Today's news -- March 15, 2017



Class size: House panel proposes “flexibility” in law

Florida’s class law — controversial and altered several times — should get another change this year, one that would allow schools to put more students in some classes without fear of penalties, a House education panel said Tuesday. Under the state’s 2002 rule, schools must limit the number of children in “core courses” to 18, 22 or 25, depending on grade level. But there’s a big exception made possible by a rule lawmakers approved several years ago: Schools declared “schools of choice” and charter schools (public schools run by private groups) can skirt those tough rules and calculate class size by using an easier-to-meet, school-wide average. More and more schools now use that choice provision to escape the class-size law’s strictest mandates. There have been complaints — in part because that provision means many students are in bigger classes — but lawmakers so far have not changed those rules. Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, said the state should “level the playing field” by getting rid of the exception for so-called choice schools but then allowing all schools to use a school-average calculation before they faced penalties. His bill (HB 591) would mean schools would not lose money, as long as their average class sizes were in compliance. Under the measure, schools would try to get math, reading, science and social studies class sizes to the caps voters demanded in the 2002 election. But they would not face penalties, if their school averages were in compliance, even if some classrooms were not. “This is allowing flexibility within the system,” Massullo. “It’s an easier lift.” The measure won approval by a 13 to 2 Tuesday from the House’s pre-k-12 innovation subcommittee. It will likely have broad support from school administrators. They have long complained that the hard class-size caps create problems as they try to balance class-sizes but also put students in the courses they want and need. The Senate’s version (SB 808) has not been heard in committee yet. Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, voted against the measure, saying he wanted to hear from the teachers union — a major supporter of the 2002 constitutional amendment that made class-size caps a law. He also said a lack of movement on the Senate side suggested the bill might not have much support in that chamber.


Education bills advance in House; differences with Senate

Two bills on high-profile education issues that could set up conflicts with the Senate unanimously passed a House panel Tuesday. The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee approved legislation aimed at limiting the time spent on testing (HB 773) and safeguarding students' and teachers' religious liberties at public schools (HB 303). But the testing proposal, in particular, could run into resistance among senators who want to go further in curtailing standardized exams that have sparked backlash and protests among parents. The House version of the assessments bill has run into criticism because, even though it is called the “Fewer, Better Tests” legislation, it does not explicitly eliminate any tests. The measure would require the state's language arts and math tests to be administered in the last three weeks of a school year, with the exception of the 3rd-grade reading exam. It also requires that scores for any tests used by local school districts be provided to teachers within a week, instead of the month currently allowed by law. And it calls for the state to conduct a study of whether college-entrance exams are closely aligned with Florida's high school standards, with an eye on potentially using them as at least a partial replacement for the state's graduation tests. “This bill pursues a worthwhile goal, attempting to decrease testing in Florida,” said Beth Overholt, an education activist. “(But) while it does reduce the testing window, it does not in fact decrease the number of tests or the high stakes attached to the tests.” There is a Senate counterpart to Diaz's bill (SB 926), but a bipartisan group has rallied around a more far-reaching measure (SB 964) that would, among other things, get rid of the requirement for end-of-course tests in geometry, Algebra II, U.S. history and civics. In contrast, the version of the religious liberties bill approved by the House subcommittee preserves many of the same protections as the Senate legislation (SB 436), which narrowly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. A revamped House version of the bill, however, does not include a requirement for school districts to approve a “limited public forum” policy for student speakers.


Teachers need better salaries, more respect


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The price tag of lawmakers’ reforms for Miami-Dade schools? $83 million


Impending ruling could cost Indian River district millions


Orange superintendent gives report about alternative charter schools,amp.html


Step Up for Students: A tale of 15 tax forms


Universities face new scrutiny over spending by private foundations


FGCU questions state's input in president's contract


USF Sarasota-Manatee leader resigns, citing family issues


Cruz and Democrats rally on equal pay for women


Ring: State pension reform attempts purely political


Compromise bill on public records emerges in the Senate


Ain’t no sunshine where Scott’s gone


Local officials are fighting bills they say attack their ability to govern


House lawmakers compile $2.7 billion wish list for hometown projects


Scott adds some interesting GOP muscle to help protect Visit Florida funding


Workers' comp bill passes first House test


Purge leaves Florida with no permanent U.S. attorneys


Women in finance work just as hard as men — and more likely to get fired


Trump “has turned our traditional openness into weakness”


Senator: Comey may confirm FBI Russia investigation today


Senate Judiciary chair: No deputy AG vote until we get an FBI briefing on Russia


Trump spokesman is “very confident” wiretapping evidence will emerge


Republicans are threatening to expose Trump as the emperor with no clothes


The real shocker in the WikiLeaks scoop


Trump administration shifts away from “insurance for everybody”


Trump’s “insurance for everybody” plan has turned deadly


White House tries to salvage GOP health-care proposal as criticism mounts


GOP senators suggest changes for health care bill offered by House


Some GOP lawmakers back off Trumpcare after learning millions will lose insurance


The CBO report demolishes the GOP’s edifice of deception


Why Ryan has become the enemy of the right


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


Obamacare repeal could hurt rural areas — a key Trump constituency


Trump’s childcare plan will only help the rich


Poll: Voters wary of GOP health care bill


House health plan is not acceptable


The most interesting numbers in CBO’s score of the Republicans’ health care bill


Republicans should really read the CBO report


This is why the Congressional Budget Office will likely survive Republican attacks


Fact-checking the White House’s rhetoric on the CBO report


The GOP masterminds behind Obamacare’s “death spiral”


Is Trump sabotaging Obamacare?


Populism and the politics of health


The cost of failure on health care? It may be the rest of Trump’s agenda.


The three things we learned from the first week of the Trumpcare debate


Scott mum on GOP Obamacare replacement after CBO report


Citing too many left uninsured, Miami Republican opposes GOP health plan


Trump’s new entry ban to be challenged in courts before it takes effect


U.S. travel ban questions answered: What has changed and what's next?


Why the travel ban is trouble for Florida


Into the void, with Steve King\


Yemeni couple on verge of reuniting in U.S. may be derailed by new travel ban


The Federal Reserve will raise rates for the third time


When the Fed raises rates, credit card holders feel it first




Why is the Fed raising rates? Better to ask, why not?


Fed’s challenge, after raising rates, may be existential


Gorsuch has web of ties to secretive billionaire


How Gorsuch is preparing for his Senate showdown


Trump’s rubber stamp on Supreme Court would threaten voting rights


Prerequisite for key White house posts: loyalty, not experience


“People are scared”: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House


Nelson to support Acosta for labor secretary


Tillerson now has an email problem


Tillerson shuns all but conservative website on Asia tour


Forget campaign bashing, Trump picks another Goldman banker for senior post


Trump picks a regulator who could help reshape Dodd-Frank Act


Defense secretary withdraws choice for undersecretary for policy


Republicans launch new tactic in latest attack on federal unions


Democrats wage uphill battle against bill targeting federal-union representatives


Anxiety, fear, uncertainty mark federal employees awaiting Trump’s budget


Trump set to challenge Obama-era fuel standards in Detroit


How Inhofe is upending the nation’s energy and environmental policies


When Spicer says Trump was “very clear,” he probably wasn’t


Is Fox News part of the mainstream media? It depends.


Trump wrote off $100 million in losses in 2005, leaked forms show


What Trump's 2005 tax returns reveal


Trump tax leak is one small step for the truth -- now let’s see the rest


Journalist who received Trump tax return questions if Trump leaked it himself


Trump calls 2005 tax return release “fake news”




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