Today's news -- February 24, 2017




Plasencia: “No one actively lobbying against” daily recess mandate


Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep protections for transgender students


Central Florida schools accommodate transgender students “case-by-case”


As transgender issue heads to high court, Tampa Bay districts wait for direction


Trump breaks a promise on transgender rights


One in every 137 teenagers would identify as transgender, report says


Transgender kids are bullied all the time. The White House is helping the bullies.


Bathroom case puts transgender student on national stage


DeVos defends rollback of protection for transgender students


DeVos is publicly polite, but a political fighter


FSA opt-out movement not gaining traction in St. Johns


Dubin: An ode to Lori White


Lawmaker seeks to make it easier to challenge school instructional materials


Why schools aren’t businesses: That old blueberry story


Senate could vote on higher ed in first week of session

A top priority of Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is ready for the full Senate to vote on when the 2017 session begins March 7. The higher education package — formerly two bills now blended into one (SB 2) -- includes a variety of reforms intended to elevate Florida’s State University System and its state colleges to a more competitive level, nationally and internationally. “We should be at the very top of our game in our state university and college system,” said Bradenton Republican Sen. Bill Galvano, the higher ed budget chairman who spearheaded the legislation. “We should raise expectations, and that’s what we’re doing.” SB 2 --dubbed the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017” -- advanced unanimously out of the Senate’s full budget committee Thursday with some additional revisions. Negron said the bill will be among the first considered by the chamber during the first week of session next month. House companion bills (HB 3 and HB 5), filed last month by Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, have not yet been considered by that chamber’s committees. The proposed reforms include:

  • Changing accountability metrics -- which are linked to state performance funding -- so as to promote on-time graduation for public university and college students.
  • Improving financial aid for students, such as restoring 100-percent funding for Bright Futures scholars, creating a scholarship program for migrant workers and their children, expanding the Benacquisto Scholar program to allow out-of-state students to qualify, and revising the 1st Generation Matching Grant Program.
  • Requiring universities to implement block-tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state full-time students by fall 2018.
  • Establishing an articulation program to better help students begin their higher education at a state college and finish at a state university.
  • Establishing programs to recruit and retain top faculty at Florida’s public universities.

Marshall Ogletree, who represents the United Faculty of Florida, said block tuition “is not a bad idea.” “But I know everybody is a little nervous about it,” he said. “How do we make it revenue neutral? How do we make sure we don't lose funding?”


Florida to legislate free speech on college campuses?

The issue of free speech on college campuses reached its nadir earlier this month when protests regarding the appearance of far-right writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos caused more than $100,000 damage to the University of Berkeley campus. Yiannapoulos speech was ultimately canceled, just as it was two weeks after protests erupted before his appearance at the University of California at Davis. The day after the Berkeley cancellation, President Trump threatened to pull federal funds from the university for canceling the event. On Thursday, the Florida House Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education heard from conservative academic Stanley Kurtz Thursday about the Campus Free Speech Act, a piece of proposed legislation that he says would defend free speech in Florida universities. “When protesters disrupt speakers or break in on meetings and take them over to list demands, administrators tend to look the other way,” Kurtz said. “Students have come to take it for granted that they will face no discipline for such disruptions, administrators themselves often disinvite controversial speakers and limit the exercise of liberty to narrow and highly regulated so-called free speech zones. University boards and trustees rarely act to curb these administrative abuses.” The remedy to address these issues on college campuses is what Kurtz calls the Campus Free Speech Act, a proposal he calls “the most comprehensive legislative proposal ever offered to restore and protect campus free speech.” Kurtz, who is with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, co-wrote the report with James Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute last month. It calls to:

  • Create an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
  • Prevent administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
  • Establish a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
  • Allow persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
  • Reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
  • Ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
  • Authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

Kurtz received pushback from Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, who said he was concerned about activists who are using hate speech and calling it free speech. Referring to an incident on the University of Central Florida where groups posted anti-Semitic stickers and fliers around dormitories, Smith asked Kurtz if that was speech was protected under his legislation? Kurtz said it was. John K. Wilson, who writes a blog for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), has criticized the proposal. “The Goldwater Institute proposal should be rejected and opposed in every state legislature,” he wrote earlier this month. “It includes some worthy ideas for colleges to adopt to protect free expression on campus, but they are outweighed by the flawed provisions and the use of legislative repression to achieve these goals.”


Depleted UF counseling center asks for state funding


FGCU presidential candidates answer questions


DeVos: Colleges tell students “what to do, what to say … what to think”


Universities are worried about government funding for scientific research


Yale graduate teachers vote to unionize


Senate Democrats seek answers about a Trump higher ed task force


Falwell: It was Bannon’s idea that I lead education task force


Scott to court: Throw out Corcoran’s Lottery lawsuit


Corcoran praises Scott after he's hit with attack ad by governor's political machine


Corcoran concedes “we'll get there” on a joint rule with Senate over budget


No firebrand, but Negron says he's just as committed to principles


Session opening day schedule set


Lawmakers back higher threshold for ballot initiatives


Senator introduces bill making it illegal for protesters to block traffic


Top court: Judge was wrong to ban abortions at Planned Parenthood in Kissimmee


House bill a barrier to legal abortions


Reproductive rights at forefront of FIU rally


Trump might return to Mar-a-Lago on March 3


Trump expected to huddle with top GOP donors in Palm Beach


Rubio skedaddles from demonstrator over skipping town halls


Dunn shuns citizens calling for town hall


Trump touts recent immigration raids, calls them a “military operation”


DHS chief softens Trump's talk on immigration


Report: Undocumented immigrants contribute $437 million to South Florida


Leon county commissioner urges cops not to enforce DHS immigration guidelines


Trump’s immigration policies help convince the city of Miami to decriminalize pot


Wasserman Schultz denounces Trump administration immigration changes


Crist invites 8th grader and advocate for Syrian refugees to attend Trump speech


Trump says Republican border tax could boost U.S. jobs


I was a Muslim in Trump's White House


Federal agents ask air passengers to show IDs in search for immigrant


He yelled “Get out of my country,” witnesses say, and then shot men from India


The gun violence Trump won’t talk about


Rising walls, falling bridges


Takeaways from a week of raucous town halls


No evidence town hall protesters are being paid


GOPer who won’t hold town hall invokes Giffords, who says: “Have some courage”


A tale of two town halls


Under fire, Matt Gaetz calls for Trump tax returns


Webster talks with constituents at emotional meeting in Minneola


Mast has first town hall as GOP faces angry crowds


Tom Rooney greets protesters, agrees to town hall


At Democrat’s “listening session,” concern about Trump, minus the jeers


Death and tax cuts


Pence: “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end”


Boehner: Republicans won't repeal and replace Obamacare


The jobs Americans do


AFL-CIO dismissing staff amid declines in membership


Trump’s “big fat bubble” trouble in the stock market


Air Force stumped by Trump's claim of $1 billion savings on jet


How Citizens United gave Republicans a bonanza of seats in legislatures


Justice Department keeps for-profit prisons, scrapping an Obama plan


Spicer: Feds could step up enforcement against marijuana use in states


Trump's words send Cabinet on perpetual clean-up mission


The nurses who lost their jobs thanks to Trump’s new labor secretary nominee


“We need them here,” Trump labor pick once said of unauthorized immigrants


Bannon’s not-so-subtle threat to the media


Commander of bin Laden raid slams Trump’s anti-media sentiment


Bannon vows a daily fight for “deconstruction of the administrative state”


FBI refused White House request to knock down Trump-Russia stories


Democrats slam White House over report it asked FBI to downplay Russia stories


Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation may have finally gone too far


Trump, Putin, and the new Cold War


Russia’s assault on America’s elections is just one example of a global threat




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