Today's news -- July 6, 2017




Broward challenging state law that benefits charters *

The Broward County School Board voted Wednesday to sue the state over a new law that requires public school districts to share property tax revenue with charter schools and relinquishes their authority to approve charter applications. Broward was the first to take action, but other districts are holding similar meetings within the next two weeks, said legal counsel Barbara Myrick. Miami-Dade, Orange and Pinellas counties are among the others that may collaborate in the case. The school board agreed to spend $25,000 to begin working towards a lawsuit that will argue several components of the law are unconstitutional. The law restricts the district’s right to “operate, control and supervise” all schools. And its property-tax sharing measure violates the state constitution because charters are not permitted to collect property taxes, according to the district. The law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott June 15, enacts measures ranging from recess requirements to additional funding for scholarships for children with disabilities. But it also steers millions of dollars to charter school operators, both by making districts share property tax revenue and setting up a fund for a program called “Schools of Hope.” Under the law, charter operators will be able to 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. Those charters wouldn’t have to adhere to the same rules that district schools do, including class size and teacher certification rules. Board member Donna Korn said the law should allow district schools the same flexibility as charters. “Charter schools have added value in our community. The reality is they’ve pushed the envelope. The concern is how blindly this is being done by legislators,” she said. Board member Rosalind Osgood referred to the law as “strong-arm robbery.” The district would lose at least $100 million in capital funds over the next five years and possibly owe tens of millions more in debt service because bond ratings are likely to get downgraded, staff said. Board members said it was time to stand up to a state legislature that has failed to provide adequate support to public schools. Superintendent Robert Runcie has long pointed out that funding per student in Florida lags thousands of dollars behind the national average. “What the situation is in Tallahassee isn’t about our children, it isn’t about the voters. It’s about the money,” said Board member Ann Murray. “This is the opportunity for us to start chiseling away at state legislators who don’t put the voter and the children in this state first.”

Broward's action could open the floodgates for other school boards to join in. "I've had a number of members of boards reach out to me since 7069 got signed. The question I keep getting is, 'What is everyone else doing?'" said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. "I suspect this will sort of pave the way for these conversations to get on the agendas." The Pinellas County School Board is among those in the more advanced stages of considering whether to join the challenge. "At our last workshop, our attorney David Koperski said he was having conversations with attorneys around the state, talking about some things they are concerned about as far as violating the Constitution in that bill," board member Carol Cook said in an interview. "We said, continue the conversation. We'll discuss it when we have more information." Cook said the item could return to the board at its July 18 workshop. She stressed that Pinellas is not as close to a decision as Broward was. Other districts in the Tampa Bay area are in a wait-and-see mode. "I haven't talked to any of the board members at all," Hillsborough County School Board attorney Jim Porter said. "We're just sort of watching." Dennis Alfonso, the lawyer for the Pasco and Hernando school boards, said he had heard rumblings of lawsuit talk, but his boards have had no discussions about joining. HB 7069 includes more than 60 topics, by some counts — from teacher bonuses and mandated school recess to testing changes and an array of measures that encourage the expansion of charter schools. That's not the only constitutional concern that Broward's lawyers alleged in a 10-page memo that the board reviewed Wednesday. They also argued the Legislature violated school boards' constitutional authority to operate, control and supervise all public schools in their districts. They cited the creation of a new "schools of hope" system that will allow charters to take over for failing traditional public schools. And they contended the new law, which took effect July 1, violated the constitutional rules regarding school taxes, with the requirement that districts distribute a portion of their capital funding to charters. Messina said several board members across Florida have viewed the law as a seizing of their constitutional powers. "What does one do when they believe one's authority is usurped? They have to ask for an interpretation of that" in court, she said.

The Miami-Dade School Board voted two weeks ago to have its attorney prepare a report “with any legal options available in response to HB 7069” before this Thursday, when the board’s committees meet. While the Miami-Dade board weighs those possibilities, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he simultaneously wants to talk with state officials and lawmakers to see if and how the district’s concerns can be addressed. “We’re going to engage in very, very aggressive conversations with the Department of Education entities and also legislative leaders to convey the true impact — which may, in some instances, exceed what was calculated — and attempt to explore that route before any of the other possible options are considered,” Carvalho said. “This would not be the first time that decisions were made in Tallahassee and then a subsequent dialogue ... resulted in conversations with legislators and some mitigation to policy decisions that had been made. This is difficult and complex,” he added. “That’s one of the inherent dangers with the last-minute decision-making process without considering all of the unanticipated consequences, the collateral impact. I think we’re seeing that now.” School district superintendents, teachers unions and parent groups mounted a passionate campaign urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill.


Levy School Board lashes out at trends in state education


“Way too premature” to consider changes to new school reforms, Diaz says


Passage of state budget quiets talk of pay raises for Pasco school personnel (Don Peace quoted)


At NEA RA, educators vow to defend public education *

Vigorous debates and discussions over social justice, the dangers posed by the Trump-DeVos education agenda, and ending the proliferation of unaccountable charter schools dominated the 96th NEA Representative Assembly (RA) held July 2-5 at the Boston Convention Center. While addressing the serious challenges facing students and public education dominated the week, the spirits of delegates were lifted by emotional presentations from student poets that kicked off each day’s activities and a rapturously received appearance by actor and reading advocate LeVar Burton. In her keynote address on Day 1, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García didn’t sugarcoat the dire challenges facing public education in the Trump era. But “we can win. We have the power, and they know it,” she said. Eskelsen García assured the 7,000 delegates that NEA would not try to find common ground with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is pursuing an aggressive school privatization agenda, while refusing to protect our most vulnerable 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!” Giving the close of Day 1 the feel of an organizing rally, NEA Executive Director John Stocks celebrated the student advocacy, member solidarity, and recent victories by NEA state affiliates. “All across the country, you are demonstrating that we have the resolve to fight for what’s right for our students and educators, the resilience to take a hit and bounce back, the audacity to demand respect, and the relentless will to win,” Stocks said. “In school after school, campus after campus, local after local, state after state, it is you who are giving voice to the needs of our students, educators, and public education.” Day Two turned the spotlight on professional practice and two outstanding educators, 2017 NEA Education Support Professional of the Year Saul Ramos, and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee. In his speech to the assembly, Ramos, a paraeducator in Worchester, Mass., urged the delegates to live up to the promise of the RA’s theme: “Uniting Our Members and the Nation for Strong Communities, Empowered Professionals, Successful Students.” “It is more important than ever for all of us to unite and support public education,” Ramos said. “ESP members, NEA-retired members, teachers, higher education and student members, and parents— we must all stand strong together, and let our elected leaders know what we need as educators to nurture successful students.” Sydney Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy in Boston, recalled her evolution as an educator. Her first year in the classroom was spent figuring out how to maintain control over her students and how they learned, but she quickly realized that empowering her students was more important -- and effective -- than a tightly controlled classroom. “All educators should listen to student voices and be architects of ‘school communities,’” Chaffee told the assembly. “Let’s keep our ears and hearts open to our students’ brilliance, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Let’s envision education as a time machine that helps our students travel to worlds we have only imagined—ones that are built on ideals of justice and equity and collaboration.” One of the indisputable highlights of the 2017 RA for the delegates was the appearance of LeVar Burton, this year’s recipient of NEA’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award. In his speech, Burton, host of the long-running PBS children’s series, “Reading Rainbow,” fired on all cylinders, taking down Betsy DeVos, saluting the impact his mother (a teacher) had on his life, and passionately calling for adequate funding of public education and greater respect for educators. “I believe that what you have to offer is essential to this nation,” Burton said. “And our desire to lead the world in any meaningful manner depends on you…Without you, we go nowhere.” On Day 3, delegates overwhelmingly approved a new policy statement in response to the rapid expansion of unaccountable, privately managed charter schools. “We oppose any charter schools that do not meet the criteria because they fall short of our nation’s responsibility to provide great public schools for every student in America,” said NEA Vice President Becky Pringle, who led the 21-member task force charged with writing the new policy statement. The statement draws a sharp new line between charter schools that have a positive effect on public education and those unaccountable, privately managed charter schools that hurt public schools and students. NEA will forcefully support state and local efforts to limit charter growth and increase charter accountability, and slow the diversion of resources from neighborhood public schools to charters. As always, RA delegates got down to important business of electing NEA leaders. President Eskelsen García, Vice President Pringle and Secretary Treasurer Princess Moss were all re-elected to serve another three-year term, which they will begin on September 1.


NEA demands accountability and transparency from charter schools


Oregon educator elected to NEA Executive Committee (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


California educator re-elected to NEA Executive Committee (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


Stipend talks between GAU, UF delayed past June deadline (Charles Shields quoted)


Nelson seeking to lock in low interest rates for student loans


18 states sue DeVos over delay of student loan protections


Francis Rooney wants to withhold funding to colleges with “safe zones”


Lawsuit claims state broke higher education promises


In Georgia, you can now carry guns on college campuses


State and Seminoles settle blackjack dispute

Florida phasing out Project AIDS care, other Medicaid waivers


Labor unions are prophetic, innovative, pope says


Voter fraud commission may have violated law


Why almost every state is partially or fully rebuffing Trump’s election commission


Trump’s voter data request poses an unnoticed danger -- to national security


Trump administration’s voter suppression plans are backfiring


White House responds to criticism of voter fraud commission by attacking the press


Trump White House’s dishonest spin about its voter fraud commission


Real fraud is the voter fraud panel


Democratic governor candidates push Scott to deny Trump state’s voter data


Trump: Nobody really knows if Russia alone interfered in election


Schiff criticizes Trump for casting doubt on Russian election meddling


As Mueller grows his Russia special counsel team, every hire is under scrutiny


The Russia probe can’t be fired


Stakes are high for Trump's meeting with Putin. Here's what to expect.


Nelson joins grave warnings about North Korea, Putin’s cyber warfare


White House backs conservative health plan, but GOP leaders are leery


The GOP has been trying to change Medicaid since Reagan


“Repeal now, replace later” will kill the GOP’s health-care reform


Activists cry cowardice as Republican senators shut doors to healthcare town halls


Poor patient care at many nursing homes despite stricter oversight


Bait and switch on health care


Nearly 4 million Florida kids could lose health insurance


Nelson says GOP health plan loses momentum


Liberals plan sit-in at Rubio's office over health care


Protest outside Sarasota hospital targets health care bill


Detained immigrant children are entitled to hearings, court rules


U.S. citizen detained by mistake sues Miami-Dade over immigration enforcement


Marriage equality may soon be in peril


Trump’s life-tenured judicial avatar


Health care? Taxes? Budget? GOP has big to-do list, but little time


Hopes of “Trump bump” for economy shrink as growth forecasts fade


Blue cities want to make their own rules. Red states won’t let them.


How power profits from disaster


I’m a climate scientist and I’m not letting trickle-down ignorance win


Who will protect nation’s beaches from Trump administration policies?


Trump administration sets slow pace for staffing and nominations


Polish government promised Trump "cheering crowds," buses in supporters,amp.html


Trump, in Poland, urges West to “defend our civilization”


At G-20 summit, it looks more and more like Trump against the world


Japan and Europe announce large trade deal in pushback against Trump


Trump says U.S. mulling “very severe” response to North Korea missile test


In North Korea, “surgical strike” could spin into “worst kind of fighting”


Trump's romance with China's Xi has cooled, “ass-kicking” could lie ahead


U.S. prepared to hold joint operations with Russia in Syria, Tillerson says


My so-called secretary of state


Petraeus’s damning non-response on Trump’s fitness to serve


How Trump transferred wealth to his son while avoiding the usual taxes


Trump Organization renews rights to


White House gender pay gap more than triples under Trump


Trump’s aides build their own empires in the West Wing


They thought NPR tweeted “propaganda.” It was the Declaration of Independence.


Trump’s golden age of trolling



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