Sunday, June 24, 2018
Opinion

Rick Kriseman: School solutions must be emphatic, immediate

We all must change this story right now

The Tampa Bay Times report on five St. Petersburg elementary schools has provided our school system and community with a much-needed jolt. Though the details are deeply troubling, the report is not altogether revelatory.

For nearly a decade, members of our community have railed against results in these schools and rallied to support the students being failed. And while great strides are being made — many of which I've witnessed firsthand — it is obviously not enough.

How we got here is a hotly debated topic that raises eyebrows and tempers. Understandably, finger-pointing is prevalent. While accountability is important, sustainable solutions that address the systemic issues must be our focus. What are we — all of us — doing to change this story? Our answers must be emphatic and immediate.

Among my administration's answers to that question is an unwavering commitment to opportunity creation, because opportunity for parents means hope for their children.

Within our city government, we've raised the minimum wage, ensured convicted felons get a fair shake in our job market and implemented paid parental leave for moms and dads.

Outside City Hall, we've stopped arresting teenagers for misdemeanor offenses, instead offering a second chance following the completion of community service. That second chance includes guidance and mentoring to encourage different choices.

In 2012, Pinellas County published "The Economic Impact of Poverty," a study that identified a large swath of our city where 25 percent of residents live at or below the federal poverty level. Further, we found that to be the case for nearly 31 percent of residents in the proposed Southside CRA. Nearly twice the level of St. Petersburg as a whole, this plaguing reality persists at high levels over time and across all age groups. Academic achievement for impoverished children requires a comprehensive approach that includes wrap-around services for their families and opportunities that touch all involved in a child's journey.

Our approach to partnership with our schools reflects this. Our efforts with the Pinellas Education Foundation yielded more than $2 million in scholarships to low-income children in 2014-2015. More than $100,000 came directly from our city employees.

We've also initiated a service-learning mini-grant program and a curriculum-based service learning pilot is scheduled for launch this school year. Virtually every St. Petersburg-area public school has one or more corporate partners tutoring, mentoring, supporting classroom grants and service projects.

In October, following the final approval of our recommended budget, a director of education and community engagement will join our city team to lead our public education efforts and assist our education leaders, partners and parents.

This is just some of what we're doing. Because while education policy is not within City Hall's purview, the success of our schools and the children who attend them are everyone's concern. It affects everything we do.

Finally, during this tenuous time, it's especially important to thank the undervalued and overworked school administrators, teachers and staff who have dedicated themselves to these five schools and the children who learn there. Their resilience is to be commended. They deserve all of our support.

Rick Kriseman is mayor of St. Petersburg.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18