Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Senate should reject House’s attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, it’s little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded with unacceptable policy changes that further grease the skids for private and charter schools, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran gamed the normal process by tying it all to school funding. The Senate, which has shown some spine in resisting Corcoran’s tactics, should take apart this mess, keep the positive changes and throw the rest out.

The education legislation, HB 7055, covers nearly 200 pages and touches numerous policy areas such as expanding vouchers, undercutting unions and directing school capital funding. Those are disparate issues that should be considered individually. But that’s not the strategy, and the House passed a bloated bill that would:

• Create a new voucher-like program for students who are bullied in public schools. "Hope Scholarships" would provide $750 to pay for busing to another public school, or a scholarship of about $7,000 to help offset tuition at a private school. But public schools are required by law to have detailed policies for dealing with bullying, investigating incidents, referring victims and perpetrators for follow-up services and informing parents. Private schools are not. Further, it makes no sense to deal with bullying by moving victims while allowing bullies to stay where they are. Yet this is a top priority for Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who has yet to find a bill that sends more kids to private schools on the taxpayers’ dime that he would oppose.

• Set new membership requirements for teachers’ unions. The bill specifically exempts other public employee unions from requiring majority participation for the union to be certified. It’s bad politics to declare war on police officers and firefighters, but public school teachers are a favorite target in Tallahassee. The Senate should reject this provision.

• Allow third-graders who fail the state reading test to access a tax credit scholarship. Like the Hope Scholarship, this is just another attempt to expand Florida’s voucher-like system and sap more resources from the public school system.

• Establish ill-defined autonomous schools that would be governed by individual boards and operate outside the authority of elected county school boards. There is no need to create another avenue for subverting local control.

• Provide millions in state funding for charter school construction.

JOHN ROMANO: Does anyone have the guts to say no to the state bully?

The bill, of course, contains a few more palatable provisions. It adds accountability measures to some private schools that receive state vouchers, which advocates have long sought. It also reverts all math and language arts state tests for grades 3 through 8 to paper tests, which many parents have long supported. But the bad outweighs the good by a long shot.

After the House passed the bill Thursday on a party-line vote, the Senate smartly maneuvered to slow it down and give it more scrutiny. Less than four weeks remain in the legislative session, and the pressure will only increase to push through high-priority legislation such as HB 7055. The Senate should stand firm for public schools in Florida and strip the most extreme provisions out of this legislation that seeks to further undermine teachers and public education.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s 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
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18