Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Charters' backstop — traditional schools

The abbreviated opening of a new St. Petersburg charter school underscores that when Florida's experiment with school choice fails, it's traditional public schools that fill the gap. The Pinellas County school system is reconsidering the language in its charter school contracts in hopes of preventing such future surprises. But state lawmakers, who have shortchanged traditional public schools to favor privately run and less-regulated charter schools, also should commit to fully invest in traditional public schools.

The East Windsor Middle Academy reportedly contacted dozens of families last Wednesday evening by email to inform them it would not be able to accommodate their middle school student when classes started Monday because its new facility would not be finished. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, the school's backup location, a former PACE Center for Girls building in Pinellas Park, has zoning limits that cap the location to 65 students — far less than the 242 the charter school had told the district it planned to serve in grades 6-8. So the school held an unannounced "second lottery" to cut its list of enrollees.

Exactly how many families were disappointed is unknown. East Windsor's principal isn't returning media calls and apparently doesn't have to report such information to the school district. The silence is a reminder that less regulation at charter schools also can mean less accountability.

Now Pinellas County school officials, who scrambled last week to place the disappointed students, say they will be reviewing the district's contract with charter schools to see how to avoid future calamities. Requiring new charters to prove their readiness and communication with families sooner, rather than later, would be a good place to start.

Charter schools, when operated well, are an asset for Florida's education system. Several operate well in the Tampa Bay region. But many also fail. Just this year, the Pinellas school district took over Gulf Coast Academy, an alternative charter high school that graduated just 7 percent of its students. Imagine Middle School closed just a year after its elementary program had closed. Both Imagine programs had fared poorly on state assessments.

Yet in Tallahassee the deck remains stacked in charters' favor. For three of the last four years, the Republican-led Legislature funded construction only for charter schools. And even this year, charter schools serving an estimated 230,000 students will split $75 million in construction funds while Florida's 67 school districts will share just $50 million. Tallahassee is gambling on the experiment but failing simultaneously to invest in the overall system that serves the vast majority of students — including those students whom charter schools abandon.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18