Today's news -- March 15, 2012


Florida a "temporary setback" for parent trigger, proponent says

Debate over Florida's parent trigger legislation, which failed in the state Senate, stirred up debate that centered largely on the role of charter schools in the state. Former California state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Democrat, writes for that the arguments mystified her. "Given that Florida already has many charter schools, I find it baffling why allowing parents access to this option was so threatening to the education establishment," Romero wrote. She expected that the outcome in Florida will not be the final word on the parent trigger. "Just look around the country at how parents are standing up, sadly in some cases even going to jail, for the right to educate their children," Romero wrote. "A Connecticut mother led the movement to pass the country’s second Parent Trigger Act. Parental empowerment groups may have made their first splash in the water in California, but they are appearing across the nation at an increasing pace, demanding to reclaim the authority and responsibility for their children’s education." is a blog for the Step Up for Students organization that operates Florida's corporate tax credit scholarship program, and is highly supportive of school choice. Ron Matus, formerly of The Tampa Bay Times, demonstrates that stance clearly with a second parent-trigger post critical of the rhetoric that the most active parent organizations used to attack the bill. "There’s no doubt that if one of the biggest newspapers in Florida suggested that the savvy, passionate, well-meaning parents behind the Florida PTA, Parents Across America and Fund Education Now had been “sweet talked” into their opposition by the teachers unions and the Democratic Party -- and let’s face it, the links between those groups are obvious -- they’d be ripped to shreds. But somehow, critics of the trigger bill could suggest something similar about low-income parents, again and again, and not get called on it. And it is hard to miss that many of these are parents of color, and that few, if any, were part of the public face of the opposition." Anyone think the parent trigger won't be back next year?


Some Okaloosa teachers get an unpleasant surprise
Some first-year teachers in Okaloosa County found out about a salary cut the hard way. Their paychecks were $150 less than they expected. Laura Hussey: "It started last year, when the school district said it didn't have the money to cover more than a million dollars in contracted increases. After that, teacher salaries were frozen." The salary freeze left second year teachers at the first year pay scale. So the district created a new, lower rate for first year teachers. It took many by surprise, including 28-year veteran Elaine Crump. "Well I was shocked. I couldn't believe people who thought that they had contracted, and I certainly thought they had contracted for a certain amount for the year, all of a sudden their check had 150 dollars less in it." $157.50, to be exact. The pay cut kicked in after the teachers had already worked six months at the higher rate. In addition to lower base pay, the district started taking back the difference they'd earned when their salaries were higher.


How bad education policies demoralize teachers


Collaboration is key to success for many high-performing nations (Dennis Van Roekel quoted)


Parent and business organizations work to raise money for underfunded public schools


Students aren't giving up in fight against tuition hikes


Machen: UF would delay higher tuition, create four-year ‘flat rate’


As legislators fix one map, trouble brews on congressional plan

As lawmakers meet in the Capitol to reshape state Senate districts thrown out in court, a bitter fight is brewing in a courthouse across the street that could change the shape of new districts for Congress all over Florida. A coalition of voters groups and the state Democratic Party is suing to derail the Legislature’s new maps of congressional districts. The result of the battle will have statewide ramifications because it will determine the shape of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, including that of Republican Mario Diaz Balart of Miami — which opponents say was drawn especially to improve Republican voting strength. The battle could also determine the shape of Democrat Corrine Brown’s district, which now snakes across nine counties near Jacksonville. Brown’s district, said Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, was delivered the “death knell” by a Florida Supreme Court ruling last week that for the first time applied the anti-gerrymandering rules that voters put in the state Constitution in 2010. The 5-2 ruling by the state’s high court referred specifically to state House and Senate districts, not to Congress. But the court, while validating the map for state House districts, rejected the Senate’s, raising doubts about much of the approach legislators used when drawing the congressional map. Even though the court’s ruling gave legislators guidelines on how to draw districts, leaders of the Republican-led Legislature said Wednesday they believe their congressional map is legal and want the lawsuit delayed until after the election. “It is practically impossible to resolve this case in time for any remedy to be implemented for the impending elections,’’ lawyers for the Florida Senate wrote in a brief filed Monday in Leon circuit court. Florida lawmakers were in town Wednesday to begin a 15-day session devoted exclusively to redrawing the Senate map. The Supreme Court ordered the Legislature, among other things, to come up with a system that does not favor incumbents; to change the boundaries of eight invalidated districts, and to determine whether minority districts perform to elect minorities. The House and Senate convened in session for a total of 30 minutes on Wednesday. The House then adjourned until March 24 -- when it will return to vote on the Senate map -- and the Senate adjourned until Tuesday, when its redistricting committee will return to vote on its map. Until then, no legislators are officially meeting.


Special session comes with special costs

It might have been the most expensive quorum call in the history of the Florida Legislature. At a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, House members returned to the Capitol Wednesday for a session that lasted 11 minutes, and most of that was ceremonial. Some South Florida lawmakers charged taxpayers nearly $1,000 for a round-trip plane ticket. "It's a nine-hour day of driving for exactly 11 minutes of work," said Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, who was back in his Chevy Equinox on U.S. 19 and headed for home minutes after adjournment. "It's a very expensive one punch of the green light," said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach. "If the taxpayers understood the process, I think they would be very upset with us."


Senate's brazen redistricting trickery fails


A look inside session’s last day (by Paula Dockery. Good stuff.)

Expect more new laws to be contested in court (FEA mentioned)


Governor's principles dictate a list of vetoes,0,737983.story


2012 session summary: health care


2012 session summary: energy and utilities


Florida not easing out of foreclosures,0,3866809.story


Sea level rise undermines land ownership, professor says, as Florida most vulnerable


Pinellas activists plan protest at Brandes' office


Jobs bill stalls as Congress fights over agency


Women figure anew in Senate’s latest battle


The myth of the level playing field


Senate reaches deal on judicial nominees


Seven out of ten Americans think Super PACs should be illegal

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