Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Keep momentum going on Florida education

The sweeping education bill that Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law is a solid step forward. In the last week of the legislative session, lawmakers can preserve that momentum by rejecting bills that could give taxpayer money to untested online course providers and create too many opportunities for for-profit charters to take over underperforming schools.

The new education law recognizes that not all students are going to college and that it is not necessary to master Algebra II to earn a high school diploma. The law establishes a "scholar" diploma and one with a "merit" designation, which would allow students to take industry-certification courses, as a computer programmer or automotive technician, for example, in place of more traditional higher-level math and science courses. In rolling out the rules, it will be important to make sure "merit" diploma recipients are still ready for college if they decide to take that path.

The law also allows state universities to qualify as "pre-eminent research universities." The University of Florida and Florida State University already meet those standards. The law finally recognizes that treating all of the state's universities as equals does not foster excellence. The state needs flagship universities if Florida is to attract the top students and faculty.

The new law may be the Legislature's signature accomplishment on education this year, but there is more work to be done before Friday's adjournment. One Senate bill would crack down on some of the worst charter school abuses by stopping a charter school from spending more than $35,000 without its sponsor's approval if a charter is set to close or not be renewed. The bill would also bar charter school employees and their relatives from serving on the governing boards. Those provisions are part of a larger bill that includes some common sense changes regarding the new common core standards. It would forbid the state from implementing the new assessments until all schools and districts have the proven capacity to administer the tests.

But there is also cause for concern. While legislators recognize that teachers should be evaluated only on the students they personally teach, there appears to be little movement toward that basic fairness even as the state moves toward performance-based pay. And the parent trigger bill, SB 862, which would require county school boards to vote on parent-initiated turnaround plans at failing schools, is vulnerable to last-minute changes that could open the door too wide to for-profit charters or take away a local school board's authority.

A solid education bill is now law and will have an enormous impact in public schools and universities. But there are still five days for a lot to go right — or wrong — for students this session.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18