Thursday, February 22, 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: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18