Today's news -- May 9, 2017





Teachers union urges vetoes of K-12 budget, policy bill *

Not even an hour after the Legislature wrapped up its work for 2017, the state's largest teachers union called on Republican Gov. Rick Scott to veto both the K-12 public schools budget and a mammoth $419 million policy bill that was cobbled together in private in the last days of session and narrowly approved Monday. "HB 7069 was cooked up behind closed doors to tie popular changes like more recess and minor relief on testing to reducing local school district authority, yet another sketchy teacher bonus scheme, and more financial breaks for charter schools,” Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, said in a statement. “Where’s the government transparency that the leadership promised this session? Floridians expect a fair process, not backroom deal-making," she said.

McCall said she was also "completely disappointed" by the $14.7 billion K-12 schools budget, a figure that doesn't include the additional funding earmarked for special programs under HB 7069. “We hope the governor realizes, as we do, that this budget does not come anywhere close to meeting the needs of our students,” McCall said. “This budget neglects the needs of our children and our public schools.” “This budget does nothing more than dig our public schools deeper into a financial mire,” she added. “It fails to properly and adequately support costs and growth to advance the 2.8 million students who attend our schools each day and it utterly fails to recognize the importance of funding in retaining and recruitment the high quality educators our student deserve.”


Schools bill headed to Scott, after barely surviving vote *

Lawmakers struggled to pass a controversial $419 million, 278-page K-12 public schools bill on Monday, the final day of the annual session — as senators acknowledged parts of the rushed legislation were flawed and would need to be fixed when the Legislature reconvenes in 2018. However, the prospect of a possible veto by Republican Gov. Rick Scott was floated even before the Monday night vote, which would stop the legislation from becoming law. The Senate endorsed HB 7069 by the narrowest possible margin after two hours of lackluster and largely negative debate, voting 20-18 to pass it. Three Republicans joined the 15-member Democratic caucus in opposition: René García of Hialeah, Denise Grimsley of Sebring and David Simmons of Altamonte Springs — who, as the pre-K-12 education budget chairman, handled the bill on the floor and struggled to defend it. Earlier in the day, the Republican-led House made quick work to pass the bill within an hour, by a 73-36 vote with all but one Democrat — Miami Rep. Roy Hardemon — opposed. “I think that is going to go down as one of the greatest K-12 bills in the history of the state of Florida,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, told reporters Friday. HB 7069 was a top priority of Corcoran’s. Miami Republican Michael Bileca and Hialeah Republican Manny Diaz Jr. — the House education policy and pre-K-12 budget chairmen, respectively — were heavily involved in crafting it. But in a manner that drew heavy criticism, the large and wide-ranging bill was negotiated and finalized in private and made public for the first time Friday evening — less than 66 hours before the House voted and 71 hours before the Senate voted. (Simmons said he saw a first draft of HB 7069 only at 7 p.m. Thursday.) “This isn’t a finished bill, it’s got problems — big problems,” Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said. “It’s a litany of bad ideas … that do not take the needs of the student into account.” The legislation includes dozens of different policies affecting public education, but its hallmark provisions are a $234 million bonus package for most teachers and some top principals, and a contentious $140 million “Schools of Hope” program to help struggling traditional public schools largely through incentives to new privately managed charter schools. In fielding questions on the “Hope” plan, Simmons acknowledged parts of it would be “exceedingly difficult to implement” and “the thought is to try to correct it after we pass the legislation.” “We come back in September and try to make it so we clean up the rough edges that we have,” Simmons said, referencing legislative committee weeks in advance of the 2018 session, which starts in January. Lawmakers had no opportunity to amend the bill, because it was tied to the 2017-18 budget package that also passed Monday. Many parents, teachers and school administrators wanted the Legislature to reject it and were disappointed by the outcome. However, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, began the day’s floor session by almost foreshadowing a potential veto by Scott. Latvala asked senators to support the bill and let Scott decide whether it becomes law. “When the light of day is more fully shown on it, the governor has the right and the responsibility to look at that bill and make individual decisions about what he allows to become law,” Latvala said. “In this case, in my opinion — my personal choice is going to be to let him do that. ... We’ll pass it down and let him do his job.” A two-thirds’ vote in both chambers — 80 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate — would be necessary to override a veto, and Monday’s outcome indicates HB 7069 wouldn’t have such support. HB 7069 — which ballooned after Corcoran demanded it include various education policy unrelated to spending — has myriad proposals gleaned from at least 55 House and Senate bills filed this session, as well as language never before discussed or considered publicly or — in one case — that was already defeated by a Senate committee.

Many education advocates had urged lawmakers to vote against the measure, including the Florida PTA and the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union. The union said legislators were “manipulating” the legislative process with a last-minute bill that “cynically ties” popular reforms to “yet another sketchy teacher bonus scheme and an education budget that won’t even come close to meeting the needs of our students.”

"Districts all across the state are going to see a reduction, in funds. No matter what they want to call it as historic, it's anything but historic,” said Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association. McCall said overall funding for traditional public schools help attract and retain qualified teachers, and increases resources for students. Those are both things the Education Association says are vital to the quality of education for Florida’s students. Now that the budget has passed the Senate, McCall says she's hopeful that Scott will veto it.


Duval school leaders say education bill will decimate schools; want Scott veto (Terrie Brady mentioned)


Pasco school district begins assessing cuts


Fully fund public schools


Stop charters from profiting off taxpayers? Nope. *

Lawmakers were on track this spring to enact long-sought safeguards to stop businesses from turning a profit off public money intended for charter school capital projects. But for the second year in a row, that proposal abruptly vanished and was left out of a late-session compromise House and Senate leaders struck in private. Despite being sought and supported by both chambers, the proposed accountability restrictions on charter schools didn’t make it in the final education budget bill released Friday evening — a 278-page proposal that combined four K-12 budget measures and lumped in myriad other education policies unrelated to spending. Lawmakers cast up-or-down votes on HB 7069 Monday, along with other bills that make up the 2017-18 budget; they couldn’t amend the bills. Last year, it was primarily only the Senate that prioritized a prohibition on the “personal financial enrichment” of charter school operators who receive capital dollars for maintenance and construction. Senators wanted to require those operators’ school facilities to be publicly owned or owned by non-profit organizations or businesses unaffiliated with the school and its administrators. This spring, the crux of that idea was revived in House and Senate bills moving separately in both chambers all of session — indicating it had a viable chance to pass. Most significantly, the provisions were in the final iteration of a Senate bill the House amended when legislative leaders last month decided to include it in budget conference negotiations. Altamonte Springs Republican and Senate pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons, who sponsored the Senate’s original bill, said Monday that he didn’t realize or know why the personal enrichment restrictions were left out of HB 7069. “These things are compromises, so the effort is to try to find something that works,” said Simmons, who was among the senators to provide input and negotiate the education budget policies. House Republican leaders led the rewrite of HB 7069. The office of Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said the capital outlay restriction on charter schools would have been too burdensome. The schools are privately managed but funded with taxpayer dollars. “The new requirements would have reduced funding for a majority of charter schools, simply through a change in the law and not because of any action or performance by the charter school,” the statement said. However, when the crackdown on charter operators’ personal enrichment gained steam in the 2016 session, it was in direct response to the actions and performance of failed charters. An Associated Press analysis in December 2015 found that, since 2000, the state had lost $70 million in capital funding given to charter schools that later closed, and the state often couldn’t recoup any dollars. Corcoran’s office did not respond to a follow-up question referencing the AP’s findings.


Why Jeb Bush’s latest scheme won’t work


State lawmakers pass budget that heads now to Scott

The budget Gov. Rick Scott didn't want to see is heading for his desk. Three days behind schedule, the Florida Legislature finally approved an $82.4 billion budget late Monday that gives the Republican governor none of his three biggest priorities, has just a fraction of the tax cuts he sought and is almost guaranteed to incur the wrath of his veto pen. State legislators know the risk they face in sending Scott a budget devoid of any of his biggest priorities. He asked for $100 million for tourism marketing, they gave him $25 million. He asked for $85 million in job incentives to lure businesses to Florida, they gave him zero. He asked for $200 million to speed up work on rebuilding the leaking dike around Lake Okeechobee, they gave him nothing. Yet Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he's hopeful Scott will sign the budget. He noted that lawmakers approved some of the governor's education priorities, such as funding Bright Futures scholarships and increasing access to charter schools. "The general policies contained in our budget are things that the governor supports," Negron said. "All of us will spend some time over the next week to 10 days to make our case, and we have the burden of proof with the governor, but I'm optimistic that the governor will recognize that most of what's contained in the budget are items that he supports." House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, said the margins by which the budget passed the two chambers should dissuade the governor from vetoing the budget. In both chambers the budget passed by more than two-thirds, the number needed to override Scott if he opted to veto the entire budget. The House voted 98-14 for the budget. The Senate voted 34-3. Scott has been touring the state for the last two weeks warning that it could hurt job creation in Florida and reduce tourism revenue to the state. During stops in Miami and Tampa last week he acknowledged he has the authority to veto the entire budget, but has stopped short of threatening such a drastic action, something that hasn't happened in Florida in decades. While Scott has the authority to veto the entire budget, more likely is that he will veto dozens of hometown projects.


Recount looms in Palm Beach teachers union election (Kathi Gundlach and Justin Katz quoted, Gordan Longhofer mentioned)


Hillsborough teacher cleared after group claims she pushed gay rights on students


Understanding "cream-skimming" in charters will require better data, review finds


Florida may restore college aid lost during Great Recession


State will limit public spending at schools' foundations


Despite backlash, lawmakers pass bill that costs USF millions


FSU's Thrasher on USF: It wasn't us


Bethune-Cookman alumni demand DeVos be removed as grad speaker


NAACP claims intimidation over protests, calls for B-CU president’s firing


Trump walks back threat to defund black colleges


How crucial are historically black colleges? Just look at who’s graduated from them.


State workers win on raise, lose on pension *

Sen. Jack Latvala got his No. 1 priority, a pay raise for more than 97,000 state workers. But he wasn’t doing any fist-pumps or hip-hip hoorays for the $1,400 hike slated for most workers. The Senate Appropriations Chair explained he went to great lengths in budget negotiations to accommodate the House to secure Senate objectives. To get the pay raise, money for a southern reservoir, and a boost in higher education funding, Latvala agreed to House plans to change state workers' pension and health benefits, charter school expansion and fewer dollars for economic development. The negotiations forced the 2017 legislative session into overtime — an extra day of work to pass a spending plan and related bills. It was the related bills — so-called conforming bills — that put the House plans in motion. They spelled out how money in the 232 bills passed this session can be spent. The policy changes they contained cast a somber mood in the Senate Monday. Latvala, a 15-year Tallahassee veteran respected for his legislative skill, agreed to them but sounded like someone too willing to strike a deal. “I was trying to respect our two-chamber Legislature,” the Clearwater Republican told the Senate about the trade-offs before the vote on the conforming bills. The 2017-2018 budget deal allowed the House to commingle money and policy. The tactic sparked a late-night 2011 session meltdown, one in which Latvala played a key role when he insisted Senate tradition did not allow a vote on ideas and language that had not been heard and vetted by a Senate committee. “If there is a fault in one of these bills (it’s on me),” Latvala told the Senate Monday afternoon. “We won’t do this again under my watch." Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, reminded Latvala of his words from six years ago. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said the lack of public debate and time to review the proposals were problematic. Latvala accepted the criticism but explained it did not fully describe the current situation. "I agree with you. This should be a free-standing issue," Latvala said during debate on linking pension reform to a pay raise. "This is really the first year I have seen a presiding officer who was as insistent on trading and getting their way on issues that were important to them ... I thought we had to break the logjam."


Lawmakers vote to end “tampon tax,” OK tax holidays


State and Feds propose health care funding cuts


State attorney fires back in death-penalty dispute with Scott


Judges are not politicians, nor should they play politics


More than 300 Florida wildfires intentionally set


Two-thirds of Florida is facing drought


Yates says she expected White House to take action on Flynn


Yates confirmed important facts about the Trump-Russia story


Yates demolishes White House defenses


Yates’ testimony pumps the bellows on the Trump-Russia probe


Here’s why Yates is such a key part of the Trump-Russia investigation


Obama warned Trump about hiring Flynn, officials say


Spicer: Trump dismissed Obama’s warning about Flynn as sour grapes


Flynn's White House influence is outliving his short tenure


In angry letter, Page discloses “brief interactions” with Russian official


Russia is still waging cyberwar against Western democracy


In France, a hack falls flat


Divided Senate Republicans turn to health care with a rough road ahead


13 men, and no women, are writing new GOP health bill in Senate


GOP governor is thinking of killing protection for preexisting conditions in his state


The health bill is a total disaster. That’s why Republicans keep lying about it.


Kimmel slams critics of his emotional health-care plea, calls out Gingrich


Republicans are accidentally paving the way for single-payer health care


Florida Democrats seek to rally opposition to Obamacare replacement


“Die-in” against Republican health care bill scheduled at Rubio's Orlando office


They voted to repeal Obamacare. Now they are a target.


A lot of Republican rhetoric on health care may haunt the party in 2018


Iowa congressman walks out of a TV interview and into an angry town hall meeting


House Republicans prepare for fiery town halls after healthcare vote


Trump’s lawyers on travel ban repeatedly asked about campaign promises


Trump administration cites segregation-era ruling to defend its travel ban


Feds look for evidence of crimes by Haitians


How the Trump administration has quietly stalled refugee resettlements


Bradley Foundation bankrolls attacks on unions


Trump's slash to Labor budget could jeopardize workplace safety enforcement


U.S. life expectancy varies by more than 20 years from county to county


House Republicans struggle with costs of tax overhaul


How homeownership became the engine of American inequality


Trump is waging a war on millennials


Thanks to Trump’s vague order, LGBT activists find reason to worry


Scientists blast Sessions decision on forensics


What is net neutrality? The answer matters more than ever


The FCC says an attack — not John Oliver — hampered its website


Washington loves McMaster, but Trump doesn't


U.S. poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan


ACLU sues Trump administration for records from botched Yemen raid


Watchdog group sues administration, seeking legal rationale behind Syria strike


White House advisers postpone Paris climate deal meeting


Trump's ignorance is becoming more evident with each passing day


Who has Trump’s ear? Often rich, white, Republican men.


When CEOs visit the White House, their companies profit


Kushner family stands to gain from visa rules in Trump’s first major law


Senators criticize visa program pushed by Kushner’s sister in China


Journalist was threatened and harassed while covering Kushner pitch


The Kushners and their golden visas




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