Today's news -- February 16, 2012


“The cupboard of solutions isn’t bare; many of today’s education reforms just don’t deal with the real problems. Reduce the income gap. Adopt policies that address the effects of poverty in schools. Recognize that control and compliance reform strategies don’t improve education. Make it easier to deal with ineffective teachers, but stop bashing schools. See educators as partners in a search for solutions. Make teaching an honored profession. Spend money to attract and develop a stronger teaching force. Invest in smaller classes. Finance early-childhood education. Set high standards, but reduce the obsession with test scores. Promote smart, passionate and innovative teaching. We know what many of the answers are. But we just have to ask the right questions first.”

-- Michael  McGill, in a letter to The New York Times.






Florida graduation rate plunges under new federal rules

Florida has recalculated its best-ever 2011 high-school graduation rate using tough, new federal rules -- and the Sunshine State's new figure isn't nearly as sunny. The new method of determining how many students made it to commencement drops Florida's 2011 graduation rate -- which was an all-time high -- from 80.1 to 70.6.percent. States, which sometimes used their own methods to calculate graduation rates, are required to use the federal "uniform, comparable graduation rate" starting this year. In Florida, the change could impact high schools' annual A-to-F grades, which are based in part on their graduation rates. The Florida Department of Education recalculated previous years' rates using the new method and posted the data Wednesday. The new data still shows the state's graduation rate has climbed significantly since 2007, but the starting and ending rates are much lower. The federal rate is tougher because it counts as graduates only students who earn a standard diploma within four years. It doesn't count students with disabilities who earn "special" diplomas. It also doesn't allow schools to wipe from their books students who transferred to adult education programs. Instead, those students count against a school because they are not graduates.,0,4800233.story

Manatee teachers to see 1.75 percent pay cut, furloughs (MEA mentioned)


Franklin School Board backs levy fight (Rik McNeill quoted)


Pasco lifts firewall to allow YouTube videos in classroom (USEP mentioned)


Gent named new Palm Beach superintendent (CTA mentioned),0,5598181.story


Florida charter school funding bill worries bond rating agency


Will new food rules fill students' bellies? Or trash cans?,0,683076.story


Emails reveal depth of skepticism over new Pinellas School Board member


Senate wants seventh graders to get meningitis vaccine


Are public schools unfairly blamed for America’s economic woes?


Common Core Standards inspire hope among experts (AFT mentioned)


The New Haven experiment


$127 million poured into lobbying legislators in 2011
They are waging multi-year campaigns to build billion-dollar casinos, get their tax bills reduced, break into the renewable energy business, and fight over the right of injured parties to sue. They are the more than 2,500 utilities, telecommunications giants, trade groups, unions, developers, casinos and professional associations that spend big money to lobby Florida lawmakers. And according to new state data due this week, they spent $127 million to lobby the Florida Legislature in 2011. That total tops the $116 million spent in 2010 to influence state legislators -- a figure that represents the mean of all individual contracts, most of which are reported to the state in $10,000 ranges. The 2011 total is roughly $30 million more annually than when lawmakers first started requiring contract lobbyists to disclose their pay ranges in 2006. Tops on the list is AT&T, which has pushed telecommunications de-regulatory legislation for years in Tallahassee, and spent $1.68 million on legislative lobbyists last year. U.S. Sugar Corp spent $907,000, and rival sugar-grower Florida Crystals wasn't far behind at $570,000. Boca Raton’s GEO Group, which lobbied lawmakers to put prison privatization into last year's budget and again in support of this year's now-doomed privatization push, spent $645,000 on legislative lobbyists. The Florida Education Association is 65th on the list, behind (among others) Associated Industries, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Charter Schools USA, Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Broward School Board, the Carlton Palms Educational Center and just a little ahead of Pearson.

Education Department plan reflects spirit of NEA's 3-Point Plan to improve the profession (Dennis Van Roekel quoted)

Florida public corruption ranks fourth in U.S.


Leak offers glimpse of campaign against climate science (and an inside look at right-wing think tanks)


Senate budget would have universities dig into reserves


Firestorm from USF brings end to 58 percent funding cut plan


Senators try to explain the inexplicable on USF cuts


USF's fight for fairness


A textbook lesson in bad leadership


Alexander should stop tantrums, bullying over USF Poly


Remove Alexander from budget panel


Florida the fifth most financially distressed state

Floridian households are among the nation's most likely to be in financial distress, according to CredAbility’s Consumer Distress Index for fourth quarter 2011. Florida scores a 63.06 on the index’s 100-point scale against a national average of 67.6, making it the fifth most-distressed of all 50 states. Florida’s fourth-quarter score was a slight improvement from the third quarter score of 62.73; however, for the year it fell from 63.55 in the first quarter. The quarterly index tracks the financial condition of the average U.S. household by measuring five categories: Employment, housing, credit, how families manage household budgets and net worth. A score below 70 indicates a state of financial distress.


Senate panel signs off on $70.8 billion budget


Senate budget hurts people who need help


More giveaways for business: House passes $121 million tax cut package,0,5001404.story


Two Senate bills would shrink paychecks


With redistricting lawsuits pending, legislators want broad immunity


Judging the lines


Haridopolos: Redistricting schedule may mean special session


Private prisons are a bad idea


Random drug testing bill for state workers in limbo


Unions sue over plan to privatize prison health care system


Excess profit ban is lifted for workers' comp carriers


Legislation to speed foreclosures sparks protest


Federal oversight needed to ensure Florida Medicaid serves those in need


Bill to encourage oil drilling on state lands amended to apply only to areas west of Tallahassee


House OKs bills extending alternative water permits and authorizing statewide wetlands permit


You want “business friendly?” Look at China


Panel completes last details of payroll tax cut extension


Audit uncovers extensive flaws in foreclosures


Right-wing groups to pressure states and localities to purge voter rolls


House bill would open Gulf drilling


NEA to help set the record straight and hold politicians accountable for false attacks (Dennis Van Roekel quoted)

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