Today's news -- February 13, 2017



Bill to stop teacher contract protections gets companion *

A legislative pushback against Florida school districts' attempts to offer added job protections to teachers on annual contract got a boost Friday. State Sen. Doug Broxson, a Pensacola Republican who sits on the PreK-12 Appropriations committee, filed a bill [SB 856] that would prohibit school boards from adopting any conditions or terms altering the term of a teacher's one-year contract. Several dozen boards, including in Pinellas County, have negotiated deals with their employee unions to guarantee renewal of annual contracts for teachers who receive an "effective" or "highly effective" performance review. Others, such as Pasco County, have rejected such appeals, contending that lawmakers did not intend anything other than one-year contracts with the controversial SB 736, signed into law in 2011 and fought ever since. Broxson, who voted for SB 736 while in the House, joins Rep. Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican in aiming to rein in the district actions. His legislation is identical to Grant's, which already has been assigned to two committees for review. While having a companion is no promise of ultimate adoption, not having one makes it all but impossible to become law. Teachers union leaders and lawyers, who generally oppose the bills, have argued that lawmakers wanted to reward top educators and not hurt them. "Nothing prevents a school district, when negotiating the 'wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment,' which the Constitution requires to be negotiated (Article I, Section 6, Constitution of Florida), and in the exercise of its constitutional duty to 'operate, control and supervise' district schools [Article IX, Section 4(b), Constitution of Florida], to agree to a contractual provision which recognizes successful performance in this manner," Tallahassee attorney Ron Meyer, who frequently represents the Florida Education Association, said in October, when the issue previously arose. "It is surprising, with the zeal the Legislature has had to tie continued employment to successful performance, that anyone would argue against the use of successful performance as the standard to be used by a school district in determining to award a new annual contract." He and others also have suggested that job protections could help improve morale, especially at a time when schools face so many vacancies. No hearings have yet been scheduled on either the Senate or House measure.


Florida taxes, schools: Do you know the full story? *

If I told you I recently won an award for quantum physics, you might be impressed. But what if you later learned that the only other contestants had been my kids’ two cats, Furball and Leona? Well, that would probably take some of the shine off … especially since the only thing I really had to do to win was refrain from licking myself. That’s a bit how you should feel after Gov. Rick Scott heaped praise on himself for unveiling an $83.5 billion budget that claimed to boost education spending to “historic” levels. It sounds swell … until you get the full story. Once you do, you see that Scott’s 3 percent boost — and the similarly small increases in recent years — pale in comparison to the 10 percent cut he made his first year in office. In fact, Scott’s plan actually provides less money per pupil than Florida provided a decade ago, once inflation’s factored in. Also, Scott’s historic high of $7,421 would still be 25-30 percent below the national average, trailing such states as Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. Similarly, while Scott boasts of boosting pre-K funding by 2 percent, it too comes on the heels of cuts. So the new, per-pupil level would actually be less (in both real and adjusted dollars) than it was a decade ago under Jeb Bush. Basically, once you get the full story, you see that, if Florida is the tallest guy in the room, it’s only because everyone else who bothered to show up is a dwarf. Still, I’m not here today to trash Scott’s budget. Some of his proposals at least move in the right direction. They’re also a far cry from when he slashed funding for schools, the disabled and even veterans so he could provide corporate tax breaks. Instead, I want to ask you: What are your priorities? What do you think government should be doing? Educating kids? Running TV ads for theme parks? Building roads? Handing out business incentives? And how do you think we should fund all that? Sales taxes? Property taxes? Corporate taxes? Tolls? Keep in mind: It always comes from somewhere. I also want to ask you to go beyond the politicians’ sound bites. For instance, state leaders have been on a crusade to reduce corporate and business taxes, suggesting that Florida companies are overtaxed and overburdened. It is unmitigated malarkey. Florida has some of the lowest business tax taxes in the United States. Ask any pro-business, anti-tax group you want -- like the Tax Foundation, which says Florida has the fourth-best tax “climate”  for businesses in America. Yet this year, Scott’s biggest proposed tax break is for -- you guessed it -- businesses. He wants to cut the taxes companies pay on commercial leases by $454 million. Let’s pause here for a moment and look at that number. Remember up above when I mentioned that the state’s pre-K program is woefully underfunded? Well, it is — by about $400 million. That’s about how much it would take to double Florida’s pre-K spending and help bring us in line with higher-performing states. Voters obviously think this program is important. That’s why they demanded it in the form a constitutional amendment. Because they know school readiness lays the foundation for everything from schools and jobs to socialization and even a crime-free life. So, if you have $454 million, would you provide yet another cut to businesses, which already enjoy one of the best tax climates in America, or a boost to pre-K programs, which are woefully behind? It’s a question of priorities. The argument for reducing this tax is that few other states levy it. That’s another great sound bite … until you remember that most every other state in America collects gobs more in other business taxes. It’s like declaring: “Florida is the only state in America that asks you to pay a dime!” … without mentioning that every other state demands a quarter. It’s true, but misleading. It doesn’t tell the whole story. The reality is that this state’s obsession with lowering business taxes has not translated to economic prosperity. Our jobs pay worse than most of America’s. And we trail big states on everything from Fortune 500 companies to venture capital. That’s why other states invest more in education. And pre-K. And infrastructure. And quality of life. Because that’s how you build an economy. You don’t try to buy it. You grow it.


Study swapping ACT, SAT for FSA exams, lawmaker says *

The so-called Sunshine Solution looks now to have at least some support in the Florida House. The “solution” would have the state scrap its own standardized exams and instead give students the ACT or SAT. The idea was first proposed in 2015 by the Seminole County school district, as technology glitches disrupted the debut of Florida’s new FSA tests and frustrated educators statewide. A state senator pushed the idea in legislation last year, but the measure, which did not have much support in the House, did not pass. But last week Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, filed a bill (HB 773) that would require the state’s education commissioner to determine if those national college admission exams tested the content taught in Florida’s high school language arts and math classes. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has said she thinks such a study would need to be done before the state could consider swapping those exams for the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA. Diaz’s sponsorship of the bill suggests it will get serious consideration in the House, as he is chairman of the pre-k-12 education appropriations committee and sits on the education committee, too. Key state senators have said this year they plan to push a bill -- though it isn’t filed yet -- to reduce testing in public schools. Their proposal, they said, likely would allow a swap of the ACT or SAT for some state exams. Advocates of that swap, which Seminole educators dubbed the “Sunshine Solution,” said it would reduce the number of tests students take, among other benefits. That is because so many take the ACT or SAT already as Florida’s state universities require them for admission.


Two counties cut back big time on student testing. Manatee could be the third.


Florida school districts wrestle with teacher shortage *


Jefferson to become state's first charter school district


Santiago: Technology is key to successful schools


Driver shortage leaves Volusia scrambling to cover school bus routes


One arrest as protesters block DeVos from entering D.C. public school


District chiefs: Medicaid changes would hurt poor children, students with disabilities


Trump drops defense of Obama guidelines on transgender students


Legislators hide projects in university budgets


Senate plan seeks state college board

For two decades, Florida's state colleges, then known as community colleges, were under a 13-member state board. That arrangement ended in 2003, after a series of moves consolidating Florida's education system under a new Board of Education appointed by the governor. At the same time, the state university system, after passage of a constitutional amendment in 2002, moved under the control of a separate Board of Governors. But as Senate President Joe Negron seeks to overhaul Florida's higher-education system this year, one part of his proposal would recreate a State Board of Community Colleges. Negron, R-Stuart, wants to separate state colleges from the Board of Education, which also is responsible for overseeing the public-school system, with its 67 districts, 2.8 million students and $20 billion budget. A bill (SB 374) that received approval last week from the Senate Education Committee would recreate the former State Board of Community Colleges, a 13-member panel appointed by the governor, to oversee the college system with its 800,000 students and $2.4 billion budget. "In my view of that process, the community colleges don't get the attention that they need and deserve," Negron said. "It's almost all focused on K-through-12, and having the community colleges on there is kind of like having the caboose on the end of the train." Negron said he has "enormous respect" for the state colleges, noting two schools in recent years have won an "Aspen Prize," a national award for top-performing community colleges. "We have a tremendous system," Negron said. "I think they deserve the respect of having their own governing structure that responds to and handles their particular issues." State college presidents, who have raised concerns about other provisions in Negron's higher-education package including more-stringent performance standards, are open to the idea of a new board.


Florida colleges take middle ground on immigration battle


Second finalist withdraws candidacy to be FGCU president


Forums give public chance to weigh in on PSC president search


Some state lawmakers are on lobbyists' payroll


Another attack on state's public records laws unacceptable


Resolution would require two-thirds vote to amend state Constitution


Federal judges’ lifetime tenure for good reason; state should take note


Atwater, Florida's CFO, to resign for job at Florida Atlantic University


Lee, Gruters, Grady, Neal in the mix to replace Atwater


He kept the Netherlands dry. Now he aims to defend Miami from rising seas.


Affordable healthcare a must in Florida


Make Florida’s mental health system stronger and a higher priority


Bilirakis gets another earful on Obamacare repeal


Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida


GOP official in video is known for sharing misleading stories, bigoted jokes


GOP feud could logjam legislative session


Bracing for uncertainty, division with session


Scott needs better argument for incentives


Weigh merits of economic programs separately


Corcoran's jab at Visit Florida spending misses context


Trump inspires steady drumbeat of Central Florida protests


Planned Parenthood foes, supporters face off in protests in Tampa Bay area


A presidential golf outing, with a twist: Trump owns the place


A hastily called news conference caps a surreal day for Trump in South Florida


Trump's Florida estate stirs protests, spurs ethics debate's-Florida-estate-stirs-protests,-spurs-ethics-debate


Trump heads back to D.C. as protesters, supporters gather


Will Trump be bad for business at the winter White House?


Frankel to meet with air firms hit by restrictions during Trump visits


Trump criticized Obama for golfing. Now he spends weekends on the links.


Scott’s D.C. inauguration party cost more than $600,000


State GOP leaders move swiftly as party bickers in D.C.

When Republicans in Kentucky seized total control of the state government last year, Damon Thayer, the majority leader in the state Senate, began asking around for advice from counterparts in other capitals where the party already dominated both the legislative and executive branches. How should we handle all this power, he wanted to know. One answer impressed him, Thayer said, from a senior Republican lawmaker in Wisconsin: “Move quickly.” Kentucky Republicans have done just that, swiftly passing laws to roll back the powers of labor unions and restrict access to abortion. But they are only getting started, Thayer said: They also plan to make sweeping changes to the education and public pension systems this year. And they have plenty of company. While Republicans in Washington appear flummoxed by the complexities of one-party rule, struggling with issues from repealing the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, to paying for President Trump’s promised wall on the Mexican border, rising party leaders in the states seem far more at ease and assertive. Republicans have top-to-bottom control in 25 states now, holding both the governorship and the entire legislature, and Republican lawmakers are acting with lightning speed to enact longstanding conservative priorities. In states from New England to the Midwest and across the South, conservative lawmakers have introduced or enacted legislation to erode union powers and abortion rights, loosen gun regulations, expand school-choice programs and slash taxes and spending. State Senator Scott L. Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, the Republican majority leader, said conservatives in the states had taken the party’s national victories in November as a directive to “shake up” government. “That has been amped up as a result of Donald Trump being elected president,” he said. “There’s a higher expectation now.”


It’s not just Donald Trump feuding with the courts. States are doing it, too.


How to save good jobs


How Microsoft avoided billions in taxes, and what the GOP says they’ll do about it


Once again, Trump claims that fraud cost him an electoral victory


Trump administration invents new story to support claims of massive voter fraud


Election commissioner to Trump: Show evidence of voter fraud


The next GOP assault on voting rights


Republicans hold on to a myth to hold on to power


Illegal voting gets Texas woman eight years in prison, and certain deportation


Trump says refugees are flooding U.S. in misleading allusion


Trump hints at new travel order coming this week


Adviser says Trump’s power “will not be questioned” by the courts


After a win, travel ban opponents seek another court victory


The 9th Circuit ruling is the most hopeful sign yet


“So-called judges” trump Trump


Republicans tight-lipped on court decision against Trump’s travel ban


Trump’s legal options in travel ban case


ICE agents round up parents of U.S. children in deportation raids


Immigrant community on high alert, fearing Trump’s “deportation force”


Trump: Raids targeting immigrants are “the keeping of my campaign promise”


Living in fear of deportation is terrible for your health


Pope heard about a man’s deportation case. Now, a court is hearing about it.


Six years, eight countries: A refugee couple’s harrowing search for safety


America is a home for the world's most talented. A travel ban risks losing them


Alabama immigration: Crops rot as workers vanish to avoid crackdown


Muslim nonprofit groups are rejecting federal funds because of Trump


More teamwork, less rhetoric on immigration


Peaceful protests are not a crime


What I’ll do next


Republican Congress members face tide of protest in home districts


Chaffetz says paid protesters are hounding him. Reporters can’t find a single one.


As Obamacare faces repeal, its legacy is still up in the air


Republicans, aiming to kill health law, also work to shore it up


Reality sets in on health care reform


Addiction treatment grew under health law. Now what?


Trump paints a picture of a dystopian America that doesn’t exist


Trump says he'll keep you safe. It's a lie


In the face of weighty problems, Trump focuses on squabbles


Trump’s voracious appetite for cable news is troubling. But that’s not stopping him.


Americans aren't as attached to democracy as you might think


Crime stats should inform the public. Trump is misusing them to scare us instead.


Police chiefs say Trump’s law enforcement priorities are out of step


“A sense of dread” for civil servants shaken by Trump transition


Protesters face off as U.S. abortion debate heats up


How Trump’s Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade without overturning it


Trump attacks on judiciary raise safety concerns for judges


Gorsuch questionnaire reveals selection process details for Supreme Court nominee


Gorsuch not easy to pigeonhole on gay rights, friends say


Schumer: Judge Gorsuch, we won’t be fooled again


Breyer plays down politics of court during Sarasota speech


Trump undertakes most ambitious regulatory rollback since Reagan


The FCC talks the talk on the digital divide -- and then walks in the other direction


An anti-consumer agenda at the FCC


GOP plan to gut consumer protection bureau, roll back Wall Street regulations

 0 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet