"A day after new Gov. Charlie Crist pledged to make the state's public schools 'not only the best in the country, but the best in the world,' a national report released Wednesday outlined how far Florida falls short of that goal."
Florida ranks 31st among the states in the likelihood that its children will perform well in school and move on to successful lives as adults, according to Education Week newspaper's annual Quality Counts report."Florida failing its students, report says". See also "Study: Florida is 31st for future prospects", "Study rates youngsters' likelihood to succeed", "State ranks 31st in preparing students" and "Chances of success tougher for Florida students".
Undereducated parents, low family income and middling school grades are among the factors that undercut a Florida child's chance for success, according to the report. Despite improvements in recent years, the state also ranks 31st in the nation for academic achievement of its students, the report concluded.
Although Florida fourth-graders performed above national averages in reading and math on recent tests, eighth-graders trailed others from across the country. The state also lags in closing the achievement gap between poor and more affluent children, the report found.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Education rankings highlight weaknesses". The St. Pete Times puts a positive spin on the report: "Education may be on upswing".
Feeney Gets A Pass
"U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney has agreed to pay $5,643 to the U.S. Treasury to cover the cost of a golfing trip he took to Scotland with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff."
When Feeney reported his trip on congressional-disclosure forms, he said it was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research.Poor Tom, he says he claims to be an innocent "dupe" about who paid for the golf junket.
The center issued a statement Wednesday disavowing any connection with the trip, repeating what it told the Orlando Sentinel in 2005.
Naomi Seligman Steiner of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the ethics committee should have punished Feeney instead of just letting him pay the amount of the trip.I wonder if this had anything to do with his decision to resolve the matter:
"It's like he robbed a bank and was just asked to give back the money," she said.
The announcement by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct came just as the new Democratic-controlled Congress was preparing ethics reforms to address the scandals that plagued lawmakers in recent years."'Duped' Feeney will pay for golf trip with lobbyist". See also "Lobbyist's largesse costs congressman" and "Lawmaker to repay cost of Abramoff-financed trip".
Recall that in "2005, Feeney was labeled one of 'the 13 most corrupt members of Congress' by" Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "Feeney's Scotland jaunt broke rules."
With Friends Like Charlie ...
Surely Charlie will get to the bottom of this and fire anyone who may have been involved: "Suspicion ran high yesterday that Rudy Giuliani's lost White House campaign playbook was swiped by aides to Florida's new governor - while the ex-mayor was helping him win election, sources told The Post."
Giuliani's aides were tightlipped about how it disappeared, but said it happened during a private plane ride on the campaign trail for 2006 candidates. They included Florida Gov. Charles Crist. "Rudy's Traitors". See also "Crist pulled into Giuliani controversy" ("Charlie Crist's first morning as governor found him embroiled in a controversy over Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign playbook").
Charter Schools Cheerleading
Florida Education Commissioner John Winn spins a state study on charter schools:
Details in the report, though, leave less room for boasting. Comparative data -- which echo other independent studies -- show that academically, charter schools are more or less comparable to traditional public schools. Slightly more than half of charter schools statewide have received an A or B grade under Florida's accountability grid. And no evidence is presented to support claims that charter schools as a whole have been innovative incubators."State cheerleading charter schools, not evaluating them". Meanwhile, "Charter school bypass law getting legal challenge".
Regrettably, the report -- required by state law -- focuses heavily on promoting charter schools without a realistic evaluation of how to improve them, especially those that don't work. The report also fails to deal with inconsistencies in reporting data to the state about charter schools -- on financial, managerial and academic performance. ...
The tone of the state report, unfortunately, reflects an opinion that appears to prevail among the state's top education leaders under Republican Gov. Jeb Bush (who co-founded Florida's first charter school in Miami): That traditional public schools are a failure and that private entities are better -- even with limited and sometimes no accountability measures. Charters, although publicly financed, are often operated by private entities.
Orlando Sentinel Spanks Ros-Lehtinen
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "After calling for the assassination of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on a British documentary, Miami's U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen went into spin control, claiming filmmakers had spliced clips together to get the sound bite. But the only person getting discredited here is Ms. Ros-Lehtinen." "Out of line".
South Florida Clout
"Ensconced in safe seats, Reps. Kendrick Meek and Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaigned hard last fall for fellow Democrats in hope of seizing control of Congress. Now that it has happened, the two South Floridians are in positions of considerable clout." "South Florida retains clout in U.S. House".
This says it all: "Crist starts first day as governor with goal of pleasing everyone". See also "Crist tackles first day with doors wide open", "Crist starts first day as governor" and "New governor pushes a populist theme" (Miami Herald editorial board).
Office of Open Government
"On his first full day on the job, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist wasted no time acting on one of his Inauguration Day promises. He signed an executive order creating an Office of Open Government to enforce the state's public-records laws, and ordering that bureaucratic jargon be banished from state documents." "Crist bolsters records access". See also "First action? Open up the government", "Crist Acts On Openness Vow" and "Crist Acts On Openness Vow".
"Buchanan's swearing-in day arrives" The Sarasota Herald Tribune argues: "Let state audit resolve dispute over District 13 race". In the meantime, "Democrat Christine Jennings asked an appeals court Wednesday to overturn a ruling that denied her access to the programming code for electronic voting machines used in Sarasota County in the November election." "Democrat presses fight over touch-screen votes". Jennins' dKos post on the appeal: "The Fight Continues for FL-13's Voters: We Filed Our Appeal".
The AP article quoted above reports that "Three other Democrats -- Clint Curtis, who lost to U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo; John Russell, who lost to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville; and Frank Gonzalez, who lost to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami -- also have challenged results in their races." See also "Congressional Democrats contesting balloting". The Russell campaign's post at dKos on this "Announcement on Contested Florida Elections".
Radio and TV Martí
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Recent experiments by Radio and TV Martí in buying time on two Miami stations are credible efforts to deliver information to audiences in Cuba. These attempts, however, must prove to be: 1) cost effective and 2) within the bounds of a U.S. anti-propaganda law." "Messages of hope and democracy for Cuba".
"A powerful seniors group appears this morning before the Public Service Commission to protest another hurricane-related hike in utility rates." "Seniors speak up about utility hikes".
"State turns toward computerized FCAT".
All Together Now
"Incoming Reps. Ron Klein of Boca Raton, Tim Mahoney of Palm Beach Gardens, and Kathy Castor of Tampa are jointly hosting a reception for friends and family who will be swarming the Capitol for Thursday’s swearing-in ceremonies at the start of the new 110th Congress." "Democratic Togetherness".
Tom Lyons: "Insisting on seeing an election probe through to the end always gets a candidate labeled a sore loser these days. It shouldn't. It is up to the declared losers to do it because those nervous winners never will. They want us to see voting machines as infallible and inviolable gifts from the democracy gods rather than electronic devices sold by a for-profit company intent on secrecy." "Voters' reports are still evidence".
"Teachers and union officials from counties throughout the region knocked a state-funded performance pay plan at a workshop Wednesday." "Teachers assail performance pay plan".
Progressive Radio (in Brevard?!?)
"WFIT, Public Radio, and Democracy Now!".
Ruth On Charlie's Speech
Daniel Ruth: "caught up in the rapture of the moment, Crist invoked one of Reagan's more famous references to America representing 'the shining city on the hill.'"
Now, you could make an argument that by mentioning the 40th president, Crist should have been satisfied that he had filled his Reagan quota and moved on to other matters of state."It's Not Easy To Out-Gipper The Gipper".
But no. Instead, the governor noted that if indeed America was the chrome hood ornament to be found at the top of the hill du jour, then surely, "Florida is the shining state on the mountaintop."
In political speechifying, this was one of those wonderful instances of a pol delivering a perfectly swell line that makes absolutely no sense. One could only hope for four more years of this stuff.
Was Crist suggesting that Reagan was full of beans when he waxed poetic about America merely being but a stinking shining city on top of some crummy, inconsequential hill, while Florida is a big, brassy state that serves as the wedding groom at the crest of a huuuuuuge mountain?
"Supervise the supervisor".
Tamping Down Expectations
"One of the Florida Legislature's leaders on insurance issues said Wednesday that residents seeking big relief from skyrocketing homeowners' insurance rates shouldn't get their hopes too high." "Insurance woes won't end quickly, Posey warns".
"Environmental preservationists decry setback at a crucial time in efforts to restore natural water flows and save what is left of the region’s dwindling wilderness." "Everglades restoration: SW Fla. Feasibility Study slows to crawl".
Mahoney a Blue Dog
"Incoming South Florida congressmen Tim Mahoney and Ron Klein are staking out their ideological positions in the 110th Congress which convenes at noon Thursday."
Mahoney, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party and won the District 16 seat formerly held by Mark Foley, has signed up with the Blue Dog Coalition."Lining Up".
Klein, who knocked off 13-term incumbent Clay Shaw in District 22, is joining the New Democratic Coalition.
The Blue Dogs, founded 12 years ago among Democrats primarily from the Old South, describe themselves as a conservative to moderate group with a passion for fiscal responsibility in Washington.
The New Democrats began 10 years ago and describe themselves as moderate, pro-growth members who seek a “common sense” approach to government.
"Stumped by government jargon on the campaign trail, "
Gov. Charlie Crist used his first full day in office Wednesday to target the dense language of bureaucrats and policy wonks."Crist plan: 'Whereas' out, 'hey, buddy' in".
He signed an executive order giving state agencies until April 3 to adopt "plain language plans" requiring the use of "clear language that is commonly used by the intended audience."