Monday, September 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Pinellas bus schedules should not dictate school start times

In Pinellas County schools, busing demands determine school start times. The priorities should be reversed. The situation is complicated by the districtís array of choice programs and the task of shuttling kids to them, sometimes from opposite ends of the county. These are quality-of-life issues that families care deeply about, and district leaders should focus on duplicating popular magnet programs throughout the county as they work to simplify the bus system, devise a reasonable bell schedule and provide the best opportunities for the most students.

High school students in Pinellas start their day at 7:05 a.m., despite widely accepted research that says teenagers are naturally inclined to stay awake later and would perform better academically on a schedule that conforms better to their body clocks. But Pinellas has determined not to put high school students on buses with younger children for safety reasons and to start elementary school later so youngsters arenít waiting at bus stops in the dark. Combine those factors with a chronic bus driver shortage and Pinellas Countyís rush hour traffic, and that means running buses for more hours in the mornings. No doubt itís a complex web of needs to be met.

But only about 30 percent of Pinellasí 100,000 students ride the bus. Even among students who attend one of the districtís 70 choice programs, just 7,500 use the bus to get to a school outside their zone. It makes no sense that a system most students donít even use is dictating everyoneís schedules. And itís not even necessarily serving the bus riders well. Kashif Haynes, a freshman at Tarpon Springs High, is an extreme example of both the opportunity and the sacrifice involved. Profiled by the Tampa Bay Timesí Colleen Wright, Kashif rides two hours on the bus each way from his home in south St. Petersburg to attend the districtís only magnet program for veterinary science. The 14-year-oldís determination is commendable, but attending the program of his choice shouldnít be that hard.

This month, School Board members are set to consider moving back high school start times beginning next fall. The district has said 7:30 a.m. is the best it can do, though Hillsborough County, with far more students, managed to push its first bell back to 8:30 a.m. Pinellas is also awaiting data on which choice programs are most successful and in demand. The School Board should consider that information in tandem, putting resources into duplicating the best programs and making them more widely accessible ó which hopefully would ease some demands on busing. Guidance counselors have a key role as well, ensuring families are aware of all their options and steering kids toward the program best suited for them. That may mean one closer to home.

District leaders and School Board members should prioritize making magnet programs more accessible and creating a bell schedule that best facilitates learning. While there are no easy answers to the logistics of busing thousands of kids around Pinellas every day, itís a flawed approach to make those interests secondary to a transportation system that most students donít use.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

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Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18