"Money grubbing ways of the education reform movement"
Fred Grimm: "No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s 2001 education reform package, since embraced by President Obama, may have forced needed attention onto failing schools, but the law also created an extraordinary new industry funded exclusively with public money."
The charter school movement set off another entrepreneurial frenzy, particularly in Florida, which now has 519 charters, 200 of them in Broward and Miami-Dade. ..."Law turns kids into commodities".
Maybe charter operators are just savvy marketers, who know how to avoid difficult students who could bring down the overall test scores and damage the school brand. The Herald’s series on the charter movement last week revealed some discomfiting statistics indicating some of the more successful charters in Miami-Dade indulge in clever cherry picking.
But the long range effect of luring away high achievers from traditional schools would result in something quite the opposite from the original goals of the Bush school reforms. The kids left behind by No Child Left Behind would be the very children, most of them poor, that the reforms were supposed to rescue. “When you’ve siphoned away all the successful kids, only poor kids will go to public schools,” warned Diane Ravitch, a longtime voice for reform and a chronicler of failed reforms (which you might have guessed from the title of her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education). She said public schools, if the charter system isn’t fixed, will evolve into repositories for the unwanted, where we train poor kids to take the big test. Not to learn.
The Miami Herald’s series, Cashing In On Kids, by Kathleen McGrory and Scott Hiaasen, charted how so much public money going into these nominally non-profit ventures finds its way into the accounts of for-profit management companies. And how the operators of the management companies often double as the charter school’s landlords. Sometimes you’re not sure whether to call these people educators or real estate profiteers. ...
But if you’re bothered by the money grubbing ways of the education reform movement, too bad. They’ve got money (thanks to NCLB) to write campaign contributions. They’ve got money to hire lobbyists. They’ve got the political juice. And you don’t.
Mack's earmark problem
"Mack, a candidate for U.S. Senate, is fending off his fellow Republican opponents who are bashing him for voting for billions of dollars in earmarks since his election to Congress in 2004." "Earmarks U.S. Rep. Connie Mack delivered could hurt him in Florida Senate race".
Sheriffs don' like gambling
"Sheriffs oppose casino legislation".
High-profile claims bills
"Emotion-packed bills that would compensate two men whose lives were turned upside down by governmental mistakes will get another chance during Florida's 2012 legislative session after the measures died in the frantic final hours of the 2011 session. They are among several high-profile claims bills lawmakers will consider in the session that begins Jan. 10."
One measure would benefit Eric Brody, who suffered brain damage and paralysis when he was 18 after a speeding Broward County sheriff's deputy - running late to work - crashed into his car in 1998. He is seeking more than $15 million - under Florida law, a government agency can't pay an individual lawsuit award or claim for more than $200,000 without approval of the Legislature and governor."Failed claims bills revived in Florida Legislature".
Another is for William Dillon, who spent 27 years in prison for a Brevard County murder he didn't commit. He is seeking more than $810,000.
Oiling the feet of millionaires
The Miami Herald editorial board oils the feet of millionaires this morning in "What leadership can do".
Can JD Alexander make USF feel the pain?
"State Sen. JD Alexander wields a lot of power."
Now, in his last year as a state senator, he has his sights on the University of South Florida."Autocratic Sen. Alexander casts big shadow".
USF opposed Alexander's plan to turn USF Polytechnic into an independent university, and a state board gave USF a win when it delayed the separation. Since then, Alexander has berated USF's leaders, demanding they be investigated and advocating that another university take over the Poly campus in Polk County.
So what's next?
Can Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican who's in charge of the Senate Budget Committee, make USF feel the pain when lawmakers convene in Tallahassee next month?
Frustrated lil' Teabagger
"Marco Rubio's first year in the nation's capital has made him a deeply frustrated senator. Florida's rising political star — full of expectations after a productive stint in the state Legislature and a come-from-behind victory in his 2010 U.S. Senate race — ends a bruising year in Washington with little sense of accomplishment and a dismal outlook."
His allies in the tea party movement remain supportive, even while lashing out at the rest of Congress. He has gotten along on Capitol Hill without becoming a Beltway insider, they say."After first year in Washington, Rubio frustrated by inaction".
"One thing that stands out was the effort by his office to communicate with the grass roots," said Tom Tillison of the Central Florida Tea Party Council. "They make an effort to ask our opinion. It's rare that you see that from any politician."
Tillison and others on the political right say that Republican candidates in the current campaign cycle are following Rubio's example and that he has the clout to affect election results in Florida.
"He definitely has a big stick," said Everett Wilkinson of Palm Beach Gardens, chairman of the South Florida Tea Party. "If he decides to use it, it will be felt. Whoever is the GOP presidential nominee will have to take him into consideration as a possible running mate or just as someone to work with to get the votes they need."
Columnist whines about workers with courage to fight for pension benefits
Tom Lyons whines that "many taxpayers won't have [a pension] at all." "Police pensions simply too high".
"Deck is heavily stacked in favor of charter schools"
"The number of charter schools is exploding across the country, with Florida leading the way. And the relationships that some state lawmakers have with them are raising hackles, especially as they play key roles in making it easier for charters to operate here."
Such criticisms have haunted some key Florida lawmakers."Critics say Florida lawmakers are too cozy with charter schools ...".
Miami Republican Rep. Erik Fresen, chairman of the House K-20 Competitiveness Subcommittee, faced ethics charges this year after voting for a bill giving "high performing" charter schools an easier path to expansion. He was accused of failing to disclose his family's involvement in charter operator Academica, where his sister is vice president.
Though absolved by the state Ethics Commission, Fresen to many personified the cozy ties, particularly in contrast with Tampa Democratic Rep. Betty Reed.
She abstained from voting on the same bill because her daughter is a charter school principal.
Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, the Senate majority whip, got her share of attention when she won a job leading Academica's new college-level school shortly after pushing through a bill allowing virtual charter schools into the state. Academica proposed such schools across Florida soon after.
Pasco County Republican Rep. Will Weatherford, the House speaker-designate, caught flak for submitting a new charter school application with the wife of fellow Rep. Richard Corcoran soon after the lawmakers voted for the bill that snared Fresen. The Pasco School Board rejected their proposal.
Sen. John Thrasher, a one-time charter school lobbyist, has proposed charter school law changes. Rep. Seth McKeel, a director of the McKeel Academy charters in Polk County, has voted for such laws.
The lawmakers have friends inside the business pushing for easier access, including former Rep. Ralph Arza, now with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools; former Education Commissioner Jim Horne, now chairman of the Florida Charter School Alliance; and former Rep. Frank Atkisson, now business director for Mavericks in Education, a charter firm run by Vice President Joe Biden's brother.
The support extends into the executive branch, as well.
Gov. Rick Scott included more charter than traditional school executives on his education transition team. He signed off on the bills expanding charters in Florida and also on a budget that funneled state school construction funding to charters.
The Education Department has shared in the enthusiasm, too, creating a $30 million fund for charter startups with the backing of a venture group supported by conservative donors such as the Walton and the Dell foundations.
Such a confluence of forces has brought skeptics to conclude the deck is heavily stacked in favor of charter schools.
Scott Maxwell asks "Your congressional reps: What have they done for you lately?".
Romney not worried about Gingrich's Florida lead
"Absentee voting in Florida's primary is just around the corner, and Newt Gingrich is trouncing Mitt Romney by an average of about 18 percentage points, according to Florida polls. And yet there's virtually no sign of worry from the Romney camp. The former Massachusetts governor's allies here are remarkably calm about Gingrich." "Romney's camp calm over Gingrich".
"Florida judges ask to have mandatory retirement age raised".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: ""FCAT: Go higher but slower on cut scores".