Today's news -- March 14, 2017





Eliminating political interference would be a real bonus

Two years later, we're still talking about teacher bonuses. As if this is the magical elixir that will suddenly lead to better schools, well-rounded students and happier lives. If you had not yet heard, the folks in Tallahassee are rolling out improvements to their "Best and Brightest" bonus plan for teachers. And by improvements, I mean upgrading the plan from truly idiotic to largely ineffective. The Legislature seems convinced that all it will take to fix public education is a checkbook and a gimmick. It's an interesting strategy for folks who usually complain about throwing money at problems. What they fail to see is that there is a much simpler way to solve a growing teacher shortage crisis: Stay the heck out of the classroom. It's not a lack of pay that is driving teachers into early retirement and persuading college graduates to major in anything other than education. After all, nobody has ever gone into teaching because they figured it was the quickest way to buy a yacht. Heck, a recent PolitiFact analysis shows Florida has been underpaying its teachers, relative to the rest of the nation, for nearly 50 years. So, no, a handful of bonuses will not solve a thing. The bigger issue is that politicians, such as House Speaker Richard Corcoran, have killed morale with their words and destroyed motivation with their micromanagement of schools. If they really want to attract good teachers, which goes hand-in-hand with helping students, legislators would stop trying to run school schedules, curricula, lesson plans and evaluations from Tallahassee. "Of course, everybody wants more money, but that's not the issue I hear about most from teachers," said Carl Zimmerman, a former state representative and longtime Countryside High teacher. "Give teachers more autonomy. Allow them to teach instead of plastering their walls with meaningless papers about learning goals and rubrics and cookie-cutter lessons." An elected official recently told me the Legislature has only three mandates every session:

1. Pass a budget.

2. Pass as many gun laws as possible.

3. Completely remake education every year.

It would be funny if it wasn't sadly accurate. They love to talk about smaller government, and then they try legislating a child's education from kindergarten to college and every recess in between. And they think that giving 3 percent of the state's teachers a $7,000 bonus from the "Best and Brightest" program will somehow solve 180 days of nonsense for everyone else during the school year. "Money matters, but it's like No. 3 or 4 on a list that begins with working conditions," said Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. "Teachers do their jobs because it's a calling; they get joy out of reaching out to kids. And Tallahassee has done everything in its power to eliminate the joy of teaching — and the joy of learning." There's nothing wrong with offering financial incentives to reward a job well done. Bonuses can even be used to entice quality teachers to work at low-performing schools, which is one of the reforms now being discussed. The Legislature is also considering using national certification test scores as possible bonus incentives, which has some merit. And yet, lawmakers are stubbornly refusing to give up on the idea of tying bonuses to scores on college entrance exams for veteran teachers. Unfortunately, lawmakers see this issue as a battle with teachers associations, and they enjoy cutting union leaders out of any compensation discussions. So bully for them. They control this game. It would just be nice if they recognized that alienating teachers is a surefire way of harming students, too.


Polk unions, district disagree about progress in contract talks (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Manatee School Board to end impasse on contract at hearing (Pat Barber quoted)


Brevard school budget goals: No new debt, teacher raises (Dan Bennett, Vanessa Skipper and Anthony Colucci quoted)


Indian River School Board can't be trusted to be impartial in these matters (Liz Cannon mentioned)


More than 3,000 Central Florida students seek school transfers so far


One state says no to school grades as school accountability continues to evolve


Indiana and the great voucher scam


In pricey Silicon Valley, teachers scramble for housing


Bill would shield university search information (Jennifer Proffitt quoted)


Graduate assistants push back against UF health care proposal (Charles Shields and Bobby Mermer quoted)


Sweeping change in Senate higher ed agenda


State unemployment rises for first time in nearly a year


Unemployment numbers in state last year were higher than first reported


Tallahassee rally: “Equal pay for equal work”


Scott talks jobs in Tallahassee


After Enterprise Florida fight, Scott has little political capital left


Orlando EDC goes under House spotlight


Bill unfairly limits access to records


Scott signs death penalty fix: Florida now requires unanimous decision


House proposes tracking slower Supreme Court decisions


Documentary takes state’s privatized child welfare system to task


Federal lawsuit challenges “arbitrary” state clemency system


Bill cracking down on “sanctuary cities” clears first committee stop


Florida may try again to drug test welfare recipients who have felony convictions


Proposal to make secretary of state elected office advances


If the EPA goes away, is the state up to the job of protecting state's environment?


A relentless widening of disparity in wealth


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


The White House takes its attacks on jobs data to a new (and dangerous) level


Trump’s deliberate corruption of reality-based governing


Trump's shortsighted budget cut plans


Worker safety rules are among those under fire in Trump era


Proposed law could be a new attack on civil rights


Health-care revision would reduce insured by 24 million, CBO projects


White House analysis sees even deeper insurance losses than CBO


The CBO shows there is no rational justification for the GOP health plan


Fact check: Trump’s critiques of the Affordable Care Act


GOP scrambles after scorching health bill appraisal


No magic in how GOP plan lowers premiums: It penalizes older people


Republicans’ healthcare plan is a classic case of class warfare


Threat to women’s health


CBO: Defunding Planned Parenthood would lead to thousands more births


White House budget director’s false claims about the Obamacare legislative process


Trumpcare vs. Obamacare: apocalypse foretold


The original lie about Obamacare


Trump on coverage of Obamacare: “When he left, people liked him”


Heritage Action: Conservatives who stop House health-care bill “will never regret it”


White House attacks on CBO could set up months of brawling


The Republicans’ biggest problem: They won


Agency seeks more time after Congress requests proof of Trump wiretap


Conway suggests Obama bugged Trump using “microwaves”


No, microwave ovens cannot spy on you -- for lots of reasons


Spicer explains why “wire tapping” is different from wiretapping


Abrupt layoffs leave U.S. attorneys scrambling


Report: Probe of Fox News extends to snooping


Washington's spy paranoia


Congressman estimates 1,400 veterans deported in recent years


King stands by racist tweet: “I meant exactly what I said”


Miami Republicans to Iowa's King: “Get a clue”


FSU graduate student stranded in Iran resumes research


It’s Democrats’ turn to hint at a shutdown, over border wall funding


The very legitimacy of our democracy is under threat


Trump, the anecdotal president


Want to reduce fatal police shootings? This policy makes a big difference.


Time to grill Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary


Kushners set to get $400 million from Chinese firm on tower


Trump administration reviewing ways to make it easier to launch drone strikes


White House seeks to cut billions in funding for United Nations




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