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Banning cellphones in Florida classrooms. What do you think? | Editorial
Also on this week’s list Saturday roundup: Hillsborough might finally get to spend its transportation tax dollars and a local athlete’s stellar consistency.
 
A sign is displayed inside a classroom that bans the use of electronic devices at Tampa's Webb Middle School on Nov. 29.
A sign is displayed inside a classroom that bans the use of electronic devices at Tampa's Webb Middle School on Nov. 29. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Dec. 9, 2023

Cellphone sanity. Should kids have cellphones in classrooms? It’s a question being asked across the country and here in the Tampa Bay area. Earlier this year, Pasco County banned cellphones in elementary school classrooms. More recently, the Times’ Marlene Sokol reported on a Hillsborough middle school experimenting with banning phones in classes — a move that yielded with some fairly impressive results. Smartphones are here to stay, but that doesn’t mean we need them at all times. That goes double for kids. Phones are often too much of a distraction for K-12 students to resist. In most cases, they adversely affect learning. They can also promote bad behavior, which makes teaching even harder. Florida students are too far behind already to let cellphones set them back even more. In a recent column, former Gov. Jeb Bush outlined the challenge: Only half of Florida students who took the ACT met the career and college readiness benchmark in English, 37% in reading, about 25% in math and 26% in science. That’s a lot of ground to make up. A hat tip to the schools and districts that are experimenting with ways to ensure cellphones don’t undermine learning. More schools should see what works best when it comes to cellphones in their classrooms and then promote the successes. Learning has to come first. What do you think? Are phones too much of a distraction in the classroom or do the benefits outweigh the downsides? Tell us your views by writing a letter to the editor. Go to the letters portal by clicking here. Please include the phrase “cellphones” in the “Subject” line.

A breakthrough? Good to hear that the more than $570 million collected from the ill-fated Hillsborough County transportation sales tax might finally get spent on transportation projects. In 2018, about 57% of county voters approved the 1% sales tax to raise funds for transportation. But the money has been tied up since the Florida Supreme Court ruled the sales tax illegal in 2021. Gov. Ron DeSantis had said he would like to refund the money to taxpayers, but his recent state budget plan instead proposes using the money for transportation projects in Hillsborough. The Florida Department of Transportation has until next September to produce a list of projects to spend it on. The money is needed, as the county faces a major funding shortfall to build and repave roads, repair sidewalks and fix intersections and bridges. The governor’s proposal might not be perfect, but the money has already been in limbo for too long. Spending the funds on important transportation projects in Hillsborough honors the majority of voters’ wishes from 2018 while also benefiting the county as a whole.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans makes a catch in the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans makes a catch in the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

He did it again. If you like hard work, you have to like the Bucs’ Mike Evans. If you like consistency, you have to like him even more. He catches footballs for the team. He’s been doing it for 10 years. And every season, he has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards. He did it again on Sunday when he caught seven passes for 162 yards, bringing his total to 1,012 — with five games still left in the regular season. His consistency is record setting. He’s the only player in NFL history to start a career with 10 consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards. Hardcore Bucs fans know that already. Even so, it’s worth another mention. Evans has done something special, something no one has ever done before. And he’s done it here in the Tampa Bay area. Nice job, Mr. Evans.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.