Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Charter schools "enabling our return to racial segregation in public education"

Bill Maxwell: "Charter schools are seen by many parents, policymakers and educators as the panacea in public education. Each year, these campuses are increasing in number nationwide."

In a recent survey of research on school choice and charter schools, the Hechinger Report, an independent education news affiliate of Teachers College at Columbia University, finds mounting evidence that charters are not a panacea. In fact, they are enabling our return to racial segregation in public education.
"Some advocates used to believe that school choice through charters would help diversify public education despite racially segregated housing patterns. But that has not been happening."
In most parts of the nation, especially where whites find mandatory busing objectionable, predominantly white charters are being established in suburbia and other communities with high white populations.

No matter how we frame the debate, we are talking about contemporary segregation academies — those private schools that proliferated during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a way for whites to circumvent the desegregation order of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. After these academies took hold, many public schools, especially in the South, were left with mostly black students.

Operating with public money, charters are more subtle in determining who attends them. In addition to location and word-of-mouth marketing, many self-select by establishing curricula that appeal to specific groups. Touting their core mission, they do not mention diversity in their recruitment.

"Charter schools chart a segregated course".

"Unbelieveable and unconscionable"

"The next front in the national battle over health care reform: your mailbox."

A little noticed law passed by state legislators this year deregulates any new health insurance policies for the next two years and requires insurers to send customers a disclosure form spelling out how much of the cost of the policy is attributable to the Affordable Care Act.

Proponents say it is a necessary component of enacting the federal health care reform and will shift regulation of new health care policies to the federal government, including policies emerging from the federal health care exchange.

But opponents say the federal government doesn’t have the resources nor the ability to regulate insurance rates in Florida and, without those protections, rates could soar. If rates rise, they said, the disclosure form will mislead the public into concluding that the increased costs are all associated with the health care reform while any reductions in costs won’t be recorded.

“The sole purpose for the form is to present unfair ‘apples and oranges’ comparisons to the public that will ensure sticker shock,” said Greg Mellowe, policy director of the health insurance advocacy group, Florida CHAIN.

In a letter urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the proposal, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the state’s former insurance commmissioner, called the attempt at deregulating the health insurers “unbelieveable and unconscionable” and could result in rate increases of between 10 percent and 70 percent.

But the governor and other advocates of the new law disagree.

"State deregulates health insurers and requires them to price cost of reform".

If the feds weren’t looking out for Florida’s disabled children, who would?

The Miami Herald wonders "If the federal government weren’t looking out for the welfare of Florida’s severely disabled children, who would? Certainly not Florida’s own administrators charged with protecting them." "Cruel and unusual".

Weekly Roundup

"Week in Review for July 26, 2013". See also "Weekly Roundup: Controversies Dog Rick Scott, DCF, DOE".

Grade fix flops

"Despite a last-minute effort by Florida education officials to reduce the effect of tough new standards on annual school grades, results for elementary and middle schools released this morning by the state Department of Education show a sharp increase in D and F schools." "Florida school grades released, more receive Ds and Fs". See also "School grades take tumble". More:

Florida schools with an "A" grade have decreased and schools with an "F" grade have increased, according to the state Department of Education's 2012-2013 academic year school performance list, released Friday morning.
"2012-2013 School Grades: 'A' Schools Drop, 'F' Schools Rise". See also "School grades drop: more F's and fewer A's".

"Belafonte joins activists"

"Harry Belafonte joins activists outside Gov. Rick Scott's office". See also "Belafonte lends voice to Dream Defenders", "Belafonte encourages, inspires protesters" and "Belafonte joins protesters as sit-in grows in Tallahassee".

Conservative judiciary has Florida on the back burner

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida is home to some of the most gay-friendly locales in North America. So, it might seem odd that the state is sitting on the back burner of the legal fight to legalize same-sex marriages."

The rationale: While groups have already filed challenges in "strategic" states to build precedent for overturning state gay-marriage bans, Florida rests in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, considered one of the most conservative of the federal judiciary.

That reality led to the Florida groups' decision to release a five-page memo spelling out that they wouldn't file a legal challenge until "favorable precedent has been established or changes in the legal landscape otherwise improve our prospects."

That precedent could come from Virginia, North Carolina or Pennsylvania, where challenges were launched within days of the Supreme Court ruling in order to try and force the nation's high court to consider gay-marriage on equal protection grounds.

But Florida makes no sense as a battleground now.

"Florida will watch same-sex marriage fight from the sidelines".

Test games

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Florida was one of the early leaders of a group of states developing tests for the Common Core State Standards, and it manages the money for the group, which is funded by a federal grant. Yet House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz want Florida to pull out of the organization and design its own tests. They have not made a compelling argument, and Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett should proceed with caution." "Education chief faces his biggest test".

Teabaggers fight it out with Cuban-Americans over immigration

"Miami’s three Cuban-American members of Congress have a message for fellow U.S. Rep. Steve King, who said more DREAMer immigrants are drug mules than valedictorians: Be quiet."

King’s statements, which drew swift rebukes from Republican congressional leaders earlier in the week, have become the latest flash-point in the immigration debate in the conservative House, which is divided over whether and how to reform the system.
Florida's right-wing Cuban-Americans just don't get it; fellow Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whines that King's
statements are factually untrue, hurtful and seem designed to divide rather than to bring our nation together.”

Ros-Lehtinen’s fellow Miami Republican, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, has spent more than a year with a bipartisan House group that now plans to release a comprehensive immigration-reform package after the August recess — a strategic move partly designed to shield the bill from criticism when Congress isn’t in session.

Diaz-Balart called King’s comments “unacceptable… unacceptable. Unacceptable.” . . .

But King isn’t backing down, and the conservative news media is celebrating his comments about the so-called DREAM Act, which would give a pathway to citizenship for students who were illegally brought to this country by their parents.

"Congressman’s comments anger South Florida colleagues".

Meanwhile, "Barack Obama and Marco Rubio Battle Over Health Care Law".