Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tighten rules on for-profit tutoring

Florida school districts should not be paying teachers once to instruct students during the day and a second time to tutor some of the same students after hours. That is a clear conflict of interest, and federal and state officials should tighten the rules regarding contracting with for-profit tutoring companies. Even well-intentioned efforts to help students learn can create the appearance of favoritism and worse.

As Tampa Bay Times staff writer Michael LaForgia reported last Sunday, more than 100 public school employees or their immediate family members have formed private companies and are receiving government money for tutoring students. While most contract outside their home districts, some of their companies have received contracts from the school districts where they teach. The investigation found 1 in 4 of the tutoring companies tied to teachers has made money tutoring students from their own schools. Such situations can be rife with conflicts and create the impression that teachers with tutoring contracts have more influence — and clearly better pay — than their colleagues.

Consider the case of Alachua County principal Beth Le Clear and a for-profit tutoring company she controlled that tutored students in her district. As LaForgia reported, Le Clear promised to transfer ownership of the company to her sister after competitors complained. But public records suggest she still is heavily involved in the business, and she acknowledged she still has an ownership interest. Yet Alachua superintendent Dan Boyd inexplicably defends the arrangement even though students from Le Clear's own schools have been signed up by her company.

Publicly financed tutoring is big business, with some $100 million in play in Florida at a cost of up to $1,500 a child. There are 456 state-approved tutoring companies, including 83 run by certified educators and 30 run by educators that contract with their own districts. Those 83 companies connected to educators earn $8.5 million. There has been little oversight over this federal money that flows through school districts, and it was only this year that state legislators ended a requirement that districts participate in the program.

State law bans most public employees from contracting with their government employers. At the very least, Florida should ban educators and their immediate family members who operate for-profit tutoring companies from contracting with their own school districts. Principals and teachers should not be using their own schools and colleagues as farm teams to supply their for-profit companies with customers, no matter how well-intended they are about improving childhood learning. It's a system ripe for abuse, and it needs to stop.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18