Today's news -- February 14, 2012



“As roofs sag in old school buildings, air conditioners break, electric panels blow and mold grows in classrooms where students are expected to learn, the maintenance costs keep adding up in this unwinnable game of catch-up for Florida public school districts facing billions of dollars in needed repairs. So what does the Florida Legislature propose to do about it? Nothing substantial. Forget about alleviating this mounting public need or fixing an antiquated funding mechanism that’s shortchanging public schools. Yet public education is the state’s ‘paramount duty,’ as voters made clear when they passed a constitutional amendment in 1998 seeking ‘adequate’ funding for education. A long, drawn-out recession hasn’t helped, but neither have legislators nor Gov. Rick Scott come up with a plan to ensure adequate funding. Instead, the House and Senate are looking to free up $55 million in construction dollars for charter schools operated by private companies, while traditional public school kids are treated like second-class citizens.”
-- Miami Herald editorial.


“There is nothing illegal or unethical about ALEC’s work, except that it further demonstrates the pervasive influence of corporate money and right-wing groups on the state legislative process. There is no group with any comparable influence on the left. Lawmakers who eagerly do ALEC’s bidding have much to answer for. Voters have a right to know whether the representatives they elect are actually writing the laws, or whether the job has been outsourced to big corporate interests.”

-- New York Times editorial.


“There are no limits to state Sen. J.D. Alexander's vendetta against the University of South Florida. It's not enough that the Senate Budget Committee chairman wants the Legislature to arbitrarily grant USF's Lakeland campus its immediate independence. Now his proposed state budget would starve to death the university, an unmistakable threat to anyone who dares to oppose his theft of the branch campus. This is how far Alexander will go to silence his critics and secure his legacy by creating Florida's 12th university at USF Polytechnic. The Senate's proposed budget would cut funding for USF's main campus in Tampa by 58 percent, or $104 million. By comparison, the University of Florida would be cut by 26 percent and Florida State University would be cut by 22 percent, according to a USF analysis. The bull's-eye on USF can be seen from all over Tampa Bay.”

-- St. Petersburg Times editorial.


Senate budget includes nearly 60 percent cut for USF


Droppings from the lamest of lame ducks


Why you should care about the USF Poly debate

USF Poly budget bill draws protest






Prison privatization clings to life in the Senate

A closely divided state Senate on Monday kept alive a plan to privatize correctional facilities across South Florida, setting the measure up for what is expected to be a tight vote today. By a 21-19 vote, the chamber defeated amendment by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, that would have blocked the plan, instead requiring state economists to study the potential cost savings of private prisons. The bill-killing amendment failed with the opposition of Sen. Dennis Jones, R-St. Petersburg, who said he still intends to vote against the full bill when it comes up for a final vote on Tuesday, which would place the expected vote tally at 20-20. During more than three and a half hours of floor action, the chamber's leadership proposed a series of amendments intended to pre-empt criticisms of SB 2038.  One added by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, would require the successful bidder to reimburse the state for any expenses incurred as a result of accumulated leave paid to departing employees of the Department of Corrections. "If you keep this bill around for another week or two, you might get unanimous consent on it," quipped Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a critic of the outsourcing plan who supported Fasano's amendment. Latvala said he is still likely to vote against the bill.,0,5694884.story


NAACP, corrections workers denounce prison privatization as it resurfaces in Senate


Dockery releases ‘smoking gun’ report on private prisons


Use sales taxes for jobs, children


Florida Virtual School's revenues falling short of expectations


Miami-Dade teachers approve new health contract (Karen Aronowitz quoted)


Manatee County school board should rescind teacher pay cut


Okaloosa School Board OKs STEMM Center


Agreement to give districts more money could benefit Treasure Coast schools


Battle lines drawn over push for prayer in schools


Life examined


Justices set Florida redistricting argument for February 29


Florida's missed opportunities to improve health care


Municipal pension measure gets tangled up in committee


Bennett, who sponsored anti-consumer real estate bill, received thousands from developers


Senate panel narrows scope of bill that would allow oil drilling on state land


House Republicans yield on extending payroll tax cut


Obama emphasizes education in economic recovery


Military cuts and tax plan are central to Obama budget


A responsible budget


NEA president praises Obama's proposed budget (Dennis Van Roekel quoted)


Obama's budget invests in America's future (Randi Weingarten quoted)

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