Saturday, April 21, 2018
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: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Airís safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administrationís reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrierís high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Womenís work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castroís handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Natureís Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. ē The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18