Today's news -- February 6, 2012

“Any way you slice and dice the numbers, Florida’s new way of ranking its 67 school districts -- based solely on FCAT results, a one-shot test -- tells parents and taxpayers absolutely nothing about the quality of their public schools, be they traditional schools or charters. Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson say they aren’t trying to ‘stigmatize’ districts that score near the bottom. Instead, Mr. Robinson says the new way of ranking districts -- ignoring such things as poverty levels, the number of students learning English as a second language and year-over-year improvements among minorities -- will ‘provide an opportunity for local community leaders to say “What can we do as a community?”’ After a decade of reforms and setting an ever-higher bar for students’ performance (a race to achieve that this editorial board supports), the state’s new measure is a simpleton’s way that ignores today’s complex reality. It does not take into account the size of a district, whether it’s rural, urban or suburban or schools’ progress or lack of it year after year on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It ignores how many students are taking AP courses and passing, how many of them are minorities or poor and whether there’s improvement. It’s all based on one score. Ridiculous.”

-- Miami Herald editorial.


 “Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you're paying education, you know what's going to happen? I've heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education's going to go up.' That's never proven to happen, guys. It's a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher's pay scale, you'll attract people who aren't called to teach. To go in and raise someone's child for eight hours a day, or many people's children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn't want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It's just in them to do. It's the ability that God give them. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn't matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity. If you don't keep that in balance, you're going to attract people who are not called, who don't need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance."
-- Alabama state Sen. Shadrack McGill, who also called for higher pay for lawmakers, to “prevent corruption.”

“Parent trigger” bill stirs praise, fear over what it means

Karen Francis-Winston joined the advisory committee at her child's school, intent on improving academics and discipline. Things did get better at the Ocala middle school, but she always wished she had more leverage. Francis-Winston specifically wants a "parent-trigger'' law that would force public school administrators to heed the wishes of moms and dads. "Right now, there's not that fear," she said. "The fact that they know I could be pushing the parent trigger would make them move faster than they would have." She may get her wish this year. The Parent Empowerment Act -- legislation with its roots in California -- is gaining traction in the Florida Legislature, despite concerns that it might open the door to privately run charter schools taking over traditional ones. Opponents argue the bill, which has the backing of big business and former Gov. Jeb Bush, is really a way for charter school companies to persuade unsuspecting parents to turn on their public school. "It's just a method for uninformed, inactive parents to be used to shut schools down," said Rita Solnet, a Palm Beach parent and cofounder of Parents Across America, which advocates against school privatization. "This is very bad for our community."


ALEC education "academy" launches on island resort


New bill being proposed to redistribute funds for traditional schools


Pinellas teachers protest, demand more funding (Kim Black and a number of teachers are quoted in these reports),AAAAAFif1zs~,HOg5vNGW0TKvzBiSlufTeaOipMdF933g&bclid=2652468001&bctid=1430369118001


BESPA members protest possible privatization


Some Hillsborough students pass mid-term exams with fewer than half the correct answers (Jean Clements quoted)


How did formerly A-rated school fall to F?,0,7402769.column


Measuring teachers, credibly


Teacher for the future


NEA legislative report card shows a Congress divided


Ellen DeGeneres: public education’s new funding stream (Sara Ferguson featured);jsessionid=3AFC0B60F67A7B7B9F311D83F276DF06


Memo from austerity land to teachers: Caring no longer counts


Grading Tennessee teachers: Value-added formula raises alarm for some


Pennsylvania schools’ financing fight pits district against “charter on steroids”


Union upset by comments from Chicago mayor on schools


In Texas, a backlash against student testing


Respect Hispanics’ educational aspirations


Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms?,0,639053.column


New tool to clearly disclose 403(b) fees (Lisa Sotir quoted)


Criticizing (common criticisms of) praise


Florida can’t afford to keep being cheap


Will UF be given greater autonomy?


Teacher-training reviews well in hand,0,6346422.story


Panel discusses misleading recruiting, stat-keeping practices at for-profit colleges


Florida prison privatization push stalls despite big spending

Millions of dollars in campaign contributions from for-profit prison companies may not be enough this year to push through a prison privatization plan that is a priority of Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders. The push to privatize one-fifth of the state corrections facilities along with all inmate health care could net prison companies hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts, and those companies have spent millions in the past year trying to win support for the plan. But Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who made the prison outsourcing one of his top goals, put the bill on hold twice last week because he lacked the votes within his Republican caucus to pass it. Research by The Palm Beach Post shows that Boca Raton-based GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, have contributed nearly $2 million to candidates and political parties since Scott's election. GEO has contributed at least $475,000 in the past year, including $336,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. During the 2010 election cycle, the company contributed at least $880,000 -- more than two-thirds of that going to the Republican Party -- including $25,000 to defray costs of Scott's inauguration. Just before last year's legislative session kicked off in March, GEO gave $25,000 to a political committee headed by House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. CCA contributed a minimum of $38,500 for the 2012 election cycle and at least $62,000 for the 2010 Florida elections. The contributions do not include money given by principals of the corporations or their lobbyists.


Ugly rush by powerful lawmakers to privatize prisons


Florida Democrats working to change budget conversation


Collecting sales tax on internet purchases makes sense as part of tax modernization


Florida still losing ground in wages despite uptick in jobs


At halfway point, Florida legislators are two houses divided,0,1144181.story


House OKs new redistricting map


Bill puts new restrictions on Workforce Florida boards,0,1478649.story


Make Florida’s spending more accountable, efficient


Legislature takes up hot-button issues amid budget, redistricting,0,7907844.column


Lawmakers owe citizens more respect,0,1291839.story


Ethics bill left on cutting room floor of Capitol


New Florida think tank is anything but transparent


Casino bill just about dead after lack of House panel support


House gives speedy approval to bill backing state water quality rules


High-speed rail would have been profitable, state report says


Did tax money go to lobbying?,0,1057867.story


Watchdogs for environment neutered


January job gains have economists rethinking outlooks


Things are not OK


AFL-CIO urges Obama to postpone Colombia free trade agreement after union leader murders


Congress appears to be trying to get around earmark ban



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