Saturday, June 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Catering to the wrong institutions

Once again the Florida Legislature is poised to end its annual session by reinforcing the same double standard: Accountability in education is paramount for public schools, but not for private enterprises that receive public dollars to educate students. Lawmakers twice in the past week have voted to lessen accountability for private-run charter schools and sidestep calls for more accountability for private schools that accept tuition vouchers. Students would be better served if lawmakers spent more time improving public schools and less time catering to privately run institutions.

So much for local control. The Republican-led House on Tuesday approved a bill, HB 7083, that would standardize charter school contracts, eliminating the already limited discretion local school boards have in negotiating contracts with charter schools. Supporters argued school districts view charters as competitors and should not have such discretion. But they failed to make the case that removing discretion will lead to more successful charter schools. There is, in fact, more evidence that school districts already lack the leverage and authority needed to shut down poor charters faster.

Meanwhile the expansion of vouchers, a pet project for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, received a reprieve with the Senate Appropriations Committee dubiously agreed to amend a stripped-down version of the plan to a bill, SB 1512, that deals with disabled students. Gone are Weatherford's broad plans for accelerating the number of low-income students who can qualify for the so-called "Corporate Income Tax Scholarship" to assist with attending a private school.

But the program would get a new mechanism for expanding donors' contributions, who receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for giving. Students would no longer have to first try a public school before qualifying for a voucher, and foster children would also be eligible for a voucher. The program would also see a 2 percent increase in the value of each voucher.

Also significant in a year when Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, pledged otherwise: The voucher program would still face far less stringent accountability standards than public schools. Voucher recipients must take a norm-referenced test — though not the FCAT — but there are no financial repercussions when students fail to make sufficient learning gains. Nor is there adequate disclosure of those test results for most schools enrolled in the program, making it impossible for the public to evaluate a school's performance.

Lawmakers, bound by the state Constitution to provide a uniform and high quality public school system, should have addressed these hypocrisies this year. Instead they are moving toward reinforcing unequal treatment. The status quo is better than the alternatives.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s 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. That’s 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 general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — 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 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