Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida education leadership in disarray

Tony Bennett made the right decision by resigning Thursday as Florida's education commissioner. His credibility was irreparably damaged by the revelation this week that as head of Indiana's public schools he intentionally improved the letter grade of an Indianapolis charter school founded by a major Republican donor. The controversy likely will to continue to unfold, and the Florida education commissioner should be focused on Florida rather than on defending his reputation in his home state.

The result of Bennett's abrupt departure is more turmoil for Florida's education system. The Department of Education again lacks a permanent leader, and several top department jobs were filled with Bennett's allies from Indiana. The state testing system is discredited and lacks support among school superintendents, teachers and parents. Republican legislative leaders want Florida to pull out of a national consortium developing assessments for the coming Common Core State Standards, and other conservatives want the state to drop plans to follow those national standards. Bennett predicted Florida will stick with Common Core — and it should, but the pressure on Republicans from their conservative base is growing.

Ultimately, Gov. Rick Scott is responsible for the lack of trust in the direction of public education in Florida. He campaigned as though teachers and public schools were the enemy, and he signed state budgets into law that slashed spending on public education. Then he pushed to restore more than $1 billion in spending and give teacher raises this year as his job approval ratings continued to plummet. The state of public education in Florida will be a major issue in next year's governor's race, and former Gov. Jeb Bush still has more influence over the Legislature and the Board of Education than Scott on that subject.

Scott has had extraordinarily high turnover among agency heads during his first term, and no seat has been hotter than education commissioner. The governor could not have foreseen the scandal over Bennett's manipulation of school grades in Indiana. But selecting a national political figure who just lost an election in his home state was sure to lead to political controversy at some point. Bennett continued to vigorously defend himself at a news conference Thursday, complaining about "malicious, unfounded reports" from Indiana and sounding very much like an embattled politician. Florida's appointed education commissioner should be focused on policy, not politics.

The Board of Education will meet today to appoint another interim commissioner. With roughly 15 months until the 2014 general election, it's unlikely a national search for a new education commissioner will produce stellar candidates. The state has cycled through three permanent commissioners and two interims since Scott took office in January 2011, so an appointment from inside Florida government might be best to stabilize the situation for now and preserve the commitment to Common Core State Standards. If Scott and the Board of Education persuade someone to take the job and move to Tallahassee, here's some free advice:

Rent, don't buy.

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Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
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Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

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Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

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Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

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Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18