Today's news -- January 3, 2017




“Best and Brightest” could face changes *

The controversial "Best and Brightest" bonus program for Florida teachers could be headed for changes in the upcoming legislative session, though the dimensions of those revisions are still murky. Gov. Rick Scott has signaled that he will propose a different way to attract and keep high-quality teachers in the state's public schools. House leaders, the current program's strongest backers, have indicated they are open to some changes. And at least some members of the Senate, which has resisted Best and Brightest's reliance on teachers' test scores in awarding bonuses, appear to be interested in taking another run at overhauling the program. Adding to the questions about the program: The author of Best and Brightest, former House Education Appropriations Chairman Erik Fresen, and one of its chief critics, former Senate Education PreK-12 Chairman John Legg, are no longer in the Legislature. "Just strap on your seat belt for that (discussion), because it will be an interesting journey," said Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who chairs the Senate's public-schools budget panel, at a recent committee meeting. The chief complaint about Best and Brightest is its reliance on teachers' scores on college admissions tests. Under Best and Brightest, first approved by lawmakers in 2015, teachers who are highly rated and scored in the top fifth of the test results on the SAT or ACT, are eligible for bonuses of up to $10,000. But critics say using exams like the SAT and the ACT is unfair to older teachers, whose scores are decades old or who don't have ready access to the information. The state's largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, filed a complaint in 2015 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the program discriminates on the basis of age and race. The Florida Board of Education has approved a budget plan that would do away with the program, which received $49 million in the budget year that runs until June 30. Lawmakers will start their annual session in March and will approve a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Under the Board of Education plan, the Florida Department of Education would create a $43 million program that would "support bonuses for new teachers who show great potential for and veteran teachers who have demonstrated the highest student academic growth among their peers," according to a summary of the proposal. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has not unveiled a more detailed version of the plan, and Scott has not gone into detail about his recommendations for education spending next budget year. However, talking to reporters after a meeting of teachers of the year in October, the governor indicated he was listening to educators' complaints about the bonuses and would support the board's ideas. "What I'll be putting in the budget is $43 million for a program that retains and recruits teachers," Scott said. "Now, we're going to continue to get advice, get counsel, get ideas from all these teachers, because if you think about who's going to know the best how to do it, it's going to be them. They know how they were recruited. They knew why they're doing what they're doing." House leaders have signaled a willingness to alter the program --- to an extent. Education Chairman Michael Bileca, R-Miami, said recently that the House might be willing to open up the program. "We have heard the feedback in terms of, it should be based on this or that, and I think we are going to look at how do we make it more expansive," Bileca said. "Because the end goal is having the best possible teachers in the classroom. I don't think that excludes, though, other avenues on how do we attract the best possible teachers in the classroom." At the same time, House leaders continue to point to studies indicating teachers who did well on the SAT and ACT also perform better in the classroom. Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, indicated that the changes the House would consider might include, for example, lowering the bar for at least some teachers to qualify for the awards. A bill filed last year by Legg would have allowed veteran teachers who scored in the top 40 percent of test-takers to claim the bonuses. "We could probably lower it down," Corcoran said. "As much as the Senate screamed and hollered --- or at least, one or two of them did --- they passed a version of it. So obviously, they believe in it too. All we're doing now is arguing over lines." But in his remarks this month, Simmons hinted there might be broader changes. "I think that there are things that we can (do to) accomplish what the House wants to accomplish and at the same time be able to reduce the criticism that might exist as to the methodology in rewarding these teachers for the hard work that they're doing," he told reporters. "It breaks my heart when I see teachers having to work in the evening just to make ends meet. We've got to improve teacher compensation."


State’s school turnaround push sparks local control fears *

Florida’s top education officials are more aggressively intervening in local efforts to improve the state’s worst performing schools, leading critics to question whether they are overstepping their authority. Under state law, districts must design plans for turning around their worst performing schools, and the State Board of Education approve the proposals. While in past years, the board had approved hundreds of school-specific plans with one vote, the panel this year evaluated each proposal individually during lengthy, often tense meetings. During the interrogations -- which one superintendent likened to bullying -- members focused primarily on two aspects for each school: its principal and its teachers. If a principal had been in place for several years without bringing the school out of the failing category, the superintendent should replace him or her, board members argued. If most teachers in a school were rated ineffective under the state’s performance evaluation system, they should be fired, too. While board members say they feel compelled to intervene on behalf of children who spend years or their entire educational careers in underperforming schools, local leaders argue they have no place getting involved in decisions like hiring and firing. Board members' recent actions undermine local control of education, which is enshrined in the state constitution, critics argue. “Tallahassee talks about the federal government and the control they have, and then the state turns around and does the same thing to local institutions,” said Bill Husfelt, who was just re-elected to his third term as superintendent of Bay County’s schools and faced scrutiny from the board over his turnaround plans for two struggling elementary schools. “The challenges in public education are real, but they are not going to be solved by anybody on the State Board of Education. I think it has to be the local powers. The local powers have to do it,” Husfelt said. “They’re on the verge of overstepping their authority.” Statewide groups that represent local school leaders and educators say the board’s approach is wrongheaded and could lead to court battles. Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers’ union, said battling over who should make personnel decisions distracts from the real policy changes that need to be made to improve schools, particularly those in impoverished communities. The union has pushed for developing community school models, where students and their families have access to medical, mental health, nutritional and other services at school. However, McCall stressed the importance of local control. Teachers’ unions have often complained their members are bogged down with state requirements and therefore don’t have enough freedom in the classroom. “We believe that those closest to the students should be making the decisions about what is best for the students they serve,” McCall said. “Every school serves a different community, and the needs of each school is unique to that school.” Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said the board’s action could lead to fights between state and local leaders that will ultimately have to be decided in court. Board members “can make any sort of requirement they want to make, and the school districts will either choose to comply or not,” Messina said. “And if they choose not to comply, then the question comes down: what happens then? … There is some punitive measure … and the district may seek some sort of judicial interpretation of the action that’s imposed upon them.”

Bills target in-state tuition discount, allow guns on campus

Florida colleges could become more open to guns and more restrictive to immigrants under bills filed for the legislative session that begins March 7. One proposal would repeal a law passed in 2014 that allows in-state tuition for some immigrant students who don't have full legal status, while the other would add colleges to the list of places people could legally carry guns. These controversial proposals are part of at least a dozen education-related bills, including:

• Elementary students would be guaranteed at least 20 minutes a day of recess. This would be in addition to their physical education classes. The proposal originated from some Central Florida moms who complained that recess has been dropped in favor of academic work to prepare students for standardized tests. The proposal passed the House last year but died in the Senate.

• A debate over whether computer coding is a foreign language will likely resurface this year. The bill allows students to satisfy two foreign language credits by taking computer coding, which includes writing and analyzing computer programs. Proponents say the skills are crucial to many jobs, while opponents worry it could dilute traditional foreign languages. The Senate passed the bill last year, but it died in the House.

• Students who go out to lunch could be breaking the law if one bill passes. The "Mayra Capote Act" would require schools in large districts to receive parental consent before allowing students to leave school grounds during lunch or other times during the school day. The bill is named after a Hialeah teen who was one of three killed during an off-campus lunch run in 1999.

• A controversial bonus program that rewards teachers who scored well when they took the SAT is expected to get another look. The program requires both high SAT scores and a highly effective evaluation for a teacher to qualify for a bonus of up to $10,000. Legislators support rewarding high-performing teachers but some have questioned whether old SAT scores should be a factor.

• Charter schools could benefit from several proposals being discussed in the Senate. These include providing more dollars for schools that focus on "at risk" and disadvantaged students and increasing the amount of capital dollars charter schools can receive for facilities.

One of the more heralded bills of the 2014 session would become history in 2017 if the Legislature passes a bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. The 2014 bill amended state law so that non U.S. citizens who grew up in Florida could qualify for in-state tuition, which is about one third the cost of out-of-state-rates. But if the new bill passes, those students would have to pay out-of-state rates. Currently, in-state students pay about $6,300 a year in tuition and fees while non-residents pay more than $20,000. Steube voted against the 2014 bill and said earlier this month he believes the current policy "rewards and incentivizes illegal immigration." His bill is expected to face heavy opposition from immigrant rights groups, college presidents and legislators who supported the in-state tuition proposal three years ago. During the past two years we have seen their faces, heard their stories, and seen their eyes light up when they find out they can continue their education," said Julio Calderon, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. "It is extremely disappointing to see ...legislation to get rid of opportunities like the in-state tuition law and jeopardize Florida's future." He said the 2014 bill benefited 3,000 undocumented students. Steube has sponsored another controversial bill allowing people to bring guns on college campuses. The proposal is part of a sweeping run rights bill that would also allow Florida residents to carry firearms openly in places where they can now only bring concealed weapons. The Legislature has considered proposals for several years to allow permitted students, faculty and others to bring weapons to college campuses, which historically have been gun-free zones in Florida. The idea has been opposed by college and university presidents and law enforcement groups, who fear the mix of young people, alcohol and firearms could be volatile. "I strongly believe that allowing guns on campus would not only negatively affect overall campus and student safety, it would also create an unsafe workplace for faculty and staff," Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron said earlier this year.


Careful fooling with the Florida Constitution *

By the time this constitutional pie fight ends, Florida may have to rename itself Turkmenistan-on-the-Gulf. Feel free to weigh in. But not that free. Every 20 years the People's Junta of Tallahassee is required to create a 37-member Constitution Revision Commission charged with putting various amendments on the ballot to update -- or perhaps blow up -- Florida's most vital legal document. The last time Florida went through this exercise, state government was politically divided, with Democrat Lawton Chiles in the Governor's Mansion and Republicans in control of the Legislature. This time around, Republican Gov. Rick Scott will get to pick 15 CRC members, while Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Republican Senate President Joe Negron each get to name nine seats on the panel. The rest of the cast of the constitutional wedgie about to be administered to the public will include three members named by Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga and the participation of Attorney General Pam Bondi. Let's cut right to chase. We're all doomed. This is not some idle, make-work committee. The CRC wields great power to unilaterally place amendments on the 2018 ballot that could reshape the Constitution. That way, it can cast aside measures both the Legislature and citizen initiatives have voted into law. And the CRC has the authority to draft the ballot language for any proposed amendments (requiring 60 percent approval for passage) it wishes without prior review from either the Florida Legislature or the Florida Supreme Court. It would be nice to think the CRC will take a civically high-minded approach to its work. It would also be nice to think we'll have world peace, end poverty and find a cure for every disease. Naivete. So cute. Given the CRC is the Rosemary's Baby of Tallahassee, a sweat lodge of ideology controlled by big sugar, big insurance, big development, big whatchagot and -- always -- very big guns, not to mention tea party grumps, the cat-stroking Koch brothers and people who believe Breitbart News is the New Testament of truth, a revised Florida Constitution could look like something cooked up by the alt-right meets Torquemada. Before he has even picked his choices for the CRC, Corcoran has made it clear he expects the star chamber of the Constitution to address issues such as school choice and eliminating Fair District amendments approved by voters to prevent incumbency and political party affiliation from driving the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts. This democracy piffle only goes so far. Imagine the indignity of Corcoran being expected to conduct the work on behalf of the public by having to explain under oath why given legislative maps favoring Republican candidates look like blood-splatter evidence. Both Corcoran and Negron are plenty steamed over a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that determined the state's program that allowed students in failing schools to receive taxpayer funded vouchers to attend private schools was unconstitutional. The court reasoned the state Constitution requires a "uniform" system of public schools for all students. Tyranny run amok! How dare those radical subversives on the Florida Supreme Kangaroo Court apply the state Constitution to rule that public money ought not be drained away from public schools to help bolster the bottom lines of private schools, which aren't even required to meet the same accountability standards as public schools? Because of the high court's delusional insistence on following junk like the Constitution, Corcoran has mumbled about having the CRC ponder a provision that would impose term limits on the state's judges, including those picky, picky, picky Supremes. "The reason we have the demeaning of the will of the people is because they (the Florida Supreme Court) have positions for life," Corcoran pouted to the Tampa Bay Times. Actually, it's not the will of the people the court demeaned; rather, it simply ruled against the will of the Florida Legislature that passes unconstitutional laws. It's called checks and balances, which even Corcoran (who is supposed to be a lawyer) ought to understand. That's the way a constitutional democracy is supposed to work, even in Florida -- for the moment at least.


Separation of powers there to keep legislators from running amok


Senate to tackle testing concerns early in 2017


Florida lawmaker files bill to clarify third-grade retention rules


Teachers giving their time, money daily (by Bryan Bouton)

Kornegay named new superintendent of Lake schools (Stuart Klatte quoted)


Scott needs educators' input (Jean Clements quoted)


North Central Florida charter schools (Cathy Boehme quoted)


More Palm Beach parents choosing traditional public schools over charters


Hillsborough high school students will see reduction in final exams


As lawsuits over Pinellas black students drag on, both sides call for a mediator


Black students in Manatee schools suspended three times as often as whites


More than 350 immigrant teens still barred from Collier County public high schools


Flagler students plan child fair to help parents


Some Pinellas charter schools have closed, but demand for them remains high


Pasco School Board members raise concerns about charter school


Teacher seeks solution to nutrition deficit's effect on learning


Teacher: A one-size-fits-all approach is stifling classrooms

Lily Howard Scott is an educator who first worked with children as a teaching artist, visiting schools in Brooklyn and using playwriting and creative drama to help kids access curricula in unconventional ways. She decided that she wanted to continue  creative, child-driven work in the context of her own classroom, so she earned her masters degree in literacy and childhood education from Bank Street College of Education. Scott has taught first through fifth grade in New York and California, and currently teaches third grade at PS 321 in Brooklyn. Lily says she believes that the most meaningful learning occurs when teachers design or adapt curricula to meet the needs, strengths, and interests of their students. The current trend of standardized learning, she said, harms students and teachers alike. In this post, she elaborates on this idea, exploring how schools can attract — and retain — great teachers. The answer, she says, “is so intuitive as to seem absurd.” Yet it has eluded many school “reformers.”


Free market for education? Most economists don’t buy it

The odds are good that privatizing education will be part of the agenda for President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. The Republican platform calls for increasing the role of banks in giving out student loans. AndTrump and the platform advocate an expansion of both vouchers, which enable students to attend the private school of their choice with government funds, and charter schools. In addition, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, has supported legislation that would establish vouchers in Michigan, as well as the rapid expansion of the state’s charter school sector. You might think that most economists agree with this overall approach, because economists generally like free markets. For example, over 90 percent of the members of the University of Chicago’s panel of leading economists thought that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft made consumers better off by providing competition for the highly regulated taxi industry. But economists are far less optimistic about what an unfettered market can achieve in education. Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice. While economists are trained about the value of free markets, they are also trained to spot when markets can’t work alone and government intervention is required.


Jeb Bush’s consolation prize

Critics of the “school choice” movement on the left are as dubious of DeVos as they are of Bush. “I’m sure he’s gushing over Betsy because, if she’s confirmed, it would give these policies a national stage,” said Joanne McCall, a Bush critic and president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union. The Florida Education Association and other groups sued the state in 2014 over the tax-credit vouchers program, which was created by Bush in 2001. The union argues that — despite the corporate tax workaround — it still violates the separation of church and state because the scholarships allow children to attend private religious school on the public’s dime, among other issues. “Public schools are supposed to be the cornerstone of our democracy,” said McCall, the union’s president. “If we’re going to give kids a voucher to an unregulated private school, then how do we know they’re getting a good education?”


Has Trump outsourced the Department of Education to Bush?


To Trump’s education pick, the U.S. public school system is a “dead end”


“Government really sucks” and other principles promoted by Trump’s education pick


Vouchers, charters and DeVos’ blind spot


Republicans to target unions, expand school choice in states


Schools try to ease fears about deportation


The classroom challenges Trump presents to this immigrant Muslim teacher


The new standardized testing craze to hit public schools


The attacks on teacher tenure still don't make sense


Students benefit from breaks


Why opening a charter school is like opening your own business


North Carolina education board to sue over power transfer


Is Maryland getting ready to expand charter schools and vouchers?


A hitch in California as bilingual education is restored


Year of challenges and change for higher education (UFF mentioned)


Fancy digs, foul intentions


Crist says “God would be pleased” if Trump shows more heart towards Dreamers


FSU, UF top state's legislative rosters


Scott appoints Hollingsworth to UNF Board of Trustees


Should foreign language classes be mandatory in college?


Feds: Florida leads the nation in Obamacare enrollment for 2017


Study: Uninsured rate dropped significantly in first two years of Obamacare


Florida cancels robust insurance plan for kids with few other options


Too many Florida children do not have health insurance


Deceptive marketing looms large in drug-treatment industry, grand jury finds


Unexpected $75 million Medicaid bill adds to state's budget challenges


In Florida, women are poorer today than 12 years ago


Use that five-cent raise to send a letter to lawmakers about minimum wage


Visit Florida CEO could get $326,000 in severance pay after Pitbull deal


Taylor Swift vs. Pitbull: Why New York City beat Florida


Space Florida doesn't dole out incentives -- it lassos top guns


Bill seeks to increase oversight for Enterprise Florida


Sunlight needed on worker's comp


Florida housing agency chief resigns after audit raps $52,000 filet mignon dinner


State “radically out-of-step” in denying felons right to vote, report says


Florida ruling upends more than 100 death sentences


Proposal would allow overrides of some court rulings


Lawmakers may target criminal-justice reforms


Florida Supreme Court appointments could bring chaos


Retiring justice on lingering racism in Florida and the justice system


One Florida lawmaker's effort to help prisons


Lawmakers messed with Scott's organizational chart in 2016


Senate, House already at odds


Let the Legislature know you're watching


Florida gas tax set to rise in 2017


State attorney assigned to look into Bondi complaint


Drought report finds 90 percent of state abnormally dry or in drought


The mythical “endless summer” is becoming a detested reality in South Florida


South Florida tidal floods could occur 10 times per year by 2040


Florida scientists call for climate meeting with Trump


Fugate fumes while Florida sinks in a sea of baloney


Solar amendment already having positive impact on industry


From pleasing utilities to paving parks


Coal-fired generators poison Everglades dolphins with record-high mercury


Judge says DEP pollution notification rule is invalid


South Florida senator wants to ban fracking across state


Florida activists to stage protests against Sabal Trail pipeline


State ranks in bottom third of country for innovation, index shows


U.S. growth rate hits new low as migration to Sun Belt states like Florida continues


Don’t let Trump speak for workers (by Richard Trumka)
“I am your voice,” President-elect Donald Trump declared at the Republican National Convention. In another campaign speech, he told his supporters, “I alone can fix it.” Before he has even taken office, Trump has tried that go-it-alone strategy on behalf of American workers. He has browbeaten Carrier into reversing a decision to move some jobs from Indiana to Mexico, and he attempted -- unsuccessfully -- to do the same with Rexnord, which owns a neighboring manufacturing plant. But publicity stunts and Twitter rants are no substitute for a comprehensive, coherent economic strategy that invests in America and lifts up the voices and the power of working people. Working people do not want a savior to speak for us. We want to raise our own voices through our unions -- and those voices are more essential than ever. The share of income going to the middle class has fallen in almost perfect correlation with the declining percentage of people working in jobs where they enjoy a union. Collective, democratic representation in the workplace is essential to shared and durable economic prosperity. Yet Trump’s emerging Cabinet and policy pronouncements seem to treat actual working people as bottom lines rather than human beings, our unions as a threat rather than a partner, and rising wages as a problem rather than the foundation of our prosperity. If Trump’s strategy to keep jobs in America relies on busting unions, keeping wages down, deregulating everything in sight and cutting taxes for the wealthy, he’ll certainly fail, and in the process he’ll undermine the foundations of American democracy.


Trump’s transition team is stacked with privatization enthusiasts


The history of privatization


How privatization is fueling historic inequality


In American towns, private profits from public works


Obama’s Justice Department says it one more time: Private prisons aren’t working


U.S. correctional population at lowest level in over a decade


Why corporations are helping Trump lie about jobs


Weeks after Carrier deal, Trump ignores Indiana factory relocating to Mexico


The public is being kept in the dark about Trump’s deal with Carrier


What Trump doesn’t get about the minimum wage


An industry where black women earn 42 cents for every dollar earned by a white man


Will Trump’s corporate “tax holiday” create jobs? Not necessarily


And the trade war came


Trump trade war casualties could include 5 million U.S. jobs


Don't bankrupt Labor Department's mission, wages chief tells Trump nominee

 0 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet