Today's news -- June 15, 2017




Both sides pressure governor on schools bill *

With a controversial and wide-ranging education bill now on his desk, Gov. Rick Scott faces intense pressure from both sides as he weighs whether to sign or veto the legislation. Rumors have begun floating that Scott will sign HB 7069 later this week, but officially the governor maintains that he hasn’t made a final decision. Scott received the bill late Monday; he has until June 27 to sign the proposal, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. The 278-page bill, which emerged in the closing days of the regular legislative session, deals with everything from charter schools and standardized tests to sunscreen and school uniforms. The legislation was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and opponents fear Scott agreed to sign the bill in exchange for having his priorities approved during a special session last week. But at an event Tuesday to celebrate the outcome of the special session, Scott told reporters he was still considering the measure. “We all want school choice,” Scott said. “We want to make sure our kids go to the best schools. ... With regard to 7069, I’m still reviewing it. I know the speaker’s very passionate about it. It was something that was very important to him.” The Legislature’s passage of the bill was greeted by a firestorm of protest from school boards, superintendents, the state’s main teachers union and other education advocates. Scott even made comments that hinted that he was considering a veto. Critics of the bill said provisions meant to help charter schools move into neighborhoods with academically struggling schools, as well as a portion of the bill that would allow charter schools to tap local property-tax dollars for school construction, would lead to the privatization of Florida’s education system. They also slammed the last-minute appearance of the legislation, which folded together a slate of education bills that had been debated separately. Critics include Polk County School District officials and stakeholders. Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd issued a statement just hours after the Legislature approved the bill May 8. “The bill contains Title I language that will have a negative impact on our neediest of schools,” Byrd wrote. “If this bill passes, we stand to lose 136 federal positions, including reading, math and science coaches, and support that has aided our low-performing schools.” School Board member Billy Townsend nicknamed Schools of Hope “Schools of Fraud”. “This bill is really a legislative expression of bad faith and bad intent,” he said.


Simmons holds out hope on HB 7069, despite rumors *

Sen. David Simmons has heard the talk that Gov. Rick Scott plans to sign the Legislature's hotly debated education conforming bill HB 7069 into law today in Orlando, where Simmons practices law when not legislating. He saw House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the bill's top advocate, tour the state with Scott on Tuesday and understands the optics. Still, the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations chairman, who has urged Scott to veto the measure and call lawmakers back into session to fix it, remains confident that HB 7069 is not a done deal.  "I have spoken to the governor's representatives about all of the issues at length," Simmons told the Gradebook. "I think he is thoroughly analyzing this. I have been told no decision has been made." Simmons made sure to point out that it was Scott who pushed for higher per student funding than the House, and who has taken many other steps to "do what's right" in several areas outside of education, as well. He made clear his respect for the governor, and also observed that HB 7069 has plenty of good things in it, such as daily elementary school recess, a permanent extra hour of instruction for low performing schools, the deletion of the value-added model of teacher evaluation, and even the idea of providing more support for the state's most persistently struggling schools. But he repeated that there has to be a better way than the lengthy up-or-down conforming bill, released shortly before the vote. The ideas within it deserve the right to live or die on their own merits, fully debated in the light of day, he said. The outcome is critical. "There's one thing to do: Educate these children and break the cycle of poverty," Simmons said. The governor's office has not provided any more information on Scott's plans with the bill, one of 52 now on his desk awaiting his signature.


Farmer to Scott: Veto “dreadful” HB 7069 *

A state senator who is also a prominent trial attorney is telling Gov. Rick Scott to veto a contentious education policy bill, saying it’s a brew of “bad policy” and “a textbook example of a failure in government transparency.” Sen. Gary Farmer, a Parkland Democrat, wrote a two-page letter to Scott on Tuesday on HB 7069, which critics have said will benefit charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools. “This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources towards improving our public education,” Farmer wrote. The bill “would force school districts to give an even split of locally derived capital outlay funds to charter schools.” Farmer also mentioned how “the process through which this bill was passed also raises some serious transparency issues.” He said the bill “was fundamentally changed into a 278-page amendment that slashes funding for struggling schools and requires school districts to pay for charter school projects that they cannot afford.” Moreover, the final product “included provisions that were the subject of some 55 other bills, the vast majority of which either had been voted down in committee or had stalled,” he said. The bill “also hijacked unrelated issues, such as recess and Gardiner Scholarships for students with special abilities, in a blatant attempt to borrow support,” Farmer added. “That may be the most offensive part of this process, as these issues enjoyed broad, bipartisan support -- unlike the other controversial provisions” of the bill. “… While there are small pockets of good policy hidden within this bill, it is a monstrosity when coupled with the multitude of bad policies that have been included,” Farmer concluded.


Putnam says HB 7069 passed “without a lot of sunshine”


Volusia school board looks to fill budget holes


Santa Rosa educators appealing unfair labor practice ruling (Martin Powell quoted)


More than 500 apply to teach at Orange middle school (Wendy Doromal quoted)


Second state teacher makes case that scoring process on teacher test is flawed


PBS is set to air right-wing-sponsored school privatization propaganda


Pipeline to the classroom: How big oil promotes fossil fuels to children


Report on fundraising by parent groups only scratches the surface of inequality


Scott's veto of higher ed bill adds to growing feud
Setting off both political and policy shock waves, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday vetoed a major higher education bill that was a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron and a key part of negotiations to close out last month's regular session. One of the bill’s main provisions was to limit the role of community colleges, while expanding funding for state universities, which has long been one of Negron’s top priorities. Scott said raising funding for the state university system was done "at the expense of the Florida College System." But the bill served as a key cog in the horse trading that helped bring the state’s regular legislative session last month to an end. The House had held the bill up on the final day of session, and only passed it after the Senate narrowly approved in a 20-18 vote a school choice bill pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. And having Scott sign the bill was initially part of a tentative deal struck between the House and governor headed into a three-day special session that ended last Friday. That deal, however, did not have Senate sign-off and quickly fell apart. During session, the Senate overrode $75 million in Scott's higher education vetoes. Though they were not ultimately passed, it's a stinging rebuke for a Republican governor to have vetoes overridden by a GOP-led chamber. In vetoing the bill, SB 374, Scott spoke of personal experience of he and his wife attending "community college" because it was affordable. "State and community colleges have played a tremendous role in my life and lives of countless Florida families, providing them with an opportunity to succeed," he said in arguing that the bill shortchanged state colleges. Wednesday's veto is another source of friction in a growing feud between Scott and Senate leaders, who were largely on the same page with the governor throughout the regular legislative session. The Senate backed Scott’s top priorities, which included funding for Visit Florida, the agency promoting tourism, and Enterprise Florida, whose mission was to attract employers and jobs to the state. In the wake of the veto, one Republican senator called the move “petty” and said Scott’s veto, especially the measure’s popular Bright Futures scholarship expansion, would bring him heartburn on the campaign trail. Scott is facing term limits, but is expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018. "It will be funny to see how he explains to voters that he vetoed summer bright futures and bright futures for the best in our state," the senator said. "What a petty, petty man." Had Scott signed it into law, S.B. 374 would have boosted Bright Futures Scholarships by covering full tuition for students who qualify for the top-tier of the program. In his veto letter, Scott seemed to understand the politically dicey nature of the issue. He noted budget language will institute the Bright Futures expansion, plus $300 for books, next fiscal year, but stressed he supports lawmakers passing a permanent expansion next session. “I urge the Legislature to pass legislation that … expands Bright Future Scholarships permanently,” he wrote. “While recognizing the importance of both our state colleges and universities.”  Some Democrats were quick to cry politics, saying the veto was retribution for not going along with the initial Senate session deal cut between Scott and Corcoran. “This is a slap to the face for Floridians and a clear case of calculated political payback to the Senate for bucking Scott and Speaker Corcoran's secret special session backroom deal,” said Charley Norton, executive director of Florida Strong, a liberal 501(c)4 organization. “We deserve better."


Feds halt new rules aimed at abuses by for-profit colleges


Scott signs state worker pay raise -- comes with benefits change


Progressive groups sue over Scott’s judicial appointment power


Scott: No hard feelings with Corcoran


Report: You need to make at least $20 an hour to afford a two-bedroom in state


Mueller seeks to talk to intelligence officials, hinting at inquiry of Trump


Sessions: I can’t discuss conversations with Trump. Legal experts: Yes, you can.


Explaining executive privilege and Sessions’ refusal to answer questions


Trump officials invent new strategy to dodge questions


The Sessions hearing shows who’s really colluding with Russia


Sessions, in his own words


Sessions: A poor, misunderstood man exempt from normal rules


Mueller chooses his investigatory dream team


Johnson to testify publicly in House Russia probe


On Twitter, Trump decries obstruction probe related to “phony” Russia story


Trump huddled with donors on day of Comey testimony


Senate backs measure limiting president’s power to lift sanctions


Rubio wants focus of probe turned to Russian interference


Russia is experiencing the largest anti-government protests in half a decade


Scalise among four shot at baseball field; suspect is dead


Scalise, wounded lawmaker, takes pride in baseball and politics


Sanders: “Violence of any kind is unacceptable”


Washington preaches unity -- yet again


Trump calls for prayers after visiting critically injured Scalise


Virginia shooting suspect was distraught over Trump’s election, brother says


What do many mass shooters have in common? A history of domestic violence.


America’s lethal politics


Their own targeted, Republicans want looser gun laws, not stricter ones


DeSantis, Tom Rooney at baseball practice just before gunman opened fire


Not one state supports Obamacare replacement


The solution is single-payer


Daughters will suffer from Medicaid cuts


Government report: Health care deductibles higher under GOP bill


The GOP’s fantastically anti-democratic quest to kill health care in the dark


Trump’s mangled “facts” about Obamacare


Florida Blue will sell Obamacare plans statewide in 2018


Iraqi Christians targeted for deportation face “death sentence” in Iraq, lawyers say


Cuban detainees protest at ICE detention center in Wakulla County


North Florida man facing deportation still supports Trump


Fed raises interest rate, signaling confidence in the economy


Regulatory “reform” that is anything but


Pruitt used two email addresses in his last job. He told Congress he used one.


Trump’s imminent Cuba problem


Wait for Trump's decisions is personal for South Florida's Cuban, Haitian immigrants


The crisis over Qatar highlights Trump’s foreign policy confusion


Australian leader pokes fun at Trump in leaked recording


China’s meddling in Australia -- and what the U.S. should learn from it


Turkish guards will be charged in embassy protest, officials say


Democrats in Congress sue Trump over foreign business dealings


Manafort still doing international work


China overturns rejections of nine Trump trademarks




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