Today's news -- March 6, 2017




Trump visits private school in Orlando
President Donald Trump chatted with students and praised educators at a private Catholic school in Orlando on Friday, part of a trip focusing on a voucher program for low-income families. Trump's visit also drew about 100 protesters angry at what they described as an "anti-public schools agenda." The president arrived at St. Andrew Catholic School in the Pine Hills neighborhood along with Gov. Rick Scott, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. It was the first time Rubio had appeared with Trump since the election. Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House adviser, also were on hand. "Beautiful class, beautiful students, right?" said Trump as he walked into teacher Jane Jones' fourth-grade classroom. As the children all recited the school's goals — "College and heaven" — Trump asked students, including fourth-graders Janayah Chatelier and Landon Fritz, both of Orlando, what they wanted to be when they grew up. "You're going to grow your own business," Trump told them. "You're going to make a lot of money. But don't run for politics after." Trump's visit to the predominantly African-American school focused on the Florida Tax Credit scholarship, a voucher program that helps 295 students from low-income families at the school of nearly 350 students. Started in 2002, the tax-credit program has allowed businesses to funnel tax dollars to private schools, including many religious ones. Across Florida, 97,926 students attend private schools using tax-credit scholarships, officials say. The credit can provide up to $5,886 per student annually. Before the event, protesters gathered less than a quarter mile from the school just after noon to protest the visit and the Trump administration's education priorities. The protesters, many coordinated by progressive advocacy groups Organize Florida and For Our Future, toted signs and chanted slogans at passing traffic on busy Colonial Drive near Hastings Street, denouncing Trump and demanding support for public education. "We're here to say that we don't want our taxpayer money diverted to charter schools, which are not held to the same accountability and standards that public schools are," said Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. "We're disappointed that President Trump decided to visit a private school on his first school visit instead of visiting one of our amazing public schools." As Trump's motorcade came and went from the school, protesters lined both sides of Colonial Drive, booing and chanting as he passed. "This is what democracy looks like," the crowd repeated as he arrived. As he departed, they shouted, "No Trump, no KKK, fascist U.S.A." "We are not falling for it, Mr. Trump," said Robin Harris, an Organize Florida activist and Pine Hills resident. "We know that your program and your ideology and your rhetoric about school choice does not have the black and brown student community in mind. We don't like school choice. We don't need it. We don't want it."

Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, told the crowd the union doesn't want taxpayer money diverted to charter schools that aren't held to the same standards as public schools. "Trump is here in Orlando, not to lift up public schools," she says. "He is here to push his anti-public school agenda, to tear down public school. He's here today under the guise of giving parents a choice. The only choice he wants is a private school." Doromal says Trump knows school vouchers are a failure so he wants to repackage them through a tax credit scholarship program like the one in the Sunshine State. "We've gone through this already in Florida and we won't fall for it again," she says. "Vouchers don't help children. Vouchers increase the cost of education by requiring taxpayers to fund both public and private schools."

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the president and the education secretary were demonstrating an “antipathy” toward public schools. “It’s sad that rather than listening to the public they are sworn to represent and who have a deep connection to public schools, Trump and DeVos’ first official joint trip is to a religious school, which they use as a backdrop for their ideological crusade,” she said. (Randi Weingarten quoted) (Wendy Doromal quoted) (Wendy Doromal quoted) (Randi Weingarten quoted and OCCTA mentioned)


DeVos shouldn't champion Florida's voucher programs *

In a recent interview, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pointed to Florida as a "good and growing example of what can happen when you have a robust array of [school] choices." These choices include traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools, including voucher programs to fund private school tuition. Although Florida certainly has an array of options, the effects of voucher programs and Florida's statewide student achievement cast doubt over the state's ostensible exemplar status. Florida's school choice strategy includes three statewide programs that use public dollars to pay for private K-12 school tuition for at-risk students. Two of these programs provide scholarships to fund tuition for low-income students and students with disabilities. The third program, also called a scholarship, gives students with disabilities access to education savings accounts, which pay tuition and a broad array of education-related expenses.  An evaluation of Florida's scholarship for low-income students found that participation had no meaningful effect on student performance. A review of Florida's scholarship program for students with disabilities found inconsistent results, with no effect for students with the most severe disabilities. And recent reviews of statewide voucher programs in Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio – which have three of the largest programs in the country – found large negative effects for students in both reading and math.

Worse, it is nearly impossible to know how well Florida voucher students are doing through publicly available data. Florida has virtually no jurisdiction over private schools and little information beyond attendance. Florida private schools participating in voucher programs also do not have to administer the same standardized tests as the state, so comparable achievement data to public schools are not available. As a result, we must rely on statewide and nationwide data to understand how well Florida's students perform. Overall state achievement has languished on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, which assesses both private and public school students. Fourth-grade math and reading scores in Florida have flat-lined since 2007 and 2009, respectively. Eighth-grade math and reading have been static since 2003 and 2009, respectively, with math dropping below the national average in 2015. And performance on Florida state assessments has shown no recent improvement or closing of achievement gaps among student groups.


Researcher: Evidence fails to show that vouchers improve achievement *


Disappointing results for vouchers in Louisiana: an evaluation of the first two years


How states turn k-12 scholarships into money-laundering schemes *

Politicians have long had a knack for framing policy proposals, however controversial, in terms that make them more palatable to voters. This is why unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy are often sold as plans to “invest” in America or to stimulate “growth.” Likewise, school voucher programs that funnel public money to religious schools are cast as “school choice,” because underwriting parochial schools with taxpayer dollars is controversial. The “choice” frame has heightened public awareness of school voucher programs, and helped their advocates make significant inroads in convincing states to allow the use of public dollars for private schools. Obscured in the spin, however, is how some states, in their zeal to subsidize private schools, have created an egregious tax scam that allows wealthy taxpayers to profit by donating to private school scholarship funds in return for lucrative tax credits. Many states have constitutional provisions that expressly prohibit the use of public dollars for private religious schools. To sidestep these prohibitions and public aversion to the practice, voucher proponents and their legislative allies in 17 states have created generous tax credits to encourage taxpayers to donate to private school scholarship funds. “Neovouchers,” as these scholarship funds are often called, have received considerable attention as education policy initiatives, but their full impact as tax policies has drawn less notice. Critics who object that vouchers drain resources away from public schools would be doubly outraged if they knew how these vouchers were, in some cases, fleecing the public till. By offering tax subsidies in exchange for donations to private school scholarship programs, states are using private citizens as middlemen. Rather than include line-items in state budgets for spending on school vouchers, lawmakers ask taxpayers to undertake such spending on the state’s behalf, in return for a generous tax giveaway.


A Florida education special 2017 (featuring Joanne McCall)


Cheers to magistrate in school impasse (Manatee Education Association mentioned)


Officials weigh in on Lake schools (Stuart Klatte quoted)


Marion superintendent reflects on fast start (Chris Altobello quoted)


Duval officials question charter, alternative schools’ graduation rates


Senators suggest more changes to Best and Brightest bonuses


Cutback on school tests a good idea


Later testing dates could stress students, teachers


Antiscience bills in Florida


Daniels compels fasting in support of religious expression in schools


Top education issues to watch in 2017 legislative session


Does money matter in education?


GOP bill in Kentucky could dismantle a robust school desegregation efforts


Bathroom ruling is just “gratuitous cruelty”


These activists want greater home-school monitoring. Parent groups say no way.


USF leads in closing achievement gap


Five myths about historically black colleges and universities


Campus backlash after leaders of black colleges meet with Trump


Barry and St. Thomas universities talk “alliance” between schools


Legislature set to start with House, Scott warring, Senate on sideline


Combative House speaker vows contentious session


As legislative session begins, lawmakers should put brawls on the back burner


Corcoran and Negron strike deal to write state budget


Governor names long list of loyalists to Constitution Revision Commission


Corcoran to pick Rouson, Lee to constitution panel


Gonzalez courts controversy with court override bill


Legislature looks to overrule home rule


Legislators' grades to reveal record on open government


Controversial public records bill to go before its second committee today


House speaker's lottery fight with Scott goes to court


Workers' comp fight looms in 2017 session


Powerful Galvano takes lead on major issues


Legislators may find little wiggle room on Medicaid


Florida's response to kids killed by guns is more guns


Steube leads charge on gun legislation


One Republican state senator has proposed ten insane laws


Insurance issues loom large on Legislature's agenda


State park suspicions abound


Trump mingles with Mar-a-Lago guests outside charity ball


Trump on track to spend exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars on travels


Why were Sessions and other Trump officials talking to Russia?


Trump says there’s been no Russia contact — but much of what he says is untrue


Despite denials, growing list of contacts with Russians haunts White House


Trump fumes over Sessions’ recusal from Russia probe


With Sessions’ recusal, official poised to oversee probe into Russian interference


Russia is the slow burn of the Trump administration, and it’s not going away


This isn’t “a total witch hunt” -- Sessions is in real trouble


Is investigating Sessions a witch hunt? No, it's a quest for the truth


Russia investigations a “witch hunt”? Not according to polls


Pelosi: Sessions’ recusal “is an admission that something was wrong”


Federal prosecutors have brought charges in cases far less serious than Sessions’


Trump wary of Russian deal; new advisers urge tougher stand


How Sessions came to be an integral part of Trump's administration


How Sessions used his prosecuting power to target Democrats


Sessions controversy heightens Trump’s feeling of being under siege


Trump, offering no evidence, says Obama tapped his phones


Trump seeks congressional inquiry into allegations that Obama tapped his phones


Comey asks Justice Department to reject Trump’s wiretapping claim


Trump rejects Comey’s assertion that wiretapping claim is false, spokeswoman says


Former director of national intelligence disputes Trump’s wiretap claim


Lawmakers stunned, baffled by Trump’s wiretap allegations


Trump’s aides aren’t even defending wiretapping claims


When one president smears another


What can be gleaned from Trump’s allegations of wiretapping


Inside Trump’s fury: The president rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations


In Trump’s terrifying new normal, Obama Is Nixon and up is down


Trump’s charge that he was wiretapped takes presidency into new territory


Fact check: What did Trump's tweets about Obama's “wiretaps” mean?


How hard is it to get an intelligence wiretap? Pretty hard.


Trump’s wiretap rant betrays ignorance of the law


Conspiracy theorist in chief?


A conspiracy theory’s journey from talk radio to Trump’s Twitter


Rubio: Whether Trump's claims are true will become clear “over the next few days”


Majority rule means the power to stop, not just start, an investigation


Trump accused Obama of “McCarthyism.” But Trump’s mentor helped enforce it.


Pause this presidency


Trump aides’ bid to plug leaks creates unease among some civil servants


Trump’s voter suppression team may have just shot itself in the foot


Churchgoers walk out as state official pushes voter ID at Selma anniversary service


March 8: A women’s strike for the 99 percent


Sanders backs unionization campaign as Democrats draft populist agenda


Trump's disingenuous middle-class tax cut pitch


The stock market has gone so high, it’s a problem


Set to lift interest rate, Fed embraces investors’ optimism


Trump expected to issue new travel ban excluding Iraq today


White House wants it both ways on revised travel ban


Migrants confront judgment day over old deportation orders


Trump administration considering separating women, children at Mexico border


“Go back to your own country”: Sikh man shot in his driveway


Some Indians fearful of U.S. travel after high-profile attacks on Indians


Veteran fighting deportation after two tours in Afghanistan


Amid climate of fear from Trump orders, life goes on for the undocumented


Deportation arrest highlights tensions in Los Angeles on immigration


After decades in America, newly deported return to a Mexico they barely recognize


Judge: Miami-Dade deportation policy is unconstitutional


Living in fear in the U.S.: Time to take her education and leave?


A U.S. citizen is denied college aid -- because of her mother’s immigration status


Austin ICE raids: Meet the immigrants arrested


It’s not just deportations: Trump seeks to remake the immigration system


Immigration courts: record number of cases, many problems


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