Wednesday, January 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.

Comments
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
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

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18