Sunday, July 15, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bennett's credibility called into question

It turns out FLORIDA Education Commissioner Tony Bennett faces an even bigger challenge than winding down a discredited testing system and answering demands from legislative leaders to design new assessments for the Common Core State Standards. Now his personal credibility is at stake because of the way he manipulated school test results in Indiana, and his explanation is hardly reassuring.

The Associated Press first reported this week that as head of Indiana schools last fall Bennett insisted that a charter school founded by a powerful Republican donor receive an A grade instead of a C. Bennett's emails left no doubt about his intentions for Christel House Academy even as his staff questioned whether it would be legal to change the letter grade.

"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,'' Bennett wrote in one email before adding in another, "This will be a HUGE problem for us.''

Now it is a huge problem for Bennett. The credibility of the school grading system in Florida is in shreds, highlighted by the frustration over the depressing letter grades that were released Friday. Those grades show a downward spiral even after Bennett pushed to limit the decline for each school to no more than one letter grade. School superintendents throughout the state complain that the grades do not accurately reflect the learning taking place in many districts.

Bennett says he did not play favorites in Indiana and that the state's grading system was being adjusted at the time. He told the Times/Herald that he wanted to "make sure the grades reflected how the school really performed." Of course, that is the same issue being raised by teachers and principals in Florida as one Board of Education member wondered whether the state should even release school letter grades. Now the education commissioner explaining the Florida system has manipulated the Indiana system to benefit a Republican donor that gave his political campaigns more than $100,000.

The revelation makes the motivation behind Bennett's moves in Florida more suspect. He is a politician, a favorite of conservatives and a strong advocate of charter schools and vouchers that use public money to cover private school tuition. Will Bennett bend over backward in Florida to tweak performance standards to protect charter schools? Will he be swayed by political pressure from testing companies as he decides whether to recommend that Florida design its own tests for the Common Core State Standards?

When Florida voters reduced the size of the elected state Cabinet, one of the benefits was transforming the state education commissioner from an elected position to an appointed one that should be less susceptible to political considerations. But Bennett is a politician, and now it's clearer what side he chooses when partisan politics collide with public policy — and it's not policy.

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Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

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Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

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Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

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Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Americans are accustomed to celebrating the nation’s birthday by blowing up Chinese fireworks for days — a rite of recklessness that kills seven people a year and sends another 13,000 to hospital emergency rooms. The tragic toll struck close to home ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

The Florida Legislature’s meddling in local issues has created another mess for neighborhoods across the state. No family should have to put up with a short-term rental next door that overwhelms their street with constant visitors, traffic and noise ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

It’s the refrain by gun advocates in the wake of every mass shooting: The attacker was mentally ill. They obtained their gun illegally. The message is that gun violence isn’t about guns but mental instability and gaps in law enforcement. But a recent...
Published: 07/08/18
Updated: 07/09/18