Today's news -- March 16, 2017





Legislators shift proposals from pay raises to bonuses *

The Florida House and Senate both have plans to expand a bonus program for teachers, but what little chance there was of a teacher pay increase faded Wednesday as the lawmaker who proposed the idea dropped it. Sen. David Simmons, chairman of the PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said he no longer is pursuing his proposal for a $200 million pay increase. Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, decided instead to back expansion of the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program. He said the bonuses would provide money to retain veteran teachers and recruit more people to join the profession. "That's the crisis I think we're trying to be proactive about versus waiting for it to come up," Simmons said. "We need to retain the teachers who meet the highest standards and inspire students who are still in school to come into the profession." House and Senate bills would expand the Best and Brightest Scholarship bonuses for teachers, now limited to those who received “highly effective” on performance evaluations and scored in the top 20 percent of college entrance exams. In the House plan, teachers also will be considered if they graduated cum laude from college with at least a 3.7 GPA and score in the top 30 percent on college entrance tests or postgraduate tests such as the GMAT, GRE or LSAT. The Senate plan would expand the program to consider teachers who received a 3.0 college GPA even if they didn't score high on college entrance exams. “I would say there are some little things to work out, but there are a lot of things we agree on,” Simmons said. “We’re working hand in hand, and I’m very confident to work something out.” The House also has a proposal to increase bonuses for some teachers who instruct international baccalaureate students.


Sometimes voucher school gain scores are negative

According to the 2014-15 Florida Tax Credit Final Report, even though the voucher students can be compared to other students nationally via percentile rankings, no comparison of voucher students to public school students can be made since the two groups of students do not take the same standardized tests. The report clearly states as much. The tax form summary does not. As for the public schools from which the tax credit students come, students who entered the tax credit program in 2014-15 overwhelmingly hailed from public schools graded A, B, and C. Only 8 percent entered the tax credit program from an F-graded school (note some slight rounding error): A = 23.6%; B = 17.3%; C = 34.1%; D = 17.1%; F = 8.0%% Thus, even though the tax credit program draws some of the most economically and academically challenged students, it is drawing these students from higher-graded schools– not from the lowest-graded schools.


Polk School Board approves $4.1 million student information system (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Schools flout recess requirements as lawmakers weigh new bill (Anna Fusco quoted)


Miami Dade School Board votes to defend immigrant children


Sanctuary schools make students feel safe


Education groups knock “misleading” fewer, better tests legislation


Senate advances high school financial literacy bill


Some religious schools could be allowed to have guns


Did DeVos just ask states to ignore part of federal education law?


Why even the world’s highest-scoring schools need to change


House leaders plan cuts to “cash rich” state universities

The House might propose cutting as much as $80 million in state aid to Florida’s public universities, a plan that conflicts directly with the Senate’s top priorities heading into budget negotiations. The House appropriations committee heard presentations Wednesday outlining two scenarios of potential cuts, one deeper than the other, from members who oversee several different areas of the budget. Higher education budget writers were tasked with identifying $144.8 million and $304.8 million in potential reductions. The more extreme plan would include the $80 million across-the-board cut, in addition to reductions to a variety of other projects and funding sources. House leaders have not yet released a detailed breakdown of the cuts but described them in broad terms during the meeting. Rep. Larry Ahern, a Seminole Republican who chairs the higher education appropriations subcommittee, said the cut would be distributed proportionately across the 12 institutions. “While $80 million sounds like a large number, remember that the estimated expenditures for universities in the current year is $10.3 billion,” a figure that doesn’t including funding for medical schools, a University of Florida agriculture institute and an engineering school shared by Florida State University and Florida A&M University, he added. House appropriations committee chair Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, said universities’ budgets are too big. During recent meetings, House committees scrutinized the schools’ spending on executive salaries, travel and foundations.


Senate moves forward with state college changes (Jennifer Proffitt quoted)

Bloodletting at Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida: The good, bad and overdue


Travel industry groups get more aggressive in fighting House


Scott needs to pipe up on Medicaid expansion


Tax cuts taking shape in Legislature, Scott's office


Partisan fight on GOP plan to cut food stamps to children, seniors, disabled


Before slashing core services, stop throwing money at private lawyers


Unfairly limiting access to public records


Don’t let cities keep Floridians in the dark by not publishing public notices


Bills could change legal fee awards in public record cases


Martin County, Stuart could lose millions if state bills are passed


House OK bill to allow utilities to ignore city development rules


Misguided, unhelpful “sanctuary” bill


Broward seeks sanctuary from “sanctuary” label


Mexico consul, ACLU, civil rights groups blast immigrant crime bill


Hutson’s redistricting bill moves to Senate third reading calendar


Shaw, Rouson attempt to deal with state ban on voting rights for ex-felons


House should “put Florida Supreme Court in position of telling us that we're wrong”


Summer is coming. So is Zika.


Fix water quality or tourism will suffer, fishing and boating industries warn


Keep Florida parks wild


Use Amendment 1 money as intended — to conserve Florida's natural land


Mast linked to company accused of million-dollar marketing scam


Trump federal budget 2018: Massive cuts to the arts, science and the poor


Pentagon grows, while EPA and State Department shrink in Trump’s budget


In Trump budget, more for military, as his supporters may lose out


Trump wants to privatize air traffic control


Trump’s budget calls for seismic disruption in medical and science research


Trump budget asks for $6 billion in HUD cuts, drops development grants


Who wins and loses in Trump’s proposed budget


What’s getting cut in Trump’s budget


Openly testy, Republicans reject the president’s wiretap claims


Timeline of White House’s response to wiretapping charge


Trump defend wiretapping charges, predicts “very interesting items” to be revealed


UN ambassador: “We should never trust Russia”


McCain: Rand Paul “is now working for Vladimir Putin”


Russian agents were behind Yahoo hack, Feds say


Trump urges supporters to unite behind GOP health plan


Ryan, Pence race to salvage Obamacare repeal amid GOP dissent


One certainty of GOP health plan: tax cuts for the wealthy


Who would lose the most under the GOP health bill? Women.


Educators fear health coverage will be taken from millions of students (by NEA) 


The Make Inequality Worse Act of 2017


Is Trump falling into Ryan’s trap?


Cotton vs. Ryan: Battle of the GOP bigwigs


Putting the Republicans’ health plan on the Obamacare scale


Trumpcare’s quieter cuts gut food, virus safety, groups warn


Prescription for pain


Trump can’t hide how eager he is to be finished with the health-care debate


CBO score of GOP health care plan spells trouble for Florida, health experts say


Florida Republicans' opposition to health care plan shows GOP divide


Floridians strongly oppose key parts of GOP plan to replace Obamacare, poll shows


Florida health care workers fear cuts with Medicaid block grant push


Bilirakis sees only what he wants to on health care law


Federal judge blocks Trump’s latest travel ban nationwide


Loose talk came back to haunt Trump in judge's travel ban ruling


Trump's devastating new travel ban is built on a harmful myth


Highlights from court ruling halting Trump’s revised travel ban


Trump’s assault on immigrants will seriously damage the economy


Trump’s border wall gets billions in budget proposal


Republicans skeptical about paying for wall as Trump releases budget


Fed raises interest rates for third time since financial crisis


Trump, easing emissions rule, vows to expand auto jobs


Gorsuch helped defend disputed Bush-era terror policies


Schumer: Democrats remain skeptical of Gorsuch, may block him


A time to choose for the Supreme Court


The real story in Trump’s tax returns


The Trump team’s response to leaked tax information only raises more questions


Trump’s lawyer warns Scarborough: “Better have proof” for your “big mouth”


Trump is running an empty government


Wherever Trump goes, his gang of aides stays close by


Castor calls on EPA to probe potential conflicts of interest with Pruitt


Acosta takes center stage as labor secretary nominee


Tillerson’s dangerous silence


State Department spokesman flails in defending press corps stiff-arm


Trump aide named to national security post


Preventing a free-for-all with drone strikes


Meet the hundreds of officials Trump has quietly installed across the government




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