Today's news -- November 13, 2017




House plans hearing on state voucher programs *

The Florida House plans to hold a hearing to explore how the state sends nearly $1 billion for vouchers to mostly unregulated private schools, the subject of The Orlando Sentinel’s recent “Schools Without Rules” series. “The goal of the House has always been a world class education for every child,” said Fred Piccolo, spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “In the coming weeks the House will look at many issues, including some raised by the Sentinel, to ensure the goals of these programs are being met and if not, to offer improvements.” The Sentinel stories documented how a scholarship system for Florida’s poorest and most vulnerable children operates with so little oversight that schools can hire teachers and principals without college degrees, teach any curriculum they choose and even continue to collect the money after administrators are evicted from rented school buildings or file for personal bankruptcy. At least eight schools hired staff with criminal records, a violation of the program, The Sentinel found. The hearing comes as lawmakers are pushing to expand the scholarship programs to allow students who are bullied to leave their public school for a private one on the state’s dime. That bill (HB1) passed its first committee this week and is a priority of Corcoran, a longtime supporter of the school choice movement. State-sponsored vouchers for private schools have surged in popularity across the country; 12 states have launched new programs since 2015. About 30 states now have some form of the programs, though efforts in Texas, New York and California have failed in recent years, according to EdChoice, an Indiana pro-school choice organization that studies the programs. Florida stands out as the state with the most private schools and the most students on scholarships – nearly 2,000 schools enrolling 140,000 children. It also provides less regulation of participating private schools than some other states.


What lawmakers say about schools -- then and now


New voucher for bullied kids gets OK from House panel


The charter school debate *

The debate over charter schools has been ferocious over the past year, thanks to the Florida Legislature pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the educational alternatives and President Trump appointing a charter school icon, Betsy DeVos, as secretary of education for the nation. Now the debate has trickled down to Marion County. A national charter school outfit sought to open a 745-student school in Silver Springs Shores, before being rebuffed by the county School Board. That raised the hackles of School Board member Nancy Stacy, who has become the champion of the charter schools hereabouts. Stacy wrote a lengthy guest column trumpeting the pros (and it was all pros) of charter schools. In doing so, she ridiculed our traditional public schools, not to mention our teachers, declaring that charter schools outperform public schools — a questionable position, at best — and do so much more affordably. “Arguments locally against charter schools are irrelevant and fake news,” Stacy wrote. Not really. I like the concept of charter schools. The fundamental philosophy behind charter schools is that freed from the bureaucratic and traditional tethers of public education, they can utilize innovative and unique approaches to educating our children that will produce positive, even game-changing results. They can even institute their own rules for tough populations. Those cheering on charters on point to failing schools and say charters give poor families, in particular, a way out, a path to quality education. Sort of private school without private school tuition. That’s the concept, anyway. Unfortunately, now that the Florida Legislature and other states around the country have opened the public education coffers to charter school operators — DeVos wants to commit $4 billion in charter school “grants” — the stampede to get to the public trough is so frantic that innovation and uniqueness is getting left in the dust. That’s what happened with Charter Schools USA, the organization that sought the school in the Shores. As Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier pointed out, their plan offered nothing new that existing traditional schools didn’t already offer. And she was right. Plus, take a look at our own community, some charter schools just aren’t that good. Stacy lamented that “school administrators send boogie-boo messages about profit motive,” but that is exactly what was bound to happen when you allocate $140 million, as the Legislature did, to create “schools of hope,” i.e. charter schools in communities with poor schools. What Stacy did not point out is charters, like private schools, can pick and choose who they accept. You see, our public schools have to educate every school-age child who wants an education and shows up. That includes criminals — there are teachers every day at the Marion County Jail. That includes the severely developmentally disabled, like are taught at Hillcrest School. That includes children with learning disabilities, behavioral issues and handicaps, who are scattered throughout every one of our 51 public schools in Marion County. Want to bet Charters USA isn’t interested in those student populations?


Collective responsibility and leadership


The proselytizers and the privatizers

At the Heritage Academy, a publicly funded charter school network in Arizona, according to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, high school students are required to learn that the Anglo-Saxon population of the United States is descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. They are asked to memorize a list of 28 “Principles” of “sound government,” among which are that “to protect man’s rights, God has revealed certain Principles of divine law” (the ninth Principle) and that “the husband and wife each have their specific rights appropriate to their role in life” (the 26th Principle). To complete the course, students are further required to teach these principles to at least five individuals outside of school and family. Over in Detroit, the Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts charter school -- also taxpayer-funded -- is a subsidiary of the Perfecting Church, a religious organization headed by Winans himself. Until recently, the board of WAPA consisted almost entirely of clergy, “prophets,” or prominent members of the Perfecting Church, and it appears that the views of the board are expressed directly in the practices of the school; students are required to recite a “WAPA Creed” that invokes “a super-intelligent God.” In Texas, Allen Beck, the founder of Advantage Academy, a four-campus charter school funded by taxpayers, has said he established the schools in order to bring “the Bible, prayer, and patriotism back into the public school system, legally.”

And the American Heritage Academy, a two-campus charter school also located in Arizona, describes itself as a “unique educational experience with old-fashioned principles that have worked for hundreds of years.” The school boasts a list of “Principles of Liberty” that include “The role of religion is foundational,” “To protect rights God revealed certain divine laws,” and “Free market and minimal government best support prosperity. You might think that these egregious examples of church-school fusion are anomalies in the emerging charter school universe. But they are not. The charter school movement has provided shelter for religious and ideological activists who have specific theological and political goals for public education. Many of them are opposed to the very idea of public schools in the first place.


Hillsborough teachers say they will “work the contract” to protest wage freeze (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


“Bravo” to students who stand for teachers and something bigger than themselves


Pasco school district makes salary counter-offer to teachers (Val Smith quoted)


Lake could cut pay bonuses for teachers at poorest schools (Stuart Klatte quoted and NEA mentioned)


Elementary school “share tables” keep unwanted lunch food out of trash


Jackson County NAACP Freedom Awards Fund Banquet draws a crowd (Fedrick Ingram mentioned)


Class-size amendment: Much ado about little?


“A new reality”: Students and teachers from Puerto Rico start over in Florida


Orange, Osceola educators plead for help as Puerto Rican students fill classrooms


Making Puerto Rico the new New Orleans


Study: The more weight given to VAM, the lower teacher evaluation ratings


New NAACP president speaks on education and charter schools


American Education Week 2017 focuses on public schools for all (Lily Eskelsen García quoted, Princess Moss and Saul Ramos mentioned)


Why good teachers quit


Homelessness and education in Florida: Impacts on children and youth


DeVos urged to reject state's ESSA plan by civil rights groups


Inside DeVos’ efforts to shrink the Education Department


How Silicon Valley plans to conquer the classroom


In a divided nation, left and right educators found common ground


Pennsylvania: Every cybercharter fails to meet standards, for fifth year in a row


Small Houston charter school pays top dollar to leader, owns luxury condo


Florida universities to hire more mental-health counselors


Bill to permanently expand Bright Futures passes key Senate committee


Floridians should bird dog the Constitutional Revision Commission


As Irma flooded Alafia homes, state agency sent more water their way


Florida preps for more Puerto Rican evacuees


Puerto Rico’s second-class treatment on food aid


Millions lose power again after a line repaired by Whitefish Energy failed


The lineman got $63 an hour. The utility was billed $319 an hour.


From Puerto Rico's ruins, an opportunity to build back better


After hurricanes: How three spots on the U.S. Virgin Islands are faring


After hurricanes strike, U.S. Virgin Islands pitches Florida investors to help rebuild


Latvala probe in spotlight at Capitol


Latvala called “bombastic bully” by attorney of woman in harassment complaint


South Florida could be hurt by sex scandals rocking state Senate


Silence lifts in statehouses as harassment scandals bring swift penalties


State wastes money and lives with foolish sentencing laws


Scott scoffs at calls for investigation into his role in nursing home deaths


Want to see emergency plan for your mom’s nursing home? Good luck.


PolitiFact: Agency inflates Scott’s role in reducing number of uninsured children


Senate plan could increase taxes on some middle-class workers


Senate GOP’s tax bill points to nasty fight ahead


House’s massive tax cuts are not tax reform


Trump and Ryan versus the little people


The many ways Trump would benefit from the GOP’s tax plan


GOP tax plan saves millions for Miami's richest, nothing for poor, study says


Business groups typically allied with Republicans not all on board fast tax train


Republicans search for proof their tax plans will pay for themselves


Paradise Papers show how misguided the GOP is on taxes


More than 400 millionaires tell Congress: Don’t cut our taxes


In second Gilded Age, Trump shows no sign of taking on rigged system


Education group slams GOP tax plan (NEA mentioned)


Yes, the Republican tax bill would help rich parents send their kids to private school


I’m a grad student, and the Republican tax plan could cost me thousands of dollars


Nelson: “This is not the way to make complicated tax law”


Senate bill falls well short of Rubio’s idea for child tax credit


How corporations and the wealthy avoid taxes (and how to stop them)


Trump believes Putin on Russia meddling and says Mueller may cost lives


Trump blasts critics on Russia and seems to call North Korean leader “short and fat”


Investigators probe Trump knowledge of campaign's Russia dealings


How Flynn -- and the Russia scandal -- landed in the West Wing


All the known times the Trump campaign met with Russians


CIA: Director “stands by” Russian interference assessment


Former U.S. intelligence officials: Trump being “played” by Putin


Siding with the enemy


Mueller interviews top White House aide


After new revelations, Sessions faces another grilling on Russia contacts


How a Trump adviser came to learn of Clinton “dirt”


McCain slams Trump over siding with Putin on Russia meddling


When Russian meddling in the U.S. got so bad the ambassador got the boot


Security breach and spilled secrets have shaken the NSA to its core


Trump sounds ignorant of history. But racist ideas often masquerade as ignorance. (by Ibram X. Kendi)


America's cruel way to punish poor debtors: Take away their driver's license


Are private prison companies using forced labor?


Where do kids learn to undervalue women? From their parents.


Trump administration guiding health shoppers to agents paid by insurers


Trump health agency challenges consensus on reducing costs


The insanity of taxpayer-funded addiction


FBI database for gun buyers missing millions of records


On gun violence, blaming mental illness may only deepen stigma


America’s mass shooting problem is a domestic violence problem


Tough-talking sheriffs raise their voices in Trump era


Post office fails to deliver on time, and DACA applications get rejected


More than a dozen Republicans demand a legislative solution for Dreamers


White House pressed unsuccessfully to end immigration program


Trump’s crazy choices for the courts


Trump nominee for federal judgeship has never tried a case


Trump, alone with his lies in a warming world


As U.S. sheds role as climate change leader, who will fill the void?


U.S. groups honoring Paris climate pledges despite Trump


We’re not even close to being prepared for the rising waters


Fossil fuel emissions to reach an all-time high in 2017, scientists say


EPA is taking more advice from industry -- and ignoring its own scientists


Trump’s “America first” looks more and more like “America alone”


Too rich for conflicts? Trump appointees may have many, seen and unseen


White House pledges to push for more media access after summit lock-out


Photographer tweets “photo” of black box to protest White House coverage blackout


Ready for Trump TV? Inside Sinclair’s plot to take over your local news


Facebook is ignoring anti-abortion fake news


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