Today's news -- February 27, 2017




Charters vs. traditional: Debate resumes over capital aid *

Once again, Florida lawmakers will try to force school districts to share part of their local tax dollars with charter schools so that those privately managed schools can enjoy the same access to funding for maintenance and construction projects as traditional public schools. The Legislature tried to enact such a mandate in 2015 and came close to doing it last year, too — until the House rejected a Senate plan to prevent charter-school operators from profiting off the taxpayer funding they receive. One year later, the debate resumes. The Senate is taking the lead this time by not only reviving its proposal to ban “personal financial enrichment” of charter school operators as a condition of getting public dollars for capital projects, but by pairing it with another controversial idea. One Senate Republican leader, with some Democratic support, wants to let school boards raise taxes to generate more capital funding for their local schools’ needs. But that plan has already hit a roadblock — House Republicans and some senators who are wary of being labeled as having supported a “tax increase.” “There’s fundamental principles that got us here as Republicans, and you have to always be mindful of what those tenets are,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. “Raising taxes is just one of those things that, I think, in the end hurts more than it helps.” The pair of bills by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs and pre-K-12 education budget chairman, got off to a mixed start last week. Members of the Senate Education Committee advanced Simmons’ bill (SB 376) to require districts to share their local tax revenue with charter schools, but he was forced to delay his companion proposal (SB 604), which would raise the local tax-rate cap. Simmons said he wants to amend it and make it more palatable to his reluctant colleagues. School boards have sought for years to get the Legislature to raise the cap on how much districts can collect in additional local revenue for school capital projects. Lawmakers first allowed the extra tax in 1980, when the rate was capped at $2 per $1,000 in taxable property value. During the economic recession in 2008 and 2009 -- when property values plummeted around the state -- the Legislature gradually reduced that cap to the current rate of $1.50 per $1,000 in taxable property value. Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, is now leading the push to restore the cap to its original level. He says Simmons’ initial proposal this year of raising the rate to $1.70 per $1,000 in taxable property value isn’t sufficient to meet districts’ growing -- and backlogged -- capital needs. “Over the course of time, districts have lost billions of dollars in capital outlay revenue” since the Legislature reduced the cap, Farmer said. “Schools are forced to borrow money and carry tremendous debt service to simply maintain our schools, fix roofs and other capital outlays that are necessary.” But no politician wants to be accused of raising taxes, so Farmer and his allies have prepared their defense: “I don’t view this as a tax increase,” Farmer said. “I view it as returning to a level that we had supported and enacted as a state and as a legislative body in recognition of the capital needs of our schools.” Simmons phrased it another way, emphasizing that it would be local school board members — not the Legislature — who would actually make the decision to raise local taxes. “This does not require — and this is not — a tax increase. It simply authorizes local control over a local issue,” he said. Potentially requiring school districts to share their coveted tax revenue presents a different bitter battle.


Help me fight for public education *

When millions of Americans stood up in opposition to a person who will lead our nation’s education system — citing lack of experience and that person’s long-standing efforts to dismantle public education — we spoke with one voice. We fought for public education and stood for for our children and our communities. Yet 50 senators voted in a way that made so many people believe that no one was listening. Don’t feel helpless. The fight for our children and the future of education does not reside in Washington. It resides with the educators, school administrators, parents, students, local leaders and our communities that together, serve as advocates, champions and protectors of education in this country. As someone who lives, breathes and is a product of public education, here’s how I think we continue to fight for education.  I am a parent of three children enrolled in public schools, and I am an alumnus of the same public school system my children attend. I am an alumnus of a large public university where I am a faculty member and administrator. I work with hard-working faculty that prepare some of the most talented and diverse educators in the United States.  Unfortunately, what we’re seeing at the federal level today is the culmination of an “education reform” movement that has moved money out of public education and demonized teachers. Across the state and throughout Central Florida, college students are pursuing education degrees at significantly lower rates. And despite evidence that the reform movement is failing students and teachers, Florida’s charter system has been identified as a model for federal policy. Yet, I am inspired and empowered by my fellow educators, parents and citizens who have chosen to fight for a basic tenet of education. Education is a right, not a privilege. Over the last few weeks, citizens across the country have advocated and acted together to support brilliant and conscientious students – ones who succeed despite circumstances that would typically deem them ineligible. They called legislators — when the lines weren’t busy — to remind them that the education of all students, including those with disabilities, is law. They wrote to remind their legislators that we expect them to support laws designed to keep students on college campuses safe from sexual assault. Now, they’re standing up for LGBTQ students’ rights in schools.  In Orlando, schools staged protests, teachers wore black, and parents traveled with them to the state capital to speak for education. Central Florida, home to the 11th-largest school district in the nation and one of the largest universities in the country, is positioned to serve as a model for the state and beyond.  So what now? How do we — educators, parents, citizens, and students — ensure public education remains a pillar of our democracy?  I ask that everyone keep up the commitment to listen and pay attention to what’s being reported in education, not just at the federal level, but locally and especially at the state. Know your Central Florida legislators and those who represent you at the state and federal levels. Demand that they listen to the constituents who have come out to support public education. Call, write, and protest if you see educational rights dismantled. Visit local schools in the greater Orlando community — and not just the ones your kids attend. Listen to the voices of school principals, teachers, families, and community leaders. Listen to the voices of students! Support their efforts and ensure they are protected from those who aim to profit from education.  Students, stand up! Legislators think you are asleep at your latest electronic device. You don’t vote, they say. Show them you care and tell them what you expect from them. Even if you’re still too young to vote — speak your mind. Your voice matters. Educators, join your unions. Fight for what you believe in. Let your voice and expertise drive what we know is best for our communities. We have allowed various stakeholders to make decisions that fail to support what you work to achieve every day. You have a movement behind you. Capitalize on the groundswell of support. Change must come and it must come from you. We are with you.


Florida teacher evaluations: Most everyone good or very good


Hidden inside “fewer, better tests” is plenty of baloney


State Department of Education looks at tougher passing scores for alternate tests


Impact of proposal to abolish U.S. Department of Education (Donna Harper quoted, FEA mentioned)


The price of mentoring? Why this Boca Raton teacher is being fired (Kathi Gundlach quoted)


Public school employees deserve whistleblower protections, lawmakers suggest


DeVos and Republicans plan to cut free and reduced lunch programs


DeVos drew the wrong lesson from the failure of Obama and Duncan


DeVos' "biblical worldview" teen politics camp


Voucher students get dismal results


Milwaukee: the failed promise of vouchers


Ohio governor is trying to impose this misguided mandate on teachers


Louisiana charter school board member resigned after $120,000 deal with school


Oscar nominees: FSU film school is nation’s “hidden secret”


Higher education reform could cost UCF millions


Historically black colleges face challenges, but seeing more interest amid tensions


Legislating free speech? Toughen up, buttercup


Corcoran and Negron see cities and counties' role differently


Legislature acts like Big Brother


Do more to help working Floridians escape financial peril


Legislators want Congress to "dismantle" judicial branch of government


The state of Florida's shrinking and revolving-door work force


What could Florida lawmakers do to keep kids from being shot?


Trayvon Martin: Five years after his death, struggle for civil rights continues


Private prison deprived inmates of heat and hot water, lawmaker finds


Miami-Dade’s rents are so high, they are quadruple what renters in other cities pay


Grand jury calls Florida agency inept and ill-suited to probe condo complaints


Flores wants to replace one tax cut with another


New state parks director resigns


Congress takes up states’ water wars dispute


In Florida, solemn shadows of the early Underground Railroad


Black news channel to launch in 2018, organizers say


Palm Beach aims to weigh benefits of Trump visits against costs


Scott elected vice chairman of Republican Governors Association


Rubio on skipping town halls: Activists will “heckle and scream at me”


Protesters: Dunn blew red light to avoid us


Congressman who wants to kill the EPA gets blasted at his town hall


Administration puts out blueprint for Trump’s immigration crackdown


Immigration agents discover new freedom to deport under Trump


Department of Homeland Security officially spreading lies about immigrant crime


No evidence of terrorist threat from travel ban countries, says DHS draft report


White House plan to hire more border agents raises vetting fear, ex-official says


Trump administration seeks to loosen hiring requirements to beef up Border Patrol


The new immigration order: A disaster in the making


The immigration facts Trump doesn’t want you to know


Trump immigration policies pose conflict for police in “sanctuary cities”


Muslim refugees were admitted at a lower rate during Trump’s refugee ban


Legal groups planning for Trump’s next attack on immigrants and refugees


Trump needs to stop terrifying immigrant families and consider the real cost


After travel ban, interest in trips to U.S. declines


Buffett: “Talented and ambitious immigrants” make the U.S. economy great


They may not be documented. But they do pay taxes.


Hate crime is feared as two Indian engineers are shot in Kansas


After Kansas shootings, Indians are wary of coming to U.S.


Worshippers relocate after arson fire damages Thonotosassa mosque


Dozens of headstones damaged and overturned at Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia


Wasserman Schultz calls attention to anti-Semitic incidents


After Trump’s immigration order, anxiety grows in Florida’s farm fields


Here’s why it’s so difficult to be a Syrian refugee in South Florida


South Florida immigrants fearing deportation under new crackdown


Miami immigration lawyers: Possible visa changes could devastate economy


Deported with a valid U.S. visa, Jordanian says message is “you're not welcome”


Border agents ask Muhammad Ali's son: “Are you a Muslim?”


U.S. detains and nearly deports French Holocaust historian


What it’s like to have your parents deported


Take stand against religion-based hate and anti-Semitic threats


Advocates warn “dreamers” to lie low as Trump ramps up deportation plans


Trump’s soft spot for “dreamers” alienates immigration hard-liners


Courts can be undermined in these three ways. This is how to protect them.


Mexico tells U.S. it will refuse deportees from other countries


Trump’s taunts are stirring a level of nationalism Mexico hasn’t seen in years


Two polls show highest support of Affordable Care Act since 2010


Activist muscle gives Obamacare a lift


Leaked GOP Obamacare replacement shrinks subsidies, Medicaid expansion


Study: ACA enrollees’ costs would spike under Republican plans


The adults a Medicaid work requirement would leave behind


A divided White House still offers little guidance on replacing Obamacare


Fort Pierce woman “saved” by Obamacare being brought to Trump address


My night in town hall hell


Demings vows to defend Affordable Care Act at town hall


Mast faces fire in marathon town hall from constituents angry at Trump


After town halls, Bilirakis says much of Obamacare still needs to go


Francis Rooney absent, protesters rally for Obamacare


King: “Screaming” town hall protesters “diminish democracy”


Christie tells GOP lawmakers to hold town halls: “You asked for the job. Go do it.”


How the humble town hall became a battle arena for the Trump resistance


Republicans take freedom away -- in the name of freedom


Trump’s preposterous rationale for revoking transgender bathroom rights


Parents of transgender children request meeting with Trump, DeVos, Sessions


LCS, FSU keep transgender protections after Trump administration reversal


First Pride Fort Lauderdale of the Trump era: “Many of us are scared”


Republicans claim their tax cuts will mostly help the middle class. It’s a lie.


Did someone say “tax code rewrite”? Lobbyists scramble.


Is Trump already messing with government data?


Trump is upset the media is not reporting a meaningless statistic about debt


Trump sought intelligence officials, lawmakers to counter Russia stories


Trump intensifies his attacks on journalists and condemns FBI “leakers”


Trump’s blistering speech at CPAC follows Bannon’s blueprint


Trump tells conservative gathering that his supporters are the GOP’s future


Fact-checking Trump’s CPAC speech


House Republican now wants special prosecutor on Trump-Russia scandals


Most Americans want Congress to probe Trump team's contact with Russia


White House: Too early to say whether a special prosecutor needed


White House dodging questions of Sessions' role in FBI probe


The Trump White House just inflicted a serious wound on itself


Trump’s attack on ‘nine sources’ sounds a lot like the story that started Flynn chaos


Spicer cracks down on leaks, puts staff through “phone check”


Spicer is losing his grip


The big news is not the FBI leaks. It’s what’s in the leaks.


Even if White House is telling the truth about FBI talks, Priebus violated the rules


Comey in middle of political fray over Trump and Russians


A note to the White House and FBI: Politics and justice should not mix


The story of the week is Trump, Russia and the FBI; the rest is a distraction


White House blocks news organizations from press briefing


Reporter: When I asked about being blocked, aide said “you’re threatening me”


The Trump White House’s press problems just keep getting worse


The remarkable inconsistency of Trump’s attacks on the media


In December, Spicer said barring media access is what a “dictatorship” does


Trump embraces “enemy of the people,” a phrase with a fraught history


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