Today's news -- February 15, 2017





Blame Jeb's “belly flop” for teacher shortage *

Here's a recent headline from the Sun Sentinel: "Florida lawmakers seek ways to attract, keep teachers." Florida lawmakers just can't seem to figure out why the state is losing so many teachers. Florida lawmakers sure are slow on the uptake. Florida lawmakers and Florida governors are the main reasons the state has been finding it hard to recruit and keep teachers. They are the main reasons that a declining number of education majors are enrolling in Florida colleges and universities. Florida doesn't pay its teachers enough, it's true. But here's the bigger deal: Florida doesn't treat its public school teachers with respect. Florida does not treat its teachers like professionals. It gets worse. Florida was a pioneer in this disrespect, and politicians nationally have followed Florida's woeful lead. I trace the worst of this back to 1999, when Jeb Bush first became Florida's governor. Jeb is the godfather of high-stakes testing. Jeb turned the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test into the Creature that Ate Education. Jeb used the test to determine the fates of students, teachers, administrators, schools and entire school districts even though the test was not designed for that purpose and was not valid for that purpose. Over the years, the test has been revised and even replaced, but the basic fallacy continues. Testing -- now under the label of the Florida Standards Assessment -- is of top importance. But don't expect Jeb to ever figure out how much damage he's done. Here's another headline from the Sun Sentinel: "Jeb Bush sees hope in Trump's choice for education secretary." That story documented Jeb's appearance as the keynote speaker at the National Summit on Education reform. The summit was sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which, the story notes, "Bush founded and chairs." The news story reported on Jeb's self-effacing humor, which is something I admire. He said he tried to win the GOP presidential nomination by running a positive, uplifting campaign, but that he "failed, miserably. I mean, like, belly flop — bam." But another part of the news story made my jaw drop. It said that Bush "tied the need for education reform to the malaise that powered (Donald) Trump's rise." Said Bush, "There's a reason why people are anxious. There's a reason why they're angry. The basic institutions in their lives don't work the way they used to." No, people aren't disgusted with schools because of the "need for reform." People are angry because of Jeb's bottom-line "reform" -- the overload of high-stakes testing. So it is satisfying, on one level, that Jeb's "reform" came back to belly-flop him politically. Satisfaction dissipates, though, because even as testing is being reduced in response to parent anger, the myth of failed public education that Jeb and others perpetrated to pave the way for their "reforms" continues to do damage. And it probably is too late to undo it. Florida's system of corporate vouchers appears here to stay, even if (or perhaps because) those schools aren't held to the same accountability standards. Florida's growing system of charter schools will keep growing, even though charters don't do a better job than traditional public schools. Even Florida's Supreme Court has signed on to the pattern of disrespect, refusing to grant teachers standing to demand a full hearing on the constitutionality of corporate vouchers. Even if the high court ultimately blessed the use of those vouchers, the justices at least owe teachers the courtesy of a full hearing at the highest level. Now, we're reaching the point of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parents and teachers are motivated to choose charter schools because they are more popular, because they draw the easiest students to teach, and they bask in legislative love. Traditional schools will find it harder and harder to compete for the dwindling supply of excellent teachers -- dwindling because of the meddling by Jeb and all those -- up to and including the current Legislature and governor -- who have followed in the footsteps of the godfather of testing. It's not enough that the overall effect has been to undermine faith in public education and to erode the supply of teachers -- both of which will hurt students. It's also the case that, if Jeb is right, the discontent helped to elect the spectacularly unqualified President Donald Trump, who installed the spectacularly unqualified Betsy DeVos as education secretary. So what can we say, overall, about Jeb's reforms? Belly flop -- bam.


Key lawmakers to unveil testing legislation today *

Sate Senate President Pro Tem Anitere Flores, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee chairman Rep. Manny Diaz, and House Judiciary committee chairman Rep. Chris Sprowls have announced plans to introduce a bill aimed at scaling back state-mandated student testing today. The three are calling the bill the "Fewer, Better Tests" act, a nod to the direction of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education has taken since Florida's parents have started fighting back against the state's high-stakes testing model that Bush promoted while governor. Language hasn't been made available in advance of the 10:45 a.m. press conference at the state Capitol. But the news alert says the lawmakers' goals are to:

  • Improve and enhance state tests.
  • Move the exams to later in the year (a goal superintendents set forth weeks ago)
  • Provide better student score reports (something the Department of Education said it did a year ago).
  • Ensure teachers get results from local assessments early enough to inform their instruction (note it's local, not state, results).

The move comes at a time when the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee and its members have been vocal about seeking to cut back the state's testing system. Several lawmakers have argued that the model has become too costly -- Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, recently noted at a committee meeting that the Legislature could save money on testing by reducing the number of tests given -- and that it also has taken away too much teaching and learning time. Some lawmakers already have filed measures aimed at tackling some testing issues, such as Rep. Ralph Massullo's HB 407 and Sen. Bill Montford's SB 584. Indications have been that House and Senate officials might prefer to have a single testing bill to debate in both chambers, and with the sway of the sponsors, the "Fewer, Better Tests" act could become that vehicle. The lawmakers' legislation is HB 773 / SB 926, identical bills that would among other things study whether the SAT and ACT tests align with state math and language arts standards to possibly replace some Florida Standards Assessments. It also would mandate that most state testing take place "no earlier than the last three weeks of the school year." Read the bill language. Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the anti-high-stakes testing group FairTest, said he viewed the testing alignment study as "much ado about nothing." He noted the U.S. Department of Education has raised several concerns about whether the two college entry tests actually align with state standards.  The other ideas are "not bad," he continued. However, Schaeffer added, "they do not address Florida's overarching problems of too much testing attached (improperly) to high stakes. This has the fingerprints of Jeb's Foundation all over it from the title on down, as your blog correctly notes. It is attempt to 'change the optics' without doing much about the substance."


Lawmakers considered forbidding teachers from withholding recess. Not this year.


About 200 Treasure Coast teachers get controversial bonuses (Vicki Rodriguez and Liz Cannon quoted, FEA mentioned)


Brevard School Board OKs plan to build and reopen schools, reopen (Vanessa Skipper quoted)


Agreement reached allowing midyear teacher transfers in Pasco (Kenny Blankenship and Jim Ciadella quoted)


State: No further investigation into Clay student miscoding allegations


How Palm Beach public schools discourage public dissent


Jefferson could become charter school district


“School choice is not serving the most disenfranchised”


Trump praises DeVos, saying she endured a “very unfair trial”


Who Trump invited to talk about schools says a lot about his education priorities


You said no to DeVos, here’s how to say yes to students (by Lily Eskelsen García)


School turnaround report falls short


How “twisted” early childhood education has become


Listen to the voices of teachers of early childhood classes


It’s 2017, and girls still don’t think they are as smart as boys, research shows


In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant


Idaho lawmakers vote to remove climate information from science curriculum


FAMU faculty union approves contract offer in 122-0 vote (Elizabeth Davenport quoted)


UF president backs teacher funds, block tuition


Record number apply to University of Florida


Did FGCU's provost deserve chance to be president?


An alternative to remedial college classes gets results


Legislature wants to change state workers' health plan

Legislators are pushing a plan that could cut the cost of providing health insurance to state workers, but union leaders warn that workers risk paying more for less coverage in years to come. State workers could choose less coverage in their health insurance benefit and pocket some of the savings under a plan the Legislature is considering. A House committee Tuesday approved a proposal that would among other things create four separate coverage packages at different price points for workers to choose from beginning in 2020. Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, predicted the plan would produce savings by empowering employees to shop around and thereby introduce competition into the insurance market. Representatives of the United Faculty of Florida and the AFL-CIO expressed "serious concerns" about the plan. Marshall Ogletree, executive director for the union representing university faculty, reminded the committee that Florida is a low-wage state and a generous health insurance plan somewhat makes up for that. And Rich Templin of the AFL-CIO said amidst all the talk about choices and splitting the savings with workers, a very important point was left unsaid. "This legislation represents a cost-shift for the overwhelming majority of the participants," said Templin. "A shift from the state back to the workers with the exception of a group of largely young, single men."

Scott tax cut plan draws doubts


Scott hits the road, seeking political payback


Governor vs. speaker: a (not-so) civil war


Scott’s budget would raid affordable housing trust funds


Bill would allow two officials of same board to meet in private


AIF workers’ comp fix would make employees pay their own attorney fees


House puts focus on local ethics rules


Thousands of mortgages could be at risk because of insurance abuse


Florida Bar will oppose legislative “override” proposals


Stop attacks on the judiciary


Juvenile justice reform barely survives its first legislative hearing


In historic moment for Jacksonville, LGBT discrimination protections become law


Lawmakers consider guns at bars, polling places, games, campuses


Florida dealt setback in water wars with Georgia — but case is far from over


Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence


Flynn’s downfall sprang from “eroding level of trust”


Flynn episode “darkens the cloud” of Russia that hangs over Trump administration


What did Trump know and when did he know it?


Democrats demand inquiry of Russian role in U.S. affairs; GOP concern grows


Rubio: Flynn matter best handled under broader investigation into meddling


Flynn departure erupts into a full-blown crisis for the Trump White House


Ex-admiral and member of Navy SEALs is top choice to replace Flynn


With Flynn’s resignation, a new focus on the Logan Act


Eight questions that remain after Flynn's resignation


The fall of Flynn: a timeline


Russia deploys missile, violating treaty and challenging Trump


Sessions resists pressure to remove himself in Russia inquiries


“Unbelievable turmoil”: Trump’s first month leaves Washington reeling


One afternoon, three investigations? The Trump White House’s ominous day.


Pence remains above the fray, but is he outside the inner circle?


Trump lays the groundwork for a nationwide voter intimidation program


Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes.


No non-citizens voted in voter fraud case cited by White House


Older judges and vacant seats give Trump huge power to shape courts


Gorsuch could be the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court


Who’d want to limit retirement plans? House Republicans


Can immigration hurt the economy? An old prejudice returns


Report accuses ICE of delaying and denying medical care to detained immigrants


ICE arrest of Apalachicola man fuels fears


Immigrant protected under Obama program now fights his arrest


An immigrant mother in Denver weighs options as deportation looms


Federal officials arrest Dreamer brought to U.S. illegally as a child


Yemeni students, unable to return home, face uncertain status in America


Surprised? Florida's economy greatly impacted by immigrants


Activists are pushing for Pinellas to be declared a sanctuary county


What are your rights if border agents want to search your phone?


ICE cancels meeting to discuss immigration raids with Hispanic Caucus leadership


Doubts grow that GOP can repeal Obamacare


Humana plans to pull out of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges


Protesters call on Rubio to hold town hall on Obamacare


GOP may boost Medicaid spending in order to slash the program


We created Medicare for the elderly. Why not do the same for children?


Disabled, shunned and silenced in Trump’s America


Obamacare repeal would gut opioid treatment gains, study finds


Calling pregnant women “hosts”? We're in an anti-choice Republican dystopia


Bondi steps into federal case over state’s abortion law


Democrats set sights on blocking Trump’s labor secretary pick


The questions Trump's labor secretary nominee Puzder must answer


Puzder “vowed revenge” after she alleged abuse, ex-wife told Oprah


Trump has pulled an epic bait-and-switch


Senate Democrats battling every nomination could hurt Trump’s policies


Goldman stock hits record on bets Trump will unleash Wall Street


White House upheaval complicates Netanyahu visit


Trump’s shift to “outside-in” strategy for Mideast peace is a long shot


Deputy CIA director could face court deposition over post-9/11 role in torture


Republicans block Democrats’ effort to get Trump's tax returns


Ethics watchdog denounces Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump products




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