peril in Trump's Obamacare persistence


The U.S. could be free of gerrymandering. Here’s how other countries do it.


Civil rights groups to sue over Trump's plan for transgender military ban


Trump’s lawyers reportedly warned him against transgender military ban


GOP reps mum on Trump's ban on trans service members


Why are these billions in pipeline projects stalled?


Opioid users are filling jails. Why don’t jails treat them?


Veterans’ health-care gap creates greater risk for opioid abuse


The battle over science in the Trump administration


Under Trump, coal mining gets new life on federal lands


Kelly's big challenge: Controlling the tweeter in chief





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