Today's news -- March 13, 2017




Lawmakers tinker with teacher bonus plans *

More top educators in Florida would have a crack at an annual state bonus in the 2017-18 school year, under initial legislative proposals to expand a controversial, 2-year-old teacher incentive program. While there’s more room for compromise this year, House and Senate plans, unveiled last week, likely won’t appease all critics because they keep intact a core premise that teachers’ unions have vehemently opposed. To entice and reward the “Best and Brightest” teachers and — for the first time — principals who work in Florida public schools, lawmakers still want educators to demonstrate both “highly effective” teaching skills but also personal academic prowess in order to qualify for the extra cash. Teachers and principals who tested well on the SAT/ACT back in high school could still use those scores as one way to meet the requirements, and going forward, lawmakers want to also let them use other, similar benchmarks — such as qualifying scores on graduate school entrance exams or teacher certification tests. The inclusion of principals in the program is critical to expanding it, said state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Republican who is the House pre-K-12 education budget chairman and who is shepherding the House measure. “We know the No. 1 factor in the student’s life is the quality of the teacher, but the No. 1 factor in getting teachers to those schools is the quality of the leadership,” Diaz said.  How many additional teachers and principals might be eligible under an expanded program is unknown — so is the price tag for exactly how much the expansion of “Best & Brightest” would cost taxpayers or how it would be paid for. One key senator revealed last month that the House’s intent — with Senate support — is to pour as much as $250 million into expanding “Best & Brightest” next year. That would be five times the $49 million that lawmakers approved this year. Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons, the Senate’s pre-K-12 education budget chairman, reaffirmed that pledge on Wednesday when the Senate’s proposal was released. House leaders have been less committal to a figure and said Friday that an estimated cost hadn’t been determined. The “Best & Brightest” program — the brainchild of current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes — has been the subject of intense criticism since it was established in 2015.  Teachers’ union leaders and some lawmakers in both parties have complained that teachers’ personal academics and their performance in the classroom ought not to be linked. “Just because you do well on a test doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good teacher — clearly,” Diaz said. “However, we know that if you put individuals with higher aptitude into the classroom, they have a better chance at being a highly effective teacher and impacting our students.” The Florida Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state, is “still evaluating” the Legislature’s new proposals, FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow said. However, he added: New teachers “need to know there is some consistency in their base pay — not just volatile bonuses.” “Good research suggests some incentives can work, but several of the criteria being used to award the bonuses are untethered from research,” Pudlow said.

The only “no” vote during Friday’s hearing came from Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, who said the changes put the House “on the right track," but he still had reservations about the bonuses. “If we could just give them a raise … we would be able to just attract teachers based on the salaries we have,” Jones said. Stuart Klatte, president of the Lake County Education Association, said that is what the unions and most teachers would prefer. “I’d rather see that money going into teacher salaries, going into the classroom, benefitting students,” Klatte said. Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, who voted for the House bill, said there still will be “push back” from teachers and administrators, but he liked that the bonus money bypassed the usual teachers union-district bargaining process. Instead, the money gets distributed as lawmakers want. “Our intentions are carried out because it goes directly from us to the teachers,” he said.


Scott's ideas for teacher incentives didn't resonate; Legislature has own plans


Teaching of evolution, climate change at stake in Donalds' bill


New Pasco County school union president calls for improved culture (Don Peace quoted and Kenny Blankenship mentioned)


Despite promises, change comes slowly to Tampa school


School counselor honored for helping Miami’s most vulnerable LGBTQ students


A parent lawsuit bites the dust, and legislators get rolling


New law allows out-of-county school transfers, but only if there's space


The Florida corporate tax credit program: a statewide scam *


The origins of Florida’s tax credits for constitutionally banned vouchers


DeVos' holy war


Vouchers hurting the children they pretend to help


How a high court ruling on playground covering may pave the way for vouchers (Lily Eskelsen García and Alice O’Brien quoted)


What DeVos should have learned at Washington school


Parents, unite against DeVos! Think of it as a bake sale to save the future


Block grants produce waste, fraud, and abuse


Teacher to Ohio governor: “You are in the dark about life in the classroom”


New Orleans: A plagiarized charter school application


Alabama constitution still calls for “separate schools for white and colored children”


GOP won’t protect LGBT students, those with disabilities in D.C. voucher bill  


Colleges balk at budget cuts *

State college presidents on Friday expressed dismay that the 28-school system is being targeted for three-quarters of the cuts in the Florida Senate's initial plan to trim $131 million in higher-education spending. "It is of great concern that the first thing out of the chute is a 74 percent reduction impacting the Florida college system and it is directed at programs that support our most at-risk student populations," said Ed Meadows, president of Pensacola State College and the chairman of the Council of Presidents, which represents all the state colleges. The suggested cuts include a $55 million reduction in remedial education, the suspension of $30 million in performance funding for the colleges and the suspension of $10 million in incentive funds aimed at producing more students with technical and industry certifications. College presidents were also concerned that their system's cuts represented more than 74 percent of the $131 million total, while the state university reductions represented 10 percent and the private college cuts represented 5 percent. But Meadows noted the budget process is still in its early stages. "We hope to work with the Senate in the coming weeks to lessen the impact it could have on our ability to serve our students," he told the other presidents Friday during their monthly meeting.


New FGCU president agrees to $350,000 base salary, plus bonuses


Delaney’s legacy as UNF president has been built on more than just numbers


California Democrats unveil aid plan with goal of making public colleges “debt-free”


Under radar, GOP leaders spent $240 million on lawyers,-Florida-spent-$240M-on-lawyers


House votes to kill Enterprise Florida despite Scott's pressure


Who dared to defy Gov. Scott on jobs program?


Southwest Florida a case study in GOP split over incentives


Lingering question about 2017 Legislature


Dispute over bill exposes fractures in Negron's Senate leadership team


Defend openness during Sunshine Week


More than half of Polk households struggling, United Way says


Republicans want to be rewarded as if they expanded Medicaid


Legislators attack — and now want to preside over — courts,amp.html


Unanimous death juries legislation headed to governor's desk


Legislature postpones vote on racial bias in sentencing


Tell us why you haven't ruled Florida House tells court


Wildfire season could be hot, damaging in Florida — thanks to La Niña


Gun bills aren’t dead yet, NRA lobbyist Hammer says


Why hurting the poor will hurt the economy


The 1930s were humanity's darkest, bloodiest hour. Are you paying attention?


Steady U.S. job growth sets stage for Fed to raise interest rates


Trump wants faster growth. The Fed isn’t so sure.


Trump team taking more and more credit for Obama successes


Trump's budget director claims Obama was “manipulating” jobs data


Trump’s head-spinning shift on the economy has left his supporters behind


Trump budget expected to seek historic contraction of federal workforce


House committee wants evidence for Trump's wiretap claim


If Russia inquiry is not “legitimate,” Democrats may abandon it


McCain to Trump: Retract wiretapping claim or prove it


Sources: FBI looks into computer link between Russian bank, Trump organization


Trump asks U.S. attorneys to resign after Hannity calls for “purge”


Bharara was investigating Fox News when Hannity urged Trump to fire him


Tampa's Bentley among U.S. attorneys asked to resign in Trump housecleaning


Warren says Trump pushed out prosecutors to install “cronies”


Oversight Committee member is suspicious about the U.S. attorney firing


Flynn was paid to represent Turkey’s interests during Trump campaign


Trump adviser admits to contact with DNC hacker


Russian espionage piggybacks on a cybercriminal’s hacking


Russian oligarch responds to Trump airport connection


ACLU files complaint against Sessions over Senate testimony


GOP health bill is a $600 billion tax cut -- almost entirely for the wealthy


The five big numbers to look for in the CBO report on health care reform


GOP health plan could strip addiction and mental health coverage from 1.3 million


Trump supporters in the heartland fear being left behind by GOP health plan


The moral failing of Obamacare repeal


Yes, Trump scammed many of his working-class supporters


Another key Republican senator knocks GOP Obamacare plan


Pence says Obamacare “failed” Kentucky, where 500,000 gained insurance


Trump’s promises are taking a beating in the GOP’s Obamacare replacement


Trump said no one would lose coverage under GOP plan. Ryan won’t back that.


Price says “nobody will be worse off financially” under Obamacare repeal


Trump keeps low profile after praising health care overhaul


Millions might lose health coverage? Not to hear Republican leaders tell it.


Sleeper issue of Medicaid’s future could prove health-care plans’ stumbling block


The GOP’s high-risk strategy for health law repeal


GOP desire to keep party feuds private breaks down over health care


Obamacare repeal could die in Senate without changes, Nelson says


Nurses in Tampa speak out against GOP health law proposal


Desantis under fire at town hall meeting in Daytona Beach


DeSantis’s first principle: Do harm


Issa, Hunter face raucous anti-Trump crowds at town hall meetings


Trump's revised travel ban dealt first court setback


Mayors resist Trump's immigration policies: “We cannot submit to a bully”


Trump’s revised travel ban is denounced by 134 foreign policy experts


The travel-ban casualty the White House is ignoring


King says civilization can’t be restored with “somebody else’s babies”


Trump immigration crackdown is great for private prison stocks


Is ICE’s help-wanted sign a welcome mat for rogue applicants, too?


Muhammad Ali Jr. stopped again after testifying about first airport detention


The Trump slump? Tourists say they're scared to visit the United States


Foreigners who overstay their visas outnumber those who cross the border illegally


Woman detained after speaking about deportation fears is released


A man assumed a store’s Indian owners were Muslim. So he tried to burn it down.


“Go back to your country, terrorist”: Man accused of attacking restaurant employee


What have we become in the time of Trump?


What happened after an anti-Semitic bomb threat at my school


Survey: White evangelicals think Christians face more discrimination than Muslims


What the president could learn from professional economists


Concerns about riskier mortgages are sprouting


Democrats’ line of attack on Gorsuch: no friend of the little guy


GOP votes to “obliterate” consumer class-action lawsuits


Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill


We spend $100 billion on policing. We have no idea what works.


Sessions doesn’t want to investigate police. Here’s why we need to.


Pruitt’s office deluged with callers after he questions the science of global warming


How Perdue’s power benefits his friends


Trump’s proposed NOAA cuts would disarm our coasts in the face of rising seas


Nelson, Rubio fight back over proposed cuts to Coast Guard, NOAA and FEMA


How the Amazon River may make hurricanes more deadly


Conservatives cheer EPA cuts that activists fear “will be borne by lungs”

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