Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Turning point for public eduction in Florida

There is a serious leadership void in public education in Florida and Tampa Bay, and if wise choices for key positions aren't made soon it could get worse. Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson's abrupt resignation this week following the FCAT testing debacle means the state will have its third education commissioner in less than two years. The search for a new school superintendent in Pinellas has produced an uninspiring list of finalists and should start fresh. The direction of Pasco County's school system hinges on the outcome of the Aug. 14 election of a new superintendent, and in Hillsborough County several challengers in School Board races are actually running against reforms that are working.

It's depressing, but this vacuum also presents opportunities.

Robinson is a slick salesman with no Florida roots or love for public education, and he won't be missed. On his rocky one-year watch, the credibility of standardized testing collapsed completely, marred by ever-changing standards and ridiculous mistakes in assigning school grades. His explanations and excuses were not good enough, and the commissioner of public education should not be more interested in expanding private school tuition vouchers than in improving public schools.

His resignation puts pressure on Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Education to make a better choice this time. Florida needs a commissioner who believes in public education and in credible accountability that informs rather than punishes. But the troubles in Tallahassee are only the tip of the iceberg.

In Pinellas, the School Board insists on bringing in superintendent candidates that the board itself views as lackluster. There is still time to do the search right and look nationwide for quality candidates instead of settling for second-tier quality.

In Pasco, a dispirited district faces more teacher furloughs and accusations that the superintendent's staff politicked on taxpayer time and coerced employees to back incumbent Heather Fiorentino. Fortunately, voters have a better choice in Kurt Browning, the former secretary of state, who has a record of competent, no-nonsense leadership.

In Hillsborough, reform is working due to the collaborative efforts of the teachers' union, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, the School Board and the huge infusion of cash from the Gates grant. But some candidates for the board are running against the reform efforts because they view them as punitive and a waste of money. The district needs to make the teacher evaluation process more deliberative and transparent — but those improvements are evolving. The challengers should be talking up how to strengthen these reforms instead of talking down the effort itself.

This is a pivotal time for public education in Florida. It's time to embrace bright, progressive leaders who want to improve it rather than privatize it.

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Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

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

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

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For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s 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

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Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

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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