Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Save St. Petersburg's schools

The public education crisis is even more challenging in St. Petersburg than in Tampa or the rest of Pinellas County. Look past the continuing controversy over Florida's school grading formula, and student reading scores tell a sobering story: Only four of 29 St. Petersburg-area elementary schools had more than 70 percent of their students reading at grade level in 2012-13. That has long-term implications for those students and an entire community that expects quality schools and needs an educated workforce. • All three major mayoral candidates talk about working with the Pinellas school district to improve schools. And in his first year, Superintendent Mike Grego has launched ambitious programs that have long-term potential to make a difference, particularly when it comes to countering the challenges created by poverty. • But more government programs won't be enough by themselves. Nothing less than a communitywide commitment and expectation of excellence — from business, churches, civic groups and residents — can turn this tide.

, Pinellas reading skill versus poverty

Higher-poverty schools tend to have lower levels of reading success. The chart at left shows just how much, plotting reading achievement at every Pinellas elementary school last year (the vertical axis shows the percent reading at grade level) against the portion of students receiving free- and reduced-price lunch (the horizontal axis). Six of the seven worst-performing schools were in St. Petersburg (see the lower right corner of the chart), and they do even worse than high-poverty rates would predict (they fall below the line delineating likely performance for a given level of free and reduced-price lunch rates). We can do better: Pinellas' highest poverty schools did worse last year in reading achievement than their counterparts in Hillsborough County.

Where would you want your child to go to school?

St. Petersburg has to come to terms with a double dose of reality: Its young families are poorer than many might suspect, and schools' lackluster reading performance sends the wrong message for attracting new young families and employers. How bad is it? None of the city's zoned neighborhood elementary schools had more than 2 out of 3 children reading at grade level last year. The four schools that can boast such success had the least number of low-income students and admit students only by application and lottery — three are fundamentals and one is a magnet.

A concentration of poverty

Twenty-eight of Pinellas County's 85 elementary schools last year served student populations where 75 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Those schools are disproportionately concentrated in South Pinellas, serving St. Petersburg children. In fact there were just four elementary schools and one charter school in the city where a majority of students didn't qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. It's widely accepted that poverty causes home-life disruptions that make it harder for children to prepare for and excel in school.

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Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 11 hours ago
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...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s 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...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t 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 Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s 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 won’t 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, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s 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