Today's news -- January 31, 2017



Boost or cut ed spending? Depends on who you ask

State lawmakers seem of two minds on education funding this year, with those in the Florida Senate offering up ideas to boost spending for financial aid and teacher pay and their counterparts in the House already looking at what can be cut from school and college budgets. The differing views on education fit with the differing views that have  emerged on how to build a state budget, most notably on how or if to cut state taxes. Gov. Ricks Scott, who has already proposed $618 million in tax cuts, today will announce his budget proposal for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The Florida Legislature, which crafts and votes on the state budget, will consider Scott’s suggestions, information from state agencies and state economists and its own priorities to devise a final spending plan this spring. So far, the Senate’s education budget panel has discussed increasing funding for the Bright Futures Scholarship Program as part of an initiative to improve higher education in Florida and boosting money spent on a state teacher bonus program. The Florida House, to date, has discussed cutting both K-12 and higher education budgets. House leaders asked educators at all levels to figure out what a 10 percent cut would do to their spending plans. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said Florida’s school districts would face what they did in 2008 and 2009, when the Great Recession prompted them to eliminate programs, delay maintenance work and impose freezes on pay raises. “They would find themselves in that same situation should they have to make those kinds of cuts,” she told a House budget panel. Her department proposed that rather than a 10 percent cut across the board, some programs — those that served limited numbers of students — be eliminated completely so others could be reduced by a smaller amount. The University of Central Florida warned another House panel that cutting 10 percent, or $26 million, from its budget would not be an easy swallow. The UCF provost said such a cut would mean delaying lab renovations, reducing the university's regional campuses and freezing new faculty hires.


Scott to outline spending plans today


Defining “critical needs” could color budget fight between Scott, top lawmakers


Lawmakers, Scott diverge on budget numbers


Montford’s bill offers alternative pathways to diploma

Florida Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who heads the state superintendents association, submitted legislation Monday to give high school students more chances to earn a standard diploma if they don't pass state-mandated algebra and language arts tests. Unlike a similar measure in the House, Montford's bill [SB 584] would not allow students to skip the state exams and substitute them with a portfolio, industrial certification or alternate test. Rather, the students would have to fail the 10th-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessment or the Algebra I end-of-course exam before becoming eligible for the other options. Montford said he considered going the other way. But he had doubts about getting the idea of eliminating the tests through the Legislature. And he said the need to give teens a path to a diploma rather than a certificate of completion is too great to saddle the concept with a battle over opting out. As written, he said, "I think this bill has an excellent chance of passing. It's the right thing for these students who do all the work and are very successful," yet just cannot pass the tests. Montford still plans to submit a more sweeping bill to overhaul Florida's entire testing system. He filed SB 584 separately, he said, in case the broader attempt is not successful.


Former administrators file suit against Bay charter school


Democrats: DeVos didn’t provide satisfactory answers

Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire President Trump tapped as his education secretary, delivered answers Monday to the more than 1,000 questions put to her by Democrats on the Senate Education Committee, just one day before the panel is set to vote on her confirmation. The Democrats said they were not satisfied with her responses on critical questions. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is set to vote on her confirmation at 10 a.m. today, a week later than it was originally scheduled. On Monday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the committee, urged the chairman, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, to delay the vote again, but Alexander declined. The DeVos nomination has become as controversial as any of Trump’s Cabinet picks. Her supporters see her as a champion of school choice. Critics say her advocacy in education proves she wants to privatize public education. The pitched battle over her nomination intensified over the weekend and Monday. Supporters began running paid advertisements on the Internet urging the Senate to confirm her, while critics rallied on Capitol Hill to oppose her and more calls against her surfaced. More than 1,400 members of the community at the elite Williams College released a letter objecting to her confirmation, saying that her refusal to “support federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding” was disqualifying. During her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing before Alexander’s committee, she failed to show an understanding of some key education issues, and Democrats later submitted questions to her to answer before the vote. Alexander moved the committee vote from January 24 to January 31 to give her time to answer the questions. Democrats asked her, according to Alexander, 837 follow-up questions, some of them with several parts, amounting to a total of 1,397 questions. DeVos delivered the answers at about 10:30 a.m. Monday, about 24 hours before the vote. Democrats on the committee were not impressed. Murray’s office released this statement: “After an initial review of the responses sent to committee members with less than 24 hours before the scheduled vote, staff has identified a number of critical questions about Ms. DeVos’ financial disclosure to the committee and other areas that have not been answered to anywhere close to satisfaction. Sen. Murray does not believe that members of the committee have enough information about Ms. DeVos’ opaque finances, conflicts of interest, and other issues — and she once again urges Chairman Alexander to postpone this vote until all reasonable questions are answered fully and appropriately.”


DeVos invests in a therapy under scrutiny


State construction funding stakes are high for Florida's smallest public universities


Former lawmaker, Scott ally applies for FGCU presidency


Political divisions could steer constitutional revision


Still no word on makeup of constitution revision panel


Trump urges Scott to run for prized U.S. Senate seat


Negron “steps away” from law firm job


Term limits for state judges proposed again


Historic home to well-known governor finally opening


National news network inks new deal; will announce Tallahassee plans next month


Palm Beach braces for Trump protest during weekend visit


Legal challenges mount against Trump’s travel ban


Lawmakers warn of constitutional crisis as people remain in detention


Migrants were told to sign away right to enter U.S., lawyers say


Trump fires acting attorney general who defied him,-diplomats-for-refugee-ban


Trump’s talk about Muslims led acting attorney general to defy ban


Dana Boente: Who is the new acting attorney general?


After firing of Yates, Nixon’s sordid moment has been repurposed for Trump


The number of people affected by Trump’s travel ban: About 90,000


White House lowballs impact of Trump ban


White House aides who wrote Trump's travel ban see it as just the start


Hill staffers secretly worked on Trump's immigration order


Inside the battle for immigrant rights at Dulles airport


Liberal lawyers plan wave of resistance to Trump policies


Obama rejects comparison between Trump’s immigration policy and his own


Internal memo at State Department opposes Trump’s travel ban


White House: State Department officials should quit if they disagree with Trump


Why it’s already difficult to gain entry into the U.S.


Trump’s travel ban prioritizes cruelty over safety


Trump’s #MuslimBan is indisputably un-American


Trump’s ban is hurting some victims of terrorism


Order intended to block terrorists ensnares innocents


Abandoned by America


Trump says his travel ban will make America safer. It will do the exact opposite.


Trump’s ban isn’t about making America safe. It’s about kicking Muslims around.


Immigration order makes U.S. less safe


Trump’s executive order on immigration is a self-inflicted wound


Angry Republicans lash out at Trump for not consulting them on travel ban


Rubio says Congress can't get answers on Trump immigration order


Corcoran, Scott demand more information about refugees in Florida


Republicans are alarmed to discover Trump is doing exactly what he said he would


Democrats escalate their attacks on Trump


Nelson writes Trump letter protesting immigration order


NEA president: Trump’s hateful actions undermine our core values as a nation (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


Why Trump keeps making up lies about his refugee ban


Immigrants from banned nations: educated, mostly citizens and in every state


Iraqi general who works with American military kept from visiting U.S.


Trump’s press secretary makes the case for restricting 5-year-olds coming into U.S.


Elderly couple who built life in Maryland may struggle to return because of ban


Detained travelers at Orlando airport released, reunited with friends and family


At USF and other college campuses, angst swells over immigration order


Florida Tech: Students should carefully consider travel outside U.S.


Science will suffer under Trump’s travel ban, researchers say


Trump's actions warrant a general national strike


Florida lawmakers seek clarity on Trump's refugee ban


Bondi supports Trump's immigration order


Trump supporters applaud immigration order as a “welcome change”


If trump goes after Dreamers, Republican loyalty may be tested


The time Gov. Pence tried to block Syrian refugees — and failed miserably


The chaos candidate becomes the chaos president


Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions


Most Americans see labor unions, corporations favorably


Supreme Court nomination will come today, Trump says


How a Trump Supreme Court pick could (or could not) sway cases


The tale of a Trump falsehood: How voter fraud claim spread like a virus


Trump's voter fraud expert registered in three states


Democracy wins one as a federal court strikes a big blow against gerrymandering


Trump’s trade war may have already begun


Poll: Voters favor Roe v. Wade, oppose cutting Planned Parenthood funds


Patients brace for post-Obamacare out-of-pocket health costs


Trump is recklessly reversing Americans’ progress in Iraq


Trump’s falsehoods make foreign leaders ask: Can we trust him?


For leaders of U.S. allies, getting close to Trump can sting


Make China great again


What Trump’s changes mean for the National Security Council


President Bannon?


GOP congressman: A wall is the least effective way to secure the border


Senate Democrats aim their limited firepower at Trump’s nominees


Price, health nominee, belongs to group that calls Medicare “evil”


Trump’s HHS pick didn’t tell Congress the truth about a sweetheart stock deal


Another alarm for scientists: Trump’s pick to guide NOAA transition


Trump’s executive order on regulations is a recipe for confusion and lawsuits


Trump vows to “do a big number” on Dodd-Frank regulations


Drug makers accused of fixing prices on insulin




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