Wednesday, January 15, 2014

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider "like" us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Underinvestigated "reformer" declares Florida a success story

"Infamous-yet-underinvestigated 'reformer'" Michelle Rhee declares Florida a wonderful success story: "Florida No. 2 in the Nation on StudentsFirst Education Report Card".

Diane Ravitch begs to differ: "StudentsFirst, the organization created by Michelle Rhee to promote her ideas about fixing schools by high-stakes testing and choice, has issued its second state-by-state second state-by-state report card.">report card."

The highest scoring states are not those whose students have the highest achievement on NAEP; that would be Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

No, the highest scoring states are those that do what Rhee did in D.C., the nation’s lowest-scoring district on NAEP.

She awards points for “elevating the teaching profession,” which means tying evaluations of teachers and principals to test scores, eliminating teacher tenure, eliminating collective bargaining, awarding bonuses to teachers whose students get higher test scores, and opening teaching jobs to teachers who have no certification or other credentials. . . .

She awards points for “empowering parents,” which means that a state gets higher scores if it offers charters and vouchers and has a parent trigger so that parents can hand their public school over to a charter corporation. . . .

The highest scoring states: Louisiana: #1; Florida (#2); Indiana (#3); Rhode Island (#4); D.C. (#5).

Ravitch explains how "the highest performing states in the nation do on the StudentsFirst report card:"
Massachusetts: (first in nation on NAEP): D (#21 on Rhee’s report card);

New Jersey: (tied for second place in the nation on NAEP): D (#31 on Rhee’s report card);

Connecticut (tied for second in the nation on NAEP): D+ (#24 on Rhee’s report card).

It is ironic that an organization that wants states to rank teachers, students, and schools in relation to student test scores issues a report card that evaluates states without any reference to student test scores. Clearly, the rankings have nothing whatever to do with any academic outcomes for students. These are the states that comes closest to complying with Michelle Rhee’s ideological preferences: privatization and dismantling the teaching profession.

"StudentsFirst Issues Another Ludicrous State Report Card".

Good luck with that

"Democrats say they will push for the Legislature to expand Medicaid coverage using federal dollars, but Republicans say that remains unlikely." "Expanding Medicaid an uphill battle in Florida Capitol".

Yee haw!

"Florida universities now allow guns on campus".

Scott selects property appraiser as lt. governor

"The former state lawmaker and current Miami-Dade County property appraiser is the first Hispanic to hold the position." "Gov. Rick Scott announces Carlos Lopez-Cantera as new lt. governor". See also "Scott names Carlos Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor", "Scott picks Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor", "Rick Scott Announces Carlos Lopez-Cantera as Lieutenant Governor" and "Lopez-Cantera named state’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor".

The Miami Herald editors think it is a "Smart choice for No. 2".

Rewrite of Florida's charity laws

"Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose duties include protecting Florida’s consumers, said the changes to the law will help Floridians make more informed choices about the charities they patronize." "Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam proposing 'complete rewrite of Florida's charity laws'".

Coast-to-Coast Connector

"Vetoed by the governor last year, an effort to link both coasts with a bicycle and pedestrian path across Central Florida is on the move again in the Legislature." "Andy Gardiner: Coast-to-Coast Connector Picking Up Speed".

More Sunshine Law exemptions?

"Sunshine law exemptions in the works".

Florida's "jobless website woes"

"Frustrated by problems plaguing Florida’s $63 million unemployment website, state lawmakers this week said they are set to take action to rescue a system that many claimants can no longer depend on for money to pay rent, food and bills." "Lawmakers to tackle Florida’s flawed unemployment website". See also "Labor Dept. officials heading to Florida to probe jobless website woes".

"Selective corporate welfare"

Scott Maxwell: "So Rick Scott wants to set a new record — and spend more tax dollars on tourism promotion than any governor before him."

We're talking $100 million — more than triple what it was a few years ago.

This kind of record-high spending concerns me.

Partly because we already throw gobs on tax dollars at this. Orange County alone has spent $105 million in the last three years.

Partly because it's selective corporate welfare — subsidizing one industry over others … and one of our lowest-paying industries at that.

"$100 million in tourism ads? A costly campaign" (subscription required).

Rethinking nonviolent drug crimes

"With Broward-led spike in prison population, lawmakers look at non-violent drug crimes".

Lobbyist wins CD 13 GOP primary

"David Jolly won the Republican primary Tuesday, earning a chance to face former state CFO Alex Sink in a special election in March for the congressional seat left open by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. Jolly, an attorney who worked as an aide to Young and as a lobbyist, defeated retired Marine Gen. Mark Bircher and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-St. Petersburg, in the primary. "

Democrats quickly fired away at the new nominee. “The choice for voters in Pinellas County couldn’t be more clear: Alex Sink, a business leader and common-sense problem solver, and David Jolly, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist who worked as a shill for the highest-bidding special interest,” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for House Majority PAC, a Democratic super-PAC. “This is a district that Republicans have held for decades and they will undoubtedly go to the mat to keep it. House Majority PAC is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sure the distorted attacks on Alex Sink we know are coming don’t go unanswered.”
"David Jolly Wins Pinellas County GOP Congressional Primary".

Cream rises to the top

"Former legislator Steve Precourt to get $185,000 to run toll-road agency".

Scott needs to get over it

"Gov. Rick Scott has made his point about drug-testing welfare recipients. Now it's time to stop, accept that the courts say the policy is unconstitutional, and get on with the important business of keeping Florida's economy on an upward tick."

But the governor doesn't seem inclined to accept that he's lost. He stubbornly insists on appealing every time a judge shoots down his attempts to test welfare recipients for possible drug use.

Scott's latest loss in this long battle came earlier this month, when U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled that testing all welfare recipients for drug use violates the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. As she did more than two years ago in shooting down the drug-testing policy, Scriven emphasized that there is no pervasive drug problem among welfare applicants, including the poorest in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. . . .

Scott keeps pushing for this idea, undoubtedly trying to appeal to his conservative base in an election year. A 2011 Quinnipiac poll showed Florida Republicans supported the drug-testing policy, 90 percent to 8 percent.

"Time for Scott to fold on drug testing" (subscription required). Background: "Scott Takes Worker Drug Testing to Supreme Court".

Read "Scott's filing with the U.S. Supreme Court".

Small world

"$20,000 from Disney helps Eisnaugle's bid for speaker".

"Scott's weekend pandering backfired"

Beth Kassab: "Gov. Rick Scott's weekend pandering backfired. Cursive is suddenly a hot new skill in our high-tech world. And paranoia that Common Core is an attempt to dumb down education is met with recommendations to ... dumb down Common Core." "Keeping up with Common Core insanity" (subscription required). See also "State proposes changes to Common Core standards" and "State set to tweak learning standards".