Today's news -- July 12, 2017





Florida school bill: Not just bad. Unconstitutional.

In Florida, legislators often do bad things. And stupid things. But what really gets them into trouble is when they do unlawful things. And it looks like lawmakers did all of the above this year when it came to schools. They hurriedly passed a pee-yew stinker of an education bill -- one that siphons money away from traditional schools, creates different rules for charter schools and much, much more. It’s that “much, much more” part that may be their biggest legal problem. See, according to the Florida Constitution, every bill must deal with only “one subject” that can be “briefly expressed in the title.” House Bill 7069 was 274 pages. It deals with gobs of different subjects -- everything from regulations for sunscreen use and Algebra 2 tests to recess policies and teacher pay. The bill’s title alone -- the one the Constitution says must be “briefly expressed” -- required more than 4,000 words. That’s more words than “The Lorax,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day” ... combined. And again, that’s just the summary -- the thing that’s often just a single sentence. The full (allegedly “one subject”) bill required more than 40,000 words to explain. That’s longer than “The Old Man and the Sea” or most of “I, Robot.” Single subject, my Asimov. The Broward County School Board voted to sue the Legislature last week, saying the bill violates the state’s single-subject rules. And according to one of the Legislature’s leading education policy makers -- Seminole County Republican Sen. David Simmons -- the board has a good chance of winning. “I think they have a very viable position based on the case law I have studied,” said Simmons, an attorney who voted against the bill. “There were literally 20 or more different subject matters.” I actually counted more than 30. Whatever the total, it’s a lot more than one. House Speaker Richard Corcoran disagrees. His office said the entire bill falls under the “single subject” of “K-12 education policy.” Under that logic, I could propose new laws about child molestation, bear hunting, political corruption, prostitution and capital punishment -- and just file them under the “single subject of crime." Heck, under Corcoran’s logic, legislators don't need to file 1,700 bills each session. They could just file seven or eight. Simmons says case law suggests Corcoran’s logic is flawed. So does common sense. “I’m not an attorney, but I can read,” said Sen. Bill Montford, a conservative Democrat from Florida’s Panhandle who also voted against the bill. “And this whole thing gives me great pause and great concern.” It’s a safe bet few legislators actually even read the whole bill or completely understood it before passing it. It was crafted in a backroom, unveiled at the last minute and then rammed through. Simmons -- one of the most deliberative members of the Legislature -- said he spent five hours trying to dissect it and still wasn’t clear about everything it did. I guarantee you most legislators didn’t spend five hours studying this thing before they passed it. So then you have to ask yourself: Why did they do it this way? Because they didn’t want accountability. Because they lacked the courage to take up these issues one at a time. Because they scream about Washington politicians passing bills they don’t read, but hope you won’t notice when they do the same. Locally, only one state senator voted in favor of this hot mess of a bill: Republican Dennis Baxley, whose district includes most of Lake County. But a whole mess of House Republicans from Central Florida supported it -- including Jason Brodeur, Bob Cortes, Randy Fine, Tom Goodson, Larry Metz, Mike Miller, Scott Plakon, Rene Plasencia and Jennifer Sullivan. Remember those names. If this law is overturned -- and Florida’s education system is thrown into chaos -- they will be the ones to blame. If you see them, ask if they can explain all 274 pages. Montford said he couldn’t imagine a legislator adequately explaining everything in this bill to a Rotary or Kiwanis club back home. He and Simmons also said that was a shame, because there are parts of this bill they really like -- including extra classroom time for struggling schools, mandatory recess and more money for special-needs education. I agree this bill may have more good than bad. But there are also devious parts. And unvetted parts. And unaccountable parts -- all of which were cooked up in a covert crockpot that undermines traditional public schools and appears to violate the Florida Constitution. And that’s why the law should be tossed and the politicians held accountable.,amp.html


St. Lucie joining proposed lawsuit against state over education bill


Report: Florida students face higher barriers to learning *  Ninety percent of Florida educators say many of their students encounter barriers to learning outside the classroom, according to a report published Monday by Scholastic. The Teacher & Principal School Report found state educators are more likely to report inadequate access to the Internet and other learning resources outside of school than educators from other states. The report, the first of its kind conducted by Scholastic, surveyed roughly 5,000 Pre-K – 12 teachers and principals nationwide, including 250 from Florida. Florida teachers cited poverty, lack of access to English language learning support, and family and personal crises as some of the major factors impeding learning outside of school. Other factors included lack of mental health and other healthcare services, coming to school hungry and homelessness. Kyle Good, the senior vice president of Scholastic corporate communications, said she was surprised by the “enormous numbers” of educators from across the country who reported similar barriers to learning outside of school. The trend was present in low poverty schools, too, Good said, where two-thirds of educators said many of their students struggled with learning outside of class. Good said she was also surprised by how many educators are focused on engaging families and community members to help support students’ learning. “Educators are really recognizing the need to reach into their community for resources to help their kids because teachers and principals can’t do it alone,” she said. Fifty-six percent of Florida teachers reported a lack of family involvement in student learning vs. 48 percent nationwide. The report also asked teachers about their opinions on funding allocations and school needs. Florida teachers said their top funding priority is higher salaries. Eighty-four percent said they received discretionary funds from their school district or Parent Teacher Association compared to 55 percent nationwide. Florida public elementary and secondary teachers earned just under $47,000 on average in 2013, nearly $10,000 less than the national average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Below average salaries might contribute to above average teacher turnover in Florida – another finding identified by the report. The survey found that in Florida, 63 percent of teachers agreed that retaining high-quality teachers is a challenge compared to 49 percent nationwide. Mark Pudlow, spokesperson for the Florida Education Association, said this may also be due primarily to Senate Bill 736, which placed teachers on annual contracts. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011. “If a teacher can’t guarantee that they’ll have a job from year to year — not because they’re not a good teacher but because the rules are stacked against them — it’s difficult for them to get a mortgage and to have a professional life,” Pudlow said. Pudlow said another reason that might contribute to high teacher turnover rates in Florida is the state’s emphasis on testing. Many teachers feel they need “to be on script” and follow a prescribed pace, thus preventing teachers from catering to individual learning styles, he said.   “Teachers understand that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to reaching their students,” he said. The report also identified the second-highest funding priority among Florida teachers to be high-quality instructional materials. Sixty-seven percent of Florida teachers identified high-quality instructional materials as a funding priority as compared to 55 percent nationwide. Similarly, Florida teachers reported having 18 percent fewer books per classroom than the national average. Fifty-three percent of Florida teachers said they’ve used their own money to purchase classroom books over the last year and spent an average of $548 of their own money on their classrooms as compared to $530 nationwide. Pudlow said complaints from teachers about the lack of funding for instructional materials have been consistent throughout his decades-long career in education. The state allocates excessive funds towards testing and voucher and charter schools, leaving little leftover for instructional materials, Pudlow said. He’s heard from many teachers who spend well over $1,000 of their own money each year to make up the difference. “That’s a particular problem because you don’t ask a road crew to bring their own asphalt,” Pudlow said. “It kind of shows a little bit of the lack of focus political leaders have on public schools.”


Orange charter school with two Fs closes for coming school year


Education donors threaten to pull support if Duval doesn’t help pay for programs


Special magistrate recommends pay increase for Santa Rosa teachers


Can Florida students still take the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam?


Florida’s “low performing” B schools


Don't like a school's curriculum? Now you can challenge it


A Nashville school board member warns about the charter scams


Bethune-Cookman University president steps down


The war on college continues to be prosecuted on multiple fronts


Nelson files legislation to reduce student debt


Constitutional commission should act to insulate judiciary from politics


Private prisons don’t save money, don’t make us safer


Florida tops ranking of states' fiscal strength


Court clerks funding case continues in capital


Mental health advocates say lawmakers failing to address treatment for addicts


Desperate for addiction treatment, patients are pawns in insurance fraud scheme


While panel bumbles, Justice Department sends voter suppression signals


Meet the vote suppressors on Trump’s “election integrity” commission


Voter commission should focus on real problems


Local elections officials trying to convince some registered voters to stay registered


ALEC’s covert war on democracy


Florida secretary of state defends release of voter information


Russian dirt on Clinton? “I love it,” Trump Jr. said


The Trump Jr. emails could hardly be more incriminating


Trump Jr.’s emails implicate Kushner and Manafort too


Trump Jr.’s E-mails have fundamentally changed the Russia story


New York Times reporter on Trump Jr.’s claim of transparency: “Nonsense”


Four times Trump Jr. has changed his story about meeting with a Russian lawyer


Trump Jr. is just staggeringly incompetent


This is no “rookie mistake.” The Trump team shouldn’t even be on the field.


We are past the point of innocent explanations on Trump and Russia


That’s that: The Trump campaign welcomed Russian meddling


The Russia meddling story is no longer just smoke. It’s fire.


The Trump campaign’s attempted collusion


Rancor at White House as Russia story refuses to let the page turn


Trump Jr. delivers “smoking gun” to Mueller


More would be required for criminal case, analysts say


Trump Jr.’s love affair with Moscow


Trump’s first 12-word statement about his son speaks volumes


Trump says son is “innocent” amid reports of Russia meeting


As Russia scandal touches his son, Trump privately rages,-Trump-privately-rages


This 2016 Trump Jr. interview about Russia is now downright cringeworthy


Even in the world of opposition research, Trump Jr.’s meeting was highly unusual


Lawyer who met Trump Jr., seen as fearsome Moscow insider


Who is the man who set up Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer?


Trump Jr.’s lawyer is a Miami native


New York Post’s blistering editorial


Five key facts about Trump Jr.’s email exchange


Six things to watch for next in the Trump Jr. saga


Donnygate, a Russian pop star, and the end of the republic


Details emerge on Moscow real estate deal that led to the Trump-Kremlin alliance


GOP researcher who sought Clinton emails had alt-right help


How will FBI nominee Wray deal with Trump?


Gowdy fumes at Trump administration over latest Russia controversy


Tested by the many chapters of the Russia story, Republicans stand by Trump


Rubio says special counsel will determine if Trump Jr. violated the law


Deutch pushes for House vote on Russian sanctions


Info from a Russian? Yoho “would have done the same thing”


GOP senators vow to unveil health bill Thursday, despite deep divisions


Senate GOP health bill quietly brings back preexisting conditions


The Senate health bill is almost an orphan with few real supporters


How the rich gain and the poor lose under the Senate Republican health care plan


Rubio takes to Facebook to rebut health care claims


McConnell delays recess to complete work on health-care bill, other issues


Fear trumps decency in deporting Palm Beach restaurant manager


Detained Iranian cancer researcher sent back to home country


Immigration judges were always overworked. Now they’ll be untrained, too.


Sessions: mandatory minimum sentences protected us. Research: nope.


Trump wants to block Obama plan to crack down on estate tax dodgers


Trump's “war on the open Internet”: Firms join activists in day of protest


American public to Trump: Leave our national monuments alone


Trump's environmental rollbacks are hitting major roadblocks


Dozens testify against Trump administration’s proposed delay of key methane rule


Controversial Alaskan gold mine could be revived under Trump’s EPA


FDA deal would relax rules on reporting medical device problems


An Afghan war plan by the guy who founded Blackwater


DeVos invests in military contractor run by son-in-law, brother shapes war policy


Chinese labor activist says he was arrested because of factory's Trump links


Twitter users blocked by Trump file lawsuit


Fox News issues correction on Comey report


Fox correspondent edits out mention of Russian government when quoting emails


An iceberg the size of Delaware just broke off a major Antarctic ice shelf




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