Today's news -- July 10, 2017





Education policy, classrooms are worlds apart *

It's been nearly two years since the Tampa Bay Times published the Pulitzer Prize-winning series focused on five struggling elementary schools in south St. Petersburg that were not provided the promised additional resources after they were resegregated. The series unleashed philosophical and political debates involving poverty and race, the responsibilities of parents and the government and the merits of public schools and privately operated schools. Yet there remains a simple truth that is too often minimized: Educating these children is hard, often heartbreaking work that occurs in the classroom without nearly enough public and financial support. The Times' Cara Fitzpatrick spent last year chronicling the progress and setbacks of the faculty and students at one of those five schools in the original series, Fairmount Park Elementary. Her reporting revealed real-life stories that rise above stereotypes and defy boilerplate solutions. There was the perpetually upbeat principal who refused to surrender to low expectations. She deals with the same challenges facing high-poverty schools through the ages and the increased scrutiny of legislators who specialize in unintended consequences. The policies and legislation coming out of Tallahassee make experienced teachers wary of putting their job evaluations on the line in struggling schools, forcing principals to recruit straight off college campuses to fill spots in the most challenging classrooms. There were the overextended parents who work multiple jobs and unconventional hours to keep the electricity on and food on the table. Parent meetings at Fairmount often were sparsely attended. But while lawmakers talk of parental responsibility, no child chooses to be born into a situation where money is tight and parental supervision is a challenge. There were the teachers who volunteer to work in a more difficult setting, knowing their jobs are in greater jeopardy than most others due to the state's fanaticism with standardized test scores and accountability. The stress and increased workload in struggling schools is so daunting that many experienced teachers are not swayed by a district's offer of higher pay. And there are the children. The few who misbehave, yes, but also the majority who are eager to learn. The ones who might get off to a slow start, then fall hopelessly between the cracks. The students so embarrassed by their shortcomings that they become adept at masking their weaknesses. These are the stories everyone should remember. That includes legislators who are wedded to ideology and have little clue about the challenges in high-poverty schools. That includes teachers unions that too often protect their members at the expense of their students. That includes the rest of us who have no idea what life is like for an elementary student who comes to school in the morning with an empty belly and comes home in the afternoon to an empty house. While the school grades for other elementaries in the original series improved, Fairmount Park dropped to an F despite the best efforts of the principal and her team. But the answer to narrowing the education gap will not be found in gimmicks or the state's zealous pivot toward charter schools. It will require a sustained commitment of human and financial capital, and the willingness of school officials to tap into communities that stand ready to lend a hand. This is a societal challenge that deserves more thoughtful solutions than abandoning public education and handing the responsibility and public money over to privately run schools with less accountability.


Charter schools bill is a bad law *

It is hard to find an education advocate in Florida who believes the education bill passed by the Legislature during its secrecy-shrouded special session was good for our public schools. School boards, school superintendents, teachers, parents and civic groups have all railed against this misguided legislative monstrosity. One portion of the measure that has drawn particularly widespread scorn -- and deservedly so -- is the part pertaining to charter schools. We understand some members of the public and the Legislature believe families should have more education options than just those that already exist, and we do not necessarily disagree. But what House Bill 7069 does is try to boost charter schools, many of which are for-profit operations, at the expense of Florida’s public schools. And we are not talking about a little bit of money, either. If it was just about the money, that would be argument enough to go back and revisit this law. The Legislature voted to give an estimated $96 million in capital outlay money for charter school construction and improvements, $50 million in direct state funding, $140 million for “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods with failing schools plus local tax dollars for both capital outlay and operations. There is little question this legislation -- which was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a unabashed booster of charter schools -- is as much about padding the bottom lines of for-profit charter school outfits as it is about providing a new option for parents and students to find quality education. Beyond the money, the bill exempts charter schools from many of the accountability standards that public schools are held to, including class-size and teacher certification requirements. Given the money being shoveled into the charter schools and the lack of accountability, it is clear our Republican leadership is bent on slowly dismantling public education as we know it. That is unfortunate, since of the 4,269 publicly funded schools in Florida, 3,609 of them are traditional public schools that educate the overwhelming majority of the state’s 2.7 million school-age children. We asked Superintendent of School Heidi Maier her thoughts on the new charter school rules and how she intended to deal with them. Her response was quick: “We are not competing with them, they are competing with us.” Maier hits the nail on the head. We, as a state and a community, should be striving to elevate the quality of our public schools that educate the vast number of Florida children rather than shoveling money to unproven charter school operators looking to get their hands in the public education trough. This bill is bad for public education in Florida. The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott should be ashamed for letting Corcoran strong-arm this bill through. It lacks accountability for the money spent as well as the performance of the charter schools and saps sorely needed resources from our public schools. HB 7069 is a bad piece of public policy crafted behind closed doors that will do little to uplift public education. Lawmakers should repeal this bad law.


Broward County School Board sued the state. Could Manatee be next?


Lawmakers’ rebuttal to Broward Schools’ pledge to sue? A promotional video


Florida charter scandal: You may think you have heard it all


Florida gets new school rules on testing, books, bonuses


New law expected to prompt more school curricula challenges


Florida’s evolution to complainer’s paradise for public schools


DeVos’ hard line on new education law surprises states

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who made a career of promoting local control of education, has signaled a surprisingly hard-line approach to carrying out an expansive new federal education law, issuing critical feedback that has rattled state school chiefs and conservative education experts alike. President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 as the less intrusive successor to the No Child Left Behind law, which was maligned by many in both political parties as punitive and prescriptive. But in the Education Department’s feedback to states about their plans to put the new law into effect, it applied strict interpretations of statutes, required extensive detail and even deemed some state education goals lackluster.

In one case, the acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, Jason Botel, wrote to the state of Delaware that its long-term goals for student achievement were not “ambitious.” “It is mind-boggling that the department could decide that it’s going to challenge them on what’s ambitious,” said Michael Petrilli, the president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who worked in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. He called the letter “directly in opposition to the rhetoric and the promises of DeVos.” After more than a decade of strict federal education standards and standardized testing regimes, the Every Student Succeeds Act was to return latitude to the states to come up with plans to improve student achievement and hold schools accountable for student performance. It sought to relieve states from the federal pressures of its predecessor, which required that 100 percent of the students of every school reach proficiency on state tests or the school would face harsh penalties and aggressive interventions. Unlike No Child Left Behind, the new law does not set numerical achievement targets, nor does it mandate how a state should intervene if a school fails to reach them. The law does require that states set such benchmarks on their own. Proponents, especially congressional Republicans and conservative education advocates, believed that a new era of local control would flourish under DeVos, who pointed to the new law as illustrative of the state-level empowerment she champions. But her department’s feedback reflects a tension between ideology and legal responsibility: While she has said she would like to see her office’s role in running the nation’s public schools diminished, she has also said she will uphold the law.


Test scores tell us more about where students live than what they know


Teachers oppose lower standards for New York charter schools


Indianapolis: Board plans to close public schools, interlopers arrive to open charters


UF grads sue Florida, saying college cash wrongly diverted to tax cuts


Guns on campus debate to continue


Shortchanging state colleges


Why 18 states are DeVos


Legislative pre-emptions give more power to the powerful (by Rich Templin)
Rick McAllister’s opinion piece regarding the Legislature’s continued moves to ban local governments from enacting ordinances relating to businesses in their communities is in serious need of some context and clarification. First, McAllister’s bio statement lists him as a “former association CEO.” It neglects to point out that he was president of the Florida Retail Federation, a group that sued (and lost) to block Miami-Dade County’s groundbreaking ordinance, which provides a system to help workers recover their wages when those wages have been improperly withheld. Wage theft has become an epidemic nationally and the numbers are especially high in Florida. The Legislature refused to act on this crisis so local governments have stepped in, establishing wage recovery programs all over the state. For years now, the Florida Retail Federation have tried, and failed, to have the Legislature ban these local programs. You read that right -- the Florida Retail Federation has pushed the Legislature to stop local governments from helping victims of wage theft. He then decried local efforts to raises wages in their communities. Putting aside the sound economic and moral arguments for increasing wages, it is important to note that the ordinances he is describing are already illegal in Florida and have been for over a decade. The Legislature already pre-empted the regulation of wages for private businesses to the state. What some local governments have done is enact living wage ordinances for themselves and their contractors who perform public services with the public’s money. These ordinances are part of local economic development strategies that pump dollars into local cash registers, ensuring that the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck for publicly funded projects and services. His analysis is that the truth of these ordinances is “a tale of liberal groups not getting their way in state legislatures.” He’s partially right, but anyone who follows the Florida Legislature knows that the real power in the Tallahassee bubble doesn’t flow from constituents back home, but from the big special interest lobbyists that dominate the Capitol with big campaign checks and relationships built in exclusive spaces like the Governor’s Club and the 4th floor leadership suites. While lobbying is a feature at the city and county levels, these spaces of government are much more open and accessible to regular people, and thus it is their hopes, aspirations and needs that hold more sway. Why would big lobbying associations bother with the rabble at the local level when the Florida Legislature has become a one-stop shop that delivers for them, without the pesky interference of the people? That’s what these pre-emptions are about, shifting power away from the government that is closest to the people to the geographically and psychologically remote halls of the Capitol. This situation is becoming increasingly dire as legislation was filed this year that would remove all authority from local governments to regulate businesses. The voices pushing back on these pre-emptions are vital and should be encouraged.


Justice watchdog wants changes for judicial nominating commissions


Report highlights housing affordability issues in Jacksonville and across the country


Putting a value on arts, culture


Zika mosquito numbers up, so are control efforts across Miami-Dade


New York boots Armor Correctional; In Florida, Armor boss named to commission


Bethune still in running for Capitol statue


Geneticist says Florida panther still deserves endangered species protection


Florida panther should remain on endangered species list


U.S. job growth picks up the pace, but wages lag behind


Trump's growth problem: Jobs boost masks trouble ahead for economy


Seattle shows the way to higher pay


The job market may have some room to run after all


Federal Reserve sees U.S. economic growth as steady but slow


VA fires more than 500 under Trump, even before new accountability law


Even some Republicans balk at Trump’s voter data request


Trump’s voter fraud commission is facing a tough data challenge


Trump is seeking voter data. What does that mean?


A secretaries of state meeting used to be friendly, before request for voter data


Blackwell was controversial as Ohio elections chief


Worried voters try to “unregister” after Trump voter-roll request


Florida complies, somewhat, with data request by Trump commission


Yielding to commission, Florida failed to stand up for voters


Scott should stay away from president's toxic voting commission


Combating a real threat to election integrity


Trump’s son met with Russian lawyer seeking damaging info on Clinton


Trump team met with lawyer linked to Kremlin during campaign


Trump Jr.’s two different explanations for Russian meeting


Trump Jr.’s stunning admission to The New York Times


Special counsel submits his proposed budget, but won’t make it public


Consulting firm distances itself from Flynn’s partner on Turkey lobbying


U.S. officials say Russian government hackers have penetrated business networks


Trump questions Putin on election meddling at eagerly awaited encounter


Putin: Trump seemed satisfied with my denial of Russian election meddling


Trump may claim he won U.S.-Russia meeting, but Putin probably benefits more


Trump handed Putin a stunning victory


“Time to move forward” on Russia, Trump says, as criticism intensifies


Trump's plan to create a cyber-partnership with Putin draws ridicule


Rubio scoffs at Trump floating “cyber security unit” with Russia


Putin set a trap and Trump fell into it


The Trump-Putin bromance is back on


Meeting Putin was necessary — but hardly “an honor”


Russia crows over Putin’s meeting with Trump


Putin meets his progeny


Haley: “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections”


Lindsey Graham: Trump is empowering Putin


In the Russia probe, could Trump pardon himself?


Gallego pushes for House vote on Russia’s election meddling


Pope Francis: U.S.-Russia alliance “dangerous”


Senate Republicans head back to work with no health-care deal


Why single-payer health care saves money


Medicaid cut in GOP health bill worries the nursing home set


The Trump administration’s own data says Obamacare isn’t imploding


This dirty little secret is the real reason why repeal is so hard for Republicans


The Senate health care charade


Don’t leave health care to a free market


Republicans take a hatchet to health care


Why Obamacare’s loudest critics aren’t as loud anymore


Conservatives are moving repeal-and-replace in a disastrous direction


Why repeal-and-delay is a risky health care strategy


Three legs good, no legs bad


Protesters arrested after occupying senators’ offices to protest GOP health-care bill


One woman’s slide from middle class to Medicaid


To my colleagues in Congress: I have MS. Don’t make my insurance unaffordable.


Children of the opioid epidemic are flooding foster homes


Graham comes away frustrated with health care policies after workday at center


Senate bill could lead to Medicaid cuts despite what Rubio says


Remind Rubio millions of lives at stake


Grandparents still barred under travel ban after court declines to weigh in


Hawaii takes another legal swat at Trump travel ban


Trump’s deportation surge is harming domestic abuse survivors


“Your life becomes like hell”: Refugees fear drawn-out fight over Trump's travel ban


Can America's farms survive the threat of deportations?


Newest travel ban worries Central Florida Muslims


Miami-Dade among those under federal scrutiny for “sanctuary cities”


Trump, in meeting with Mexican president, again insists Mexico will pay for the wall


Republicans increasingly uncertain of a legislative victory before August


Towns sell their public water systems -- and come to regret it


Rooftop solar dims under pressure from utility lobbyists


Why people value America's public lands


This is what anti-LGBTQ housing discrimination looks like


The scholar who will help lead Trump’s regulatory assault


Trump leaves leaders fearing the future as G-20 summit closes


Once dominant, the United States finds itself isolated at G-20


At G-20, world aligns against Trump policies from free trade to climate change


World leaders commit themselves to climate action without the United States


As Trump exits Paris accord, America’s urban neighborhoods pay the price


Feeling that Trump will “say anything,” Europe is less restrained, too


U.S. presidents have always spoken at the end of the G-20 summit. Trump didn’t.


Despite deep policy divides, Europe trip seen by buoyant Trump as high point


The racial and religious paranoia of Trump's Warsaw speech


Ivanka Trump Briefly Takes Her Father’s Seat at the Table. Outrage Follows.


Trump defends his daughter’s breach of diplomatic protocol


White House confuses Taiwan And China in painful G20 press release blunder


Trump White House keeps mixing up names of Asian countries and leaders’ titles


With tensions high, Pentagon flies bombers over Korean peninsula in show of force

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