Today's news -- July 3, 2017




Broward district may sue state over education bill *

The Broward school board is considering whether to fight a new education law it says favors charter schools and hampers its ability to pay for things it’s obligated to cover. At issue: whether to sue the Florida Department of Education over the law’s requirement that districts share property tax revenue with charter schools and welcome charters into neighborhoods with struggling traditional schools. A decision is expected next week. “We believe that it’s an unlawful public financing of private enterprise,” said Barbara Myrick, Broward’s legal counsel. Myrick told the school board she hopes to file suit this month to block the law from taking effect while attorneys argue their case. The suit would argue:

  • The new law funds “non-district” projects by funding charter school activity the district may not necessarily approve of. Existing state law prohibits funding of “unbudgeted and non-district” projects, Myrick said.
  • The new law, by requiring district schools to share property tax revenue, violates existing law that does not grant permission for charter schools to collect such tax.
  • Existing law calls for bills in the Legislature to contain one subject. Myrick said the 278-page legislation tackles more than one subject.
  • Districts are supposed to have the power to approve charter schools to open, but the new law would require them to accept applicants under a “Schools of Hope” program. Under the program, charter operators can tap into a $140 million fund to open in areas where elementary and middle schools have been rated D or F for at least three years in a row.

Ten attorneys from other school districts, including Miami-Dade, Orlando and Pinellas, joined a phone call with Myrick to air similar concerns. Gov. Rick Scott signed the $419 million bill June 15, approving measures ranging from recess requirements to additional funding for scholarships for children with disabilities. Public-school advocates argue the law will build up the charter industry at the expense of traditional public schools. Broward would lose about $100 million from its capital budget, which covers technology, buses and building repairs, over the next five years. And Palm Beach County officials said they could lose about $92 million in the same time frame. Moody’s Investors Service reported last week that the law could put large school districts’ stable credit ratings at risk. Credit ratings affect how much interest districts must pay on bond programs. Myrick said the law also carries “abusive penalties” to school districts. Under the Schools of Hope program, districts are required to sign a contract with charters within a 60-day deadline. If they miss the mark — even if it’s because the charter operator caused the delay — the district has to forfeit the administration fees it collects from every charter in its system until the contract is complete, she said. Ultimately, Myrick said, the new law will create a parallel system — comprising both nonprofit and for-profit entities — that directly competes with the traditional public school system. Board member Patricia Good said during a meeting last week that she’s ready to take legal action. “I think that this bill clearly attacks public education and the ability for local school districts to govern their schools,” she said.


FEA president says more could follow challenge *

Broward County schools will soon launch a challenge to a new state education law that steers more local dollars to charter schools and the head of the state teachers union believe more lawsuits will soon follow. The new law steers locally generated dollars to charter schools and allows them to tap into federal funds meant for schools that serve large numbers of low income students. Broward County is preparing to file a lawsuit against the measure and FEA President Joanne McCall says she expects more districts and organizations to follow: “I don’t think Broward will be alone," she says. "I anticipate Miami-Dade -- Superintendent Carvalho -- will join in -- just my thoughts. And Senator [Bill] Montford who is in charge of all the superintendents the executive director of the superintendents, is very unhappy about this.” Montford heads the state superintendents association. Alberto Carvalho is superintendent of the Miami-Dade school district, the largest in the state. Gov.  Rick Scott approved the law over the objections of school districts and many state lawmakers -- including Senate leaders who McCall says, expected House Bill 7069 to be vetoed. Even charter school lobbyists have suggested the law will be challenged.


Media Roundtable; Joanne McCall *

Thousands of educators from every state are meeting in Boston this week to talk about the most pressing issues facing students, schools and the teaching profession at the National Education Association’s 155th Annual Meeting. The group includes a big cohort of teachers from Florida, and they’re speaking out. FEA President Joanne McCall said they oppose some federal proposals under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and recent laws passed by the Florida Legislature.


Charter schools get F's three times as often in state *

For years, Florida politicians have trashed public schools, describing them as “failures.” Traditional public schools get it wrong, they say. Yet when school grades were released this past week, not a single traditional school in Orange County received an F. Five charter schools did. Yes, every single “failing” school in Orange County was a charter school. The numbers looked similar statewide. Less than 1 percent of traditional public schools earned F’s. But 3.4 percent of charter schools did. That means charter schools were more than three times as likely to fail. I don’t think either of these models should be classified a “failure.” But if one of them has a failure problem, it obviously isn’t traditional. If facts matter, this should be a wake-up call. After the grades were released, I sent notes to the offices of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, asking how anyone could possibly argue that traditional schools are failing when charter schools are failing three times as often. Negron didn’t respond. Corcoran noted that “no educational model is immune” to problems, but noted that charter schools earned far more A’s than F’s. (Right. Just like traditional schools … which Corcoran called “failure factories.”) He went on to say that he would continue to push for accountability and that charter schools with consecutive F’s “will be shut down.” Really, though, this column isn’t meant to bash on charter schools. I believe they have a place in education — especially for special-needs kids, gifted students and those with particularly challenging backgrounds. The main point you need to know is that the talking point about “failing” public schools is simply a lie … based on the state’s own numbers. But there’s something else you need to know: These school grades are sometimes just plain stupid. See, test scores are significantly affected by students’ backgrounds, regardless of where they go to school. That means schools that serve special-needs, extra-poor or at-risk populations will usually fare poorer in standardized tests … and not because their teachers stink. For two decades, politicians in this state have trashed teachers, underfunded education and bogged down schools with testing mandates and cumbersome regulations. Private operators wanted a piece of the taxpayer pie. So they lobbied the politicians, who portrayed traditional schools as failures — and then slapped so many mandates on them that parents would flee. It worked. Of course students should have tests. I want my own kids to have tests — ones prepared by their teachers and also standardized tests, such as the SAT and AP, which we all took growing up. But Florida Republicans have made testing an obsession that overshadows learning. Arts and P.E. classes — things that make students well-rounded and healthy — have been cut. And the teacher-bashing has been incessant. This state deserves better. Our students deserve better. You also deserve the truth — including the fact that Florida’s traditional schools aren’t plagued by failure. Good things still happen in public schools. But they happen in spite of Florida politicians, not because of them.


Charter schools will get $96 million in capital aid from school districts


HB 7069, signed into law, dismally fails public education


Punish charter scandal; investigate who let it happen


What part of “oversight” don’t lawmakers get


Making charters more accountable


Teachers are warned of "dire" finances at Hillsborough's opening bargaining session (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


This year, no teacher exodus from low-performing Marion schools (Chris Altobello quoted)


Miami-Dade schools excelled; only state lawmakers earned an F


Orange school board approves teacher pay hikes


Citrus school board pushes to eliminate VAM from teacher evaluations


The fight for Fairmount Park


Feds were investigating discrimination at a Florida school. Then Trump happened.


New state law lets any resident challenge what’s taught in science classes


Textbook challenges, new laws, school grades and more


Figures show Florida is giving its children the short shrift


NASA faces education program cuts


Redirect Florida's class size reduction funds, Florida Council of 100 recommends


Bush foundation issues legislative grades


NEA president: We have the power… and they know it

“This is not a drill,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told the 2017 NEA Representative Assembly. “We stand in a dangerous place. We stand between a profiteer and his profits. We have a president who resides at the dangerous intersection of arrogance and ignorance and travels with a moral compass that always points to his own self-interest.” In her keynote address on Sunday, Eskelsen García laid out in stark terms the dangers posed by the agenda of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, but reminded the 8,000 delegates gathered in the Boston Convention Center that “we can win. We have the power, and they know it.” Eskelsen García recalled how she had to turn down an invitation from DeVos to meet because the new education secretary failed to answer simple questions about her commitment to accountability and transparency for charter schools and to protecting our most vulnerable students. We have have already seen some of Devos’ answers. She has made it clear that the Education Department under her leadership will pursue the most egregious school privatization agenda in the form of charter school and voucher expansion, and will not protect our most vulnerable students. The Trump/DeVos administration rescinded the Office of Civil Rights letter that the Obama administration sent to districts clearly stating that they were legally responsible for protecting transgendered students from discrimination. “I will not allow the National Education Association to be used by Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos,” Eskelsen García told the delegates to resounding applause. “I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts. I see no reason to assume they will do what is best for our students and their families. There will be no photo-op!” The current administration, however, knows the NEA is a threat, and will not relent in its attacks on public schools and public school educators. “They will try to take away your freedom to organize. They will try to take away your freedom to negotiate with a collective voice. They will try to silence us because when we win, the entire community wins. Working people who don’t even have access to a union win, because we’re there to fight for their kids’ schools and affordable college.” This assault will also target younger, newer educators with lies and distortions about what the NEA is and what it stands for, in hopes of diminishing its ranks in the aftermath of an expected wave of retirements. “They won’t succeed,” Eskelsen García told the delegates. “Because we know in our bones who we are. And we will tell every new colleague the truth about who we are: We are the members of the National Education Association. We are the voice of education professionals. Our work is fundamental to the nation, and we accept the profound trust that is placed in us.”


Models of union strength, member advocacy (John Stocks quoted)


RA to consider NEA’s charter school policy statement (Lily Eskelsen García mentioned)

NEA Racial and Social Justice Conference: It’s about action (Lily Eskelsen García mentioned)


New Jersey art teacher honored as 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year


NEA honors 12 outstanding human and civil rights heroes at annual gala (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


NEA Student Leadership Conference (Lily Eskelsen García and Mary Proud quoted)


A boost for future educators


LEGACY Project: Building strong communities (Lily Eskelsen García mentioned)


Our damaging emphasis on testing


Science teachers: DeVos’ Education Department is misinterpreting federal law


To reach hungry children in the summer, these school cafeterias moved outside


What should students know about religion? Teaching it in public schools.


North Carolina: How the charter school industry is hijacking public education (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


North Carolina: Employee of voucher school pleads guilty to embezzling $400,000


North Carolina Legislature’s actions are discouraging teachers


New York charter fires most of its staff for wanting to join a union


Houston: KIPP schools charged unallowable student fees, agency finds


Indianapolis plans to close three public high schools, with no community input


Los Angeles Times: Cheerleading for privatization and the Trump-DeVos agenda


Coming next session: Power struggle over universities *

Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature may be headed for a battle over state university funding next session, with lawmakers eager to wrest power away from a board of gubernatorial appointees that now determines how much money goes to each school based on performance targets. The State University System’s board of governors created a system they use to evaluate each public institution’s performance, a 10-metric rubric that emphasizes graduation and retention rates, graduates’ starting salaries and more. Universities are awarded up to 100 points for achieving excellence or improvement on the standards. Since the system first went into place in 2014-15, the board has used the metrics as a guide for how to dole out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, with underperformers risking getting cuts. Scott, who appoints board members, has been a vocal proponent of performance funding and has consistently proposed adding more to the pot. But lawmakers, particularly in the House, want to redesign that system, which they argue unfairly rewards or punishes some universities in ways that might be politically motivated. They signaled their wish to see changes in a provision in SB 374 that would have directed the board of governors to study their performance-funding methodologies to find alternatives. But Scott vetoed the entire bill. Despite Scott axing the bill — an action that he explained was unrelated to most of its changes affecting universities — the board plans to complete the study. Lawmakers are hoping they’ll learn from performance-funding policies in other states and apply those lessons here. If they don’t, board members — and, by proxy, the governor — could lose some control over the multi-billion-dollar university system. “Is it political or not? I don’t know,” said House Higher Education Appropriations Chair Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, referring to the current system. “We are always trying to take the politics out of it and just make it fair for every university to be able to compete, especially with the different missions they have and the different populations they have. Penalizing the smaller schools or the different student populations they have ... just doesn’t make a lot of sense to us,” he said. Meanwhile, Senate leaders already tried to legislate the performance metrics, which are currently implemented through regulation. Senate President Joe Negron said he plans to continue his push to emphasize four-year graduation rates in the metrics during next year's session. “We should constantly be looking at the metrics for performance funding,” he said. “I expect we will continue to suggest modifications and revisions to make the system fairer.”


Universities should spend more on mental health services


New College entering a new era


Atwater's new role: Make FAU a major economic player


NWF State tries to deal with budget cuts


Academic freedom under threat on college campuses


Graduate worker and faculty unions take on Duke’s administration


Florida pension fund up 14 percent for fiscal year *

Florida’s $155 billion pension fund is on track to show a positive gain for the eighth straight year, as the state’s fiscal year ended last week. Although the final number will not be calculated for some time, State Board of Administration officials said they expected the return to be near a Wednesday estimate showing the fund was up 14.24 percent for the fiscal year. The anticipated double-digit return for the fund — which pays retirement benefits for state workers, teachers, county employees and university personnel — will be a much stronger showing than last year, when the fund eked out a 0.54 percent positive return. This year’s gain keeps alive a streak that began after a 19 percent drop in 2009. It is the second longest positive streak in the fund’s last four decades. The fund, which is one of the largest public retirement systems in the country, has earned a positive return in 35 of the last 44 years. An impact on the pension fund came from the 2017 Legislature, which passed a law that could affect the number of public employees who end up in the pension fund or are covered by a 401(k)-type investment plan. Previously, newly hired public workers who did not actively choose a retirement plan “defaulted” into the traditional pension plan. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, 59 percent of new workers defaulted into the pension plan, with 18 percent actively choosing the plan and 23 percent opting for the investment plan. Under the new law, new teachers, county employees and state workers will default into the investment plan if they do not make a decision. The change is expected to decrease the number of workers covered by the traditional pension plan.


Hard-fought state budget finally takes effect


125 new state laws kick in


New state laws will expand concealed guns to public facilities


Push to restore state felon voting rights gains steam, but obstacles remain


Reject Scott's bid to pack state's high court


Grading poorly on the sunshine


The constitution revision group nobody knows


Patronis sworn in as state's new chief financial officer


State’s departing fiscal watchdog used public scrutiny as a weapon


Visit Florida girds for change, industry headwinds, despite budget win


Major state contractor accused of bilking taxpayers with bogus highway dividers


Amid Tampa Electric workplace tragedy, a reminder too many Floridians die at work


Veteran activist from Florida chosen as NOW’s new leader


Forecaster says budget cuts could hurt hurricane predictions


Record South Florida rain threatens Glades wildlife, sets stage for water woes


The Trump administration has given up on American workers


Labor Department rethinking Obama-era overtime pay rule


Pope Francis: Labor unions are essential to society


Trump's next attack on democracy: mass voter suppression


Trump’s commission wants to know voting history, party and address of every voter


Asked for voters’ data, states give Trump panel a bipartisan “no”


Kris Kobach says he can’t comply with Kris Kobach’s voter data request


Florida undecided on request from voter fraud commission


Trump voter-fraud panel’s data request a gold mine for hackers, experts warn


Trump tweets stoke voter fraud claim


Why we should be very afraid of Trump’s vote suppression commission


Trump’s pick to investigate voter fraud is freaking out voting rights activists


The limits of lying and cheating


Women in tech speak frankly on culture of harassment


New report raises some big questions about Flynn and Russian hackers


Trump threatened with subpoena over Comey “tapes”


A quick breakdown of all the Trump-Russia reports last week


Democrats want inspector general to probe whether Sessions violated recusal


An inside view of the House Russia probe


Grassley goes after acting FBI director


Inside Kushner’s circle of trust


Trump foot soldier sidelined under glare of Russia inquiry


Senate sends fixed Russia-Iran sanctions bill to House


No justice after the coldblooded murder of a Russian opposition leader


Trump to meet with Putin at G-20 gathering


Senate “close” to final health bill amid despite Trump tweets


Trump warms to old idea: Kill health law now, and replace it later


Even setting an expiration date on Obamacare would massively disrupt system


Projected drop in Medicaid spending heightens hurdle for GOP health bill


CBO: No, seriously, the Senate bill cuts Medicaid spending


There’s no sugarcoating it: Republicans are taking a sledgehammer to Medicaid


Medicaid cuts in health bill threaten mental health care for Floridians


Trump proves to be an unreliable ally to Republicans in the health-care fight


HHS secretary says Trump’s tweets aren’t impeding his push for overhaul


Senate Republicans close to scrapping some tax cuts in Obamacare repeal


Ryan thinks it’s “hysterical” to point out that Trumpcare will kill people


Americans watch a health-care bill that could upend many lives again


Many veterans would suffer under Republican health-care plan


Children will pay cruel price for GOP health bill


For millions, life without Medicaid services is no option


GOP health care’s stark question: Help vulnerable Americans or help the rich?


The swamp has taken over the repeal of Obamacare


Don't strip healthcare, fix flaws in Obamacare


Understanding Republican cruelty


Red-state school leaders vent frustrations with GOP health bill


Calls for single payer grow louder at anti-Trumpcare protests


As GOP struggles with health care, Democrats forge ties with “resistance”


Sanders’ plan to save Obamacare


Trump backers “furious” that Nevada senator stood against health care bill


Conservative groups unleash on Senate Republicans over repeal bill


Cruz and Lee play inside game in health fight


Nelson hosting health care roundtable in Tampa


Rubio trashes CBO analysis of GOP health care bill as a “joke”

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