"Florida House Democrats are calling for an overhaul of the state's education accountability system by next year, after problems with last year's third-grade reading FCAT were discovered this month."
In a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday, the House Democratic Caucus said confidence in the state's accountability system has been shaken by the flaw, which is requiring the rescoring of 204,000 tests."Democrats want a recount -- on all FCATs". See also "Lawmakers ask Crist to investigate FCAT flub".
The group, which represents 42 House Democrats, wants a complete audit of all FCAT results since 2000, not just a rescoring of last year's third-grade test.
They also want to know how far-reaching the effects of third-grade blunder are and an analysis of what other mistakes the FCAT is subject to. Another group, the Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform, also made similar requests of the Governor this week.
"Televised debates between the major contenders for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations are planned for Florida on Jan. 23 and 24, less than a week before the state's primaries, organizers said Wednesday. Leadership Florida, in partnership with the Florida Press Association and the Florida Public Broadcasting Service, will produce the two hourlong live debates, which may get added national exposure on C-SPAN, officials said." "Florida to host key debates in presidential race". See also "Organizers: Major presidential candidates to debate in January", "Presidential debates planned for January" and "State to host pair of presidential debates".
"Charlie of Arabia" Strides the World Stage
Howard Troxler: "The guy has been governor for just shy of five months, and he's knocking around the Middle East? Who is he, Charlie of Arabia?" "Maybe the Knesset can fix our tax mess".
"On the second day of a trade mission to the country, Crist also visited Jewish holy sites and met with top Israeli officials, raising his own international profile." "Crist visits holy places, meets leaders in Israel".
Scott Maxwell writes this morning that:
pundits are busy speculating that Crist is also hoping to make himself more attractive as a national candidate by bolstering his foreign-policy credentials. Still, Crist may have his eyes on an even loftier office -- if you believe the papers over there, anyway. After all, the St. Petersburg Times, which is traveling with the governor, cited a slightly misspelled headline about Charlie in Wednesday's Jerusalem Post that read: "Christ visits Jerusalem."Oops.
From The Orlando Sentinel editorial board:
Since Mr. Bush put the FCAT in place 10 years ago ..."Overdue change". There are two (2) mistakes in those eleven words; can you figure out what they are? The answers tomorrow.
"Agency officials said there will still be some cuts to services, but those cuts won't be as bad as was feared during the Legislative session." "State budget to include $116M extra for disabled".
Going Out on a Limb
"Kottkamp urges preparedness in face of hurricanes".
"A Matter of Numbers"
"It is becoming a matter of numbers - delegate numbers, to be exact. With 113, Florida has more than the 110 combined of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina." "With primary moved ahead, GOP's top 3 focus on Fla.".
"To that 'F' grade, add the 'Incomplete'"
"Florida families are paying higher insurance, property tax and gas costs, Gov. Crist observed last week. 'I don't think it's right to make them pay higher tuition, too.' Yet his veto of the state budget's 5 percent tuition increase just made Florida's 11 universities and 28 community colleges less accessible."
In a university system that is expecting 7,000 new students, Gov. Crist has excised $19 million in needed financing. That's roughly the equivalent of 300 new faculty, or about the number at Florida Gulf Coast University, said state university system spokesman Bill Edmonds. For the community colleges, the loss is a similar $19 million."Challenge Crist's veto of 5% tuition increase".
To that "F" grade, add the "Incomplete" the governor earned for omitting the tuition-proviso language from the $922 million university financing authorization. Whether he can reduce rather than eliminate a budget line item is the current legal limbo that the university system's Board of Governors should challenge. Not the least because the veto also eliminated language that spelled out how much students will be charged per credit hour.
I Am Shocked
"Don't act shocked at where tax dollars from South Florida slot machines are going. You were warned. According to a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, Las Vegas-style slots in Broward County will raise more than $223 million for education projects in Florida. More than half of it will go toward higher education, not to public schools, as slots proponents vowed. Doesn't sound right, does it?" "Gambling Taxes".
Our Editors at Work
This really is beneath even the Sun-Sentinel editorial board - they write that Cindy Sheehan "became so shrill and strident that she lost effectiveness, and she helped turn the level of debate on both sides nasty rather than thoughtful and productive." "A Divider".
It would be nice to see such shrill rhetoric directed at the self proclaimed "uniter not a divider" and the other Iraq war fools.
"Lower water levels yield discovery of ancient site".
Charlie's "Political Favoritism"
"The amount Gov. Crist vetoed from the Legislature's proposed state budget - $459 million - was unprecedented, but not his message of political favoritism." "Some turkeys more equal".
"Up in Florida's Panhandle, a test awaits Gov. Crist's Department of Environmental Protection. Will Secretary Michael Sole uphold a ruling that, finally, makes a paper mill stop polluting once-pristine Perdido Bay? This month, an administrative law judge denied the world's largest paper company, International Paper, a permit to build a discharge pipe to the bay and told the DEP to make the firm obey clean-water rules." "Clean-water win, if the state agrees".
"Broward sees another double-digit jump in property values, fueling tax worries".
They Can Probably Handle It
The Sun-Sentinel editors think Florida pols have been mean to insurance companies; they complain that "some state officials have been hurling boulders at insurance companies. Doing so earns them political points, because insurers have been highly unpopular across the Sunshine State ever since they jacked up premiums on people following the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons." "Storm Season".
A Bushco Thing
"The United Arab Emirates' prime minister wants President Bush to help win dismissal of a federal lawsuit filed in Miami that accuses the country of forcing thousands of children to work as camel jockeys."
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, also the ruler of Dubai, said in a letter to Bush that the lawsuit filed in Miami federal court ''is causing an unnecessary interference with the good and mutually valuable relations'' between the two countries."Sheikh seeks Bush's help to quash lawsuit". See also "UAE leader tells Bush jockey lawsuit threatens relations".
The lawsuit, filed in September, seeks unspecified monetary damages for about 10,000 boys and thousands of their relatives. The case was brought under a 218-year-old U.S. law known as the Alien Tort Statute, which gives federal courts jurisdiction over certain civil cases involving foreigners.
The Emirates say the suit should be thrown out because U.S. courts have no jurisdiction and its rulers are entitled to sovereign immunity.
The lawsuit contends Miami is a proper venue because Emirates family members own horse farms in Ocala and because no other court in the world would adequately deal with the claims.
Probably A Good Thing.
"It's not often the Florida Legislature gets international attention."
Not Too Late for Thompson?
Adam Smith believes that "it's not too late for the actor to make a splash in the state's wait-and-see GOP fundraising pool." "Thompson's timing could suit Florida".
"The latest legislation aimed at stifling citizen initiatives is headed to Gov. Charlie Crist's desk. The bill (SB 900) is flawed, unnecessary and potentially expensive. Crist should veto it."
If he doesn't, anyone gathering signatures to put a proposed amendment on the ballot would be required to hand those signatures in within 30 days of collecting them. Meeting the 30-day deadline might be difficult for grassroots groups working to collect signatures statewide, and it's not necessary -- there's already a statutory cutoff that gives election supervisors enough time to verify that signatures are valid. This bill punishes both the groups collecting signatures and the voters who, in good faith, signed the petitions."Crist veto can stop hijack of citizen initiative".
It gets worse. This bill includes a provision giving voters 120 days to retract their signatures, opening the door for what the League of Women Voters describes as a "cottage industry" harassing petition-signers.
The retraction language assumes voters are too stupid to read the plain language of the petition they're signing, which is required to be printed at the top of every signature form. It would be disruptive and costly if elections supervisors have to scramble to match up names of petition signers with names on petition-revocation forms.
Similar language was buried in the massive elections bill signed into law earlier this month by Crist, but the governor really had no choice in that case -- that bill also set out a requirement for paper ballots, a top priority for elections integrity.
SB 900 presents no such dilemma -- it's a bad idea from start to finish. Crist should have no problem rejecting it.
"Jeb!" and fellow deep thinker Ken Mehlman share their wisdom on the Wall Street Journal editorial page:
Immigration reform is very tough. It's an issue that divides both political parties and, on the right, has led many close personal and ideological friends -- people we respect and whose criticism we take seriously -- to oppose new rules governing how people enter this country and how we handle those who are here illegally. But we hope our friends reconsider."A Good Immigration Bill". See also "Jeb likes immigration bill".
We support the immigration reform compromise worked out in the Senate for a few simple reasons. It strengthens our national defense. It makes our economy more competitive and flexible. It enhances the rule of law and promotes national unity.
The Fine Print
"When Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed 5 percent college tuition increases last week, he said he was looking out for students and families burdened by property insurance and taxes. But not everyone was spared. The governor failed to veto 5 percent increases for community college work force development programs. That means thousands of the poorest students could pay more for the skills to become a welder, nurse or dental hygienist." "Crist veto pen skipped a line on tuition hikes".
Waiting for (the Right) Wingnut
"Underscoring how Jeb Bush's departure from Tallahassee has changed Florida's political scene, an overwhelming majority of President Bush's top political fundraisers in Florida are sitting on the sidelines so far in the 2008 presidential race." "FL Bush bundlers on sidelines".
"Illegal immigrants who worked long shifts scrubbing theme restaurants for an indicted janitorial firm have signed their names to a lawsuit seeking unpaid wages. Some were rounded up in federal workplace raids in February and deported, they say, before receiving their final paychecks. Others worked 80- or 100-hour weeks for years without earning overtime pay or even the prevailing minimum wage, the suit charges."
The 14 plaintiffs - most from Mexico - worked for Rosenbaum-Cunningham International Inc., a Palm Beach, Fla.-based janitorial firm."Illegal immigrants sue indicted janitorial firm for back wages".
Mile Thomas thinks Florida should go nuclear: "Decades lost -- we must get energy-smart".
"Huckabee Makes Tampa Appearance".
Thompson Locks Up Florida
"U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, is officially uncommitted, but sure sounded like a Fred Thompson guy". "Putnam digs Thompson".
"Steve Stanton was fired as city manager in Largo two months ago after announcing his plans to become Susan Stanton. On Wednesday, Stanton, wearing a white skirt, pumps and makeup, was turned down for the top job in this more cosmopolitan tourist town. Sarasota commissioners picked another of the five finalists. Stanton was their third choice." "City turns down transsexual".
Daniel Ruth doesn't think much of Dennis Kucinich: "The Kucinich Juggernaut Hits Town".
Property Tax Cut
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Crist's cuts leave the state flush with $7 billion in reserves, and lawmakers looking for a quick way to cut property taxes will be tempted to dip into that money. It is particularly convenient since lawmakers actually voted to increase property taxes to pay for schools while they were marching lockstep in the crusade to cut the property taxes that fuel city and county budgets. The problem is that most of the money held in reserve is the result of a one-time windfall and can't be counted on year after year. So if Mr. Crist and lawmakers dump that money into schools this year, what will they use to fill the void next year?" "Don't be reckless".
The Tampa Trib editorial board agrees, and argues that
lawmakers would begin to balance their tax-cutting rhetoric with their planned increase in the one local tax they control. Since 2000 lawmakers have moved $4.1 billion onto the backs of property owners through this school tax, called the "required local effort.""School Taxes, Raised This Year, Should Be Debated With The Rest".
Tallahassee leaders should no longer pretend they're not contributing to the crippling tax bills facing Floridians. School taxes account for 30 percent of property taxes, and it's impossible to talk about tax reform without acknowledging that state lawmakers have pushed an ever-greater share of that burden onto property owners.