Friday, August 17, 2018
Editorials

Holding voucher schools to account is overdue

Gov. Rick Scott campaigned two years ago as an outsider who would bring a fresh perspective to Tallahassee. He did that this week when it came to private school vouchers, acknowledging the need for Florida to shed its hypocrisy on education accountability. Scott's plan to have voucher students take the same tests as public school students starting in 2014 is long overdue and in taxpayers' interest, no matter how much legislative leaders may defend the current system.

For more than a decade, proponents of private school vouchers have had it both ways. They claimed the private sector offered a valuable alternative to public education for low-income students that warranted taxpayer investment, but they balked when asked to prove those private schools did at least as good a job as the public schools.

This occurred even as the Legislature escalated its accountability system for public schools using students' performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to inform a host of evaluations it wasn't designed for — from school grades to teacher performance and, starting in 2014-15, teachers' salaries.

Yet private schools that accepted students on the so-called Corporate Income Tax Credit scholarships didn't have to take the FCAT. Eventually, they were forced to administer some form of national standardized tests, but their results faced far less scrutiny than those of public schools. The voucher program, created in 2001, is funded by businesses that receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit for any contributions. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch can apply for the vouchers, worth up to $4,335.

But Thursday in Tampa, Scott said he plans to insist, when the state moves from an FCAT-based accountability system to the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2014, that private schools accepting voucher students be required to submit to the same battery of tests as public school students. Common Core is a national movement, now embraced by 48 states, that aims to clearly define educational standards subject-by-subject and assess whether students are meeting them.

House Speaker Will Weatherford told the Times he is open to the discussion, but he didn't see anything wrong with the way things are. Nor did several private school operators. That's fine. If private schools don't want to test their students as the state requires, they won't need to — as long as they don't expect a taxpayer-financed voucher system to provide them revenue. Voucher proponents can't have it both ways. They can't claim they are a good bargain for taxpayers but then be unwilling to prove it.

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Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. It’s time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18