Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law

The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School District to join other districts in a lawsuit aimed at putting a stop to the micromanaging from Tallahassee.

Seven school boards around the state already have agreed to join in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of HB 7069, which Gov. Rick Scott foolishly signed into a law. Orange County is expected to officially sign on as the eighth district in the next few days. The Pinellas County School Board originally was scheduled to make a decision about joining the lawsuit in August but now appears poised to wait for at least another month.

Ostensibly, the School Board is giving superintendent Mike Grego time to meet with local legislators to see if any common ground can be reached on reforms next year. It's an admirable thought but wishful thinking. With House Speaker Richard Corcoran still running the show in Tallahassee in 2018, traditional public schools will remain under attack.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed in late September, and Pinellas would be wise to get on board before then. There is nothing that would stop the county from joining the lawsuit once it is already under way, but that doesn't send a forceful enough message. Pinellas needs to show some leadership. It needs to show some courage. Other districts have been wary because of the possible pushback from legislative leaders, but that type of bullying is all the more reason for Pinellas to step forward.

Large parts of the new law have yet to be enacted, and Pinellas is already feeling the effect. Because the district has not carried excessive debt, it will be required to hand over $25 million for charter school capital construction costs over the next five years. Pinellas is losing more money than any other large district in the state. In essence, Pinellas is being penalized under the HB 7069 funding formula because it managed its money responsibly and did not run up a lot of debt like some other counties.

If Pinellas joins, and Polk County follows through on its flirtations, then seven of the nine largest districts in Florida will have come together as allies. With all of them aboard, they would represent roughly half of the public school students in the state. That kind of solidarity would send Tallahassee, and the courts, a powerful message about the need for more checks and balances in the education system.

This is a critical moment, not just for students but for the independence of school boards in the state. Instead of trusting the officials who were specifically elected to run local school districts, the governor and state lawmakers have hijacked education for their ideological and self-serving needs. If it takes a lawsuit to get the Legislature out of classrooms, bring on the lawyers.

Comments
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesdayís special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17