Today's news -- June 16, 2017




Scott signs sweeping education bill that expands charters

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a sweeping education bill that offers more money to charter schools, expands a teacher bonus program and eases some testing requirements. The 278-page bill is a collection of policies individually debated by lawmakers and pieced together by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron during the regular session. Critics already are promising changes. Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall said the law undermines the state's public school system. The association, which represents thousands of teachers, plans to propose changes during next year's legislative session. “It’s time for our elected leaders to begin to listen to parents, teachers and education staff professionals," McCall said. "They need to strengthen our neighborhood public schools, not work to undermine them." Scott's office received a flood of complaints about the measure, more than 22,000 emails and phone calls urging him to reject it. Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said the Legislature placed politics over the residents they serve. "It is unbelievable that Governor Scott has ignored the frustration and concerns that were made through phone calls, letters and emails from parents, teachers, students and superintendents," Jones said. (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall, Mike Gandolfo and Dave Galloway quoted) (Mike Gandolfo quoted) (Karla Hernández-Mats quoted) (Marianne Capoziello quoted) (Pat Barber quoted) (Mark Castellano quoted) (Mark Pudlow quoted)

The Republican phonies assault public education *

It's no surprise Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a massive education bill Thursday at a private Catholic school in Orlando. His commitment to public education is as phony as the denials there were secret deals to preserve this gift to private schools and charter schools. Now Republican leaders in Tallahassee all claim to be winners, and the losers are the school superintendents, principals and teachers who begged the governor to veto House Speaker Richard Corcoran's scheme to eviscerate public education. The fix was in before the Legislature met last week in special session. Corcoran magically dropped his crusade against the governor's key issues, preserving money for tourism promotion and enticements for companies to create jobs. Lawmakers also threw a little more money toward public schools after Scott vetoed that portion of the budget in a faux concern for their well-being. They even gave the governor money toward Lake Okeechobee dike repairs after summarily rejecting the idea during the regular session. The payoff came Thursday, when Scott signed Corcoran's top priority into law after days of "reviewing'' the legislation. What Scott was studying was his prospective U.S. Senate campaign next year and the political risks of angering the Republican base by standing up for public schools and against Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. Standing with him Thursday: Corcoran, his newfound friend and potential candidate for governor who fought the governor for months over Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. This is transactional politics at its worst, and Corcoran is as phony as Scott. He agreed to the same level of spending on tourism promotion as last year and to a new slush fund to lure businesses after portraying himself as the dragon slayer of public waste and corporate welfare. He bragged about transparency while secretly stitching together pieces of more than 50 bills into HB 7069 and springing it on lawmakers in the final days of the regular session. But Corcoran's mastery of politics and policy in the Legislature is real, and so is his disdain for public education. The legislation cooked up by Corcoran and signed into law by Scott micromanages public schools and starves them financially. It requires 20 minutes of recess daily in public elementary schools — but not in privately run charters. It enables charter schools to take over for struggling public schools in St. Petersburg and elsewhere with virtually no say by local school districts. It takes local tax money for capital projects for public schools and hands it to charters, making it harder for Pasco and Hillsborough counties to pay for new schools to accommodate growth. It handcuffs public school districts in managing federal Title I money, making it harder for Pinellas to shift money to schools that need the most help. This assault on public education never should have been approved by the Legislature, much less become law. The Senate approved the legislation by a 20-18 vote, so just one more Republican with courage could have killed it. Yet Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Tom Lee of Brandon and Wilton Simpson of Trilby voted for it. Perhaps some assumed Scott would veto it, but they assumed wrong and should be held accountable. So should Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who sold his soul for a South Florida reservoir. Negron delivered a lengthy argument last week that he did not agree to any deal that included Scott signing into law HB 7069 and repeatedly called it a "fake narrative.'' Other Republican senators said otherwise, and that narrative looks very real today. Republican House members celebrated with Scott and Corcoran on Thursday as they proclaimed their support for a "world-class'' education for all students. It is a phony pitch that masks their hostile private takeover of public education, and it insults thousands of principals and teachers working every day in public schools without the resources and support Tallahassee should provide.


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Districts examine recess options under new HB 7069 mandate


FIU students, faculty slam Pence's visit to campus


White House invites for-profit foxes back into the higher-education hen house


After shifting alliances, dark clouds await in the next legislative session


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Trump lashes out at Russia probe


White House aides fret over Trump’s Russia probe obsession


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Special counsel is investigating Kushner’s business dealings


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Mueller, known for being above the fray, is now in the thick of it


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Pence hires outside counsel to deal with Russia probe inquiries


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Trump transition team orders former aides to preserve Russia-related materials


Senate overwhelmingly passes new Russia and Iran sanctions


America risks one-party rule if gerrymandering isn't stopped


Pennsylvania lawsuit says House redistricting is partisan gerrymander


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Scalise faces prospect of multiple operations


DeSantis’ office receives anti-Trump threat


Chaffetz was target of threats by Winter Park man, report says


GOP Senate leaders aim to bring health-care legislation up by end of June


Secrecy surrounding Senate health bill raises alarms in both parties


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Senate healthcare bill threatens people with disabilities


Trump administration rolls back civil rights efforts across government


Kelly revokes Obama order shielding immigrant parents of U.S. citizens


Trump will allow “dreamers” to stay, reversing campaign promise


Central American leaders voice concerns about U.S. deportations


Pension crisis helps corporations maintain an easily exploitable workforce


Trump touts apprenticeships, turning to an issue with bipartisan support


Trump administration is at odds over how to keep the government from defaulting


It’s time to stop blaming poor people for the financial crisis


World offers cautionary tale for Trump’s infrastructure plan


EPA head defends White House’s plan for massive cuts to his agency


GOP lawmakers challenge Trump’s plan to slash EPA budget


Keep America wild


Energy Department closes office working on climate change abroad


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Trump to clamp down on Cuba travel and trade


Inside Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown


All smiles (at least in public) as Central American conference begins in Miami


U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria killed hundreds of civilians, U.N. panel says


Turkish president assails U.S. over charges against his guards


Trump said foreign leaders wouldn’t laugh at the U.S. Now they’re laughing at him.


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Trump needs to be more transparent — no matter what the courts say


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Trump chooses woman who planned his son's wedding to run housing programs


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