Wednesday, February 21, 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.

Comments
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18