Sunday, July 05, 2015

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

"The Legislature meddles, muddles and misses the point"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Florida education policy has become even odder, thanks to last-minute budget meddling by lawmakers. The Legislature that preaches fiscal prudence allocated $44 million in the state budget that took effect last week to "reward" teachers for high SAT scores — not their students' scores, their own. This is another case of good intentions being implemented with bad policy, and the money could have been better spent to promote teaching as a professional career."

Teachers are eligible for a bonus of up to $10,000 this year if they meet the state criteria for being "highly effective" and scored above the 80th percentile when they took the SAT or ACT, a test that they would have taken in high school, if they took it at all. It doesn't take a highly effective teacher to know that this is not the best way to identify and reward the best teachers.
"This bad idea championed by Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, was, like so many ill-considered Florida education policies, a misunderstanding of a good idea."
It is one thing to encourage the best and the brightest to become teachers and make their profession so revered that they want to remain in the classroom. It is quite another to retroactively give teachers a bonus based on a test they took in high school. This is getting it exactly backward. In no way, shape or form are these really "Florida's Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarships," as the state budget calls them. Of course, nothing in the wording says a teacher couldn't take the SAT right now, even deep into a teaching career. Perhaps some enterprising teacher might do just that, sitting alongside a gaggle of college-bound teenagers, hoping not for a ticket to college but for a nice payday.

In a state that values the standardized test above all, it is perversely fitting to give teachers money not for teaching well, but for doing well on a standardized test they took years ago when they were students. What does a high SAT have to do with being a good teacher now? Nothing, of course. And once again, the Legislature meddles, muddles and misses the point, spending $44 million for no good reason.

"A bad bet on tying SAT scores to teacher raises."

"Florida teachers can get bonuses for tests scores — but their own old ones, not students'."

"Presidential campaign will be on full display"

Anthony Man: "The presidential campaign will be on full display this month in Fort Lauderdale, with speeches on the same day by two of the top contenders, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush." "Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush set for Fort Lauderdale appearance on same day."

FlaBaggers in a tizzy

"This year’s tournament, named for author and former Cuba resident Ernest Hemingway, marked the first time since 2003 that the U.S. government allowed its citizens to sail boats in from American waters." "Havana fishing event brings anglers, worlds together."

"Bondi wasted no time"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "It came as no surprise that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wasted no time in seeking to resume state executions after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld, in an Oklahoma case, the use of the controversial sedative, midazolam, as part of a three-drug protocol for executions." "Better drug evidence needed before resuming executions."

Scott sits on his hands

"More than a week after the Seminole Tribe of Florida asked Gov. Rick Scott to return to the bargaining table on keeping blackjack at its casinos, the governor still has not responded." "Scott still hasn’t said whether he’ll sit down with Seminoles over blackjack dispute."

For Venezuelans, politics is next

"South Florida's burgeoning Venezuelan population is visible in culture, cuisine and commerce. As more Venezuelans become American citizens, politics is next." "After making South Florida home, Venezuelans turning to politics."

Oh ye of "stand your ground"

Jeb Bush, who signed Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, "is sticking to his gun-rights stance in the 2016 presidential race." "Florida at center of presidential gun debate."