Sunday, June 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Gov. Rick Scott should veto efforts to starve public schools

It's time for Gov. Rick Scott to stand up to the Florida Legislature, which appears determined to destroy public education. The governor should start by vetoing the anemic public schools budget and a mammoth education bill that was negotiated in secret and micromanages school districts to death. Unless Scott acts decisively and forces state lawmakers to invest more and meddle less, the march to suffocate local control and promote the privatization of the public school system will accelerate.

In most years, legislators would not risk going home with such a meager investment in public education. The $82.4 billion state budget they approved for 2017-18 includes just a token increase of $24.22 per student, an increase of less than one-half of 1 percent that includes requirements for spending money in specific areas. The base allocation per student actually would drop by $27.20. That is simply unacceptable.

Tampa Bay superintendents are sounding the alarm. Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego's staff says $30 million in planned renovation projects and 25 instructional coaches for low-performing students could be cut. Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins warns of a potential hiring freeze. Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning says he would have to cut the equivalent of 130 positions. Hernando superintendent Lori Romano calls it "a gut punch.'' This is self-inflicted damage by a callous Legislature.

Public schools could have had more than $500 million in additional revenue without increasing school property tax rates if they could have just kept the revenue generated by rising property values. That money was included in the governor's proposed budget, but House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, labeled it a tax increase and refused to allow it. Or lawmakers could have tapped the $1 billion or more put in reserves. Or the tens of millions wasted on unneeded tax cuts. With the economy recovering, there is no need to be so miserly.

Yet at every turn, state legislators shortchanged public education. They gave privately run charter schools and traditional public schools $50 million each for maintenance and repairs even though charters serve a fraction of the students. To rub salt in the wound, for the first time they forced school districts to share with charter schools local property tax money for capital projects. Then they slapped new restrictions on how districts can allocate federal Title I money to schools filled with low-income children. In the coup de grace, the Senate caved to Corcoran and agreed to spend $140 million on his "Schools of Hope'' initiative, which aims to lure charter schools to take over from low-performing public schools in poor neighborhoods.

The details of this charter school power play are included in HB 7069, a 278-page abomination of dozens of bills stitched together in secret and approved on the final day of this depressing legislative session. The "Schools of Hope" would operate virtually untouched by local school districts, with state loans for construction and state money to pay salaries and overhead. This is essentially a hostile takeover by private operators, and the last-minute direction to steer a fraction of the program's money to up to 25 struggling public schools is insulting.

But this legislation is full of slights and absurdities, such as requiring 20 minutes of daily recess at all elementary schools — but not at charter schools. It slipped through the Senate on a 20-18 vote, and the governor should not let it become law. The future of public education in Florida is at stake. Scott should veto the public education budget and the accompanying legislation, call the Legislature into special session and demand better.

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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
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18