Education

League of Women Voters to Board of Education: Just say no!

rubber-stamp-file-photo-public-domainThe man who castigated troubled schools as “failure factories” is poised to become the state’s next education commissioner, as Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis made clear he wants former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to take over the post.

While the Board of Education technically has the final say-so on the matter, there’s little doubt the panel will grant DeSantis’ wish.

Not so fast, the League of Women Voters of Florida said in a missive issued Friday afternoon.

In a letter to Board of Education Chairwoman Marva Johnson and the rest of the board, the League urged the panel to conduct a national search to find the replacement for Linda Stewart, a veteran educator whose resignation will go into effect next month.

The state Constitution makes it clear “that it is the Board of Education – not the Governor – that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education,” the letter reads.

“At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply ‘rubber stamp’ a politically motivated choice,” LWV Florida president Patricia Brigham wrote in the letter.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Chairwoman and State Board Members,
With the impending departure of Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, the League of Women Voters of Florida reminds you that as members of the State Board of Education you not only have the opportunity, but a constitutional responsibility, to conduct a national search to find the person who is best suited to oversee Florida’s system of public education.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution of Florida was overwhelmingly adopted by the people of Florida in 1998. That provision created the Board of Education, consisting of seven members serving staggered terms to oversee Florida’s system of free public schools.
By enacting that provision, the people of Florida made it clear in the Constitution that it is the Board of Education — not the Governor — that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education. Further, the Board of Education members’ terms of office were purposely staggered to ensure that as governors change, the Florida education system would be insulated from the disruption caused by political patronage appointments of a Commissioner of Education.
At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.
Under our state’s current constitution, the Governor retains input to the process by filling vacancies which occur as Board Members terms expire, however, the Board must carry out its constitutional duty and make appointments based upon merit, not political patronage. While members of the Board may ultimately concur with the recommendation of the incoming Governor regarding who to appoint, the Board of Education should decline to opt for an expedient political patronage selection.
In sum, the Board should be guided by the constitutional statement that imposes upon the State a “paramount duty” to make “adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Included in such a paramount duty is the selection of the best person possible to lead the effort. Finding such a person mandates that the Board conduct a national search and not just grant perfunctory approval to a political patronage appointment.
Florida’s children deserve nothing less.
Patricia Brigham
President

Dueling Dems go after Trump, cigar-toting Republicans in latest ads

Democrats Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene launched new TV ads this week, as time runs out before voters start casting ballots in the Aug. 28 primary.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who lives next door to President Donald Trump, takes aim at his neighbor in one of two ads totaling a $2.7 million weeklong buy, according to Greene’s camp.

Or rather, Trump is the one taking aim in the ads — with his golf club.

The spot features the president swinging away on the golf course, and complains that “Florida taxpayers are paying for it — literally ” every time Trump visits the Sunshine State. The presidential drop-ins cost millions in overtime and road closures, according to the ad, in which Greene pledges “to put a stop to that, day one” if elected governor.

A second Greene ad’s more upbeat, and stars the candidate, his wife and his three young sons — Malcolm, Brandon and Cameron — he says are the reason he’s in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Greene is a late entry into the crowded Democratic field, but he’s pledged to spend what it takes to move into the govenror’s mansion.

In her latest ad, Graham — who ousted former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in 2014 and served a term in Congress before deciding to seek re-election after her North Florida district was redrawn — continued what appears to be a general-election strategy by going after Republicans.

“It has been really bad for Florida that, for twenty years, the Republican Party has been in total control. It’s these high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee,” Graham says while black-and-white images of GOP legislators posing with cigars on the floor of the state House flash on the screen.

Graham and Greene are facing off in the primary against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King.

 

Dad of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas student: “I’m a father, and I’m on a mission”

Andrew Pollack’s 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was among the 14 students shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

Pollack, who watched from the gallery as the Florida House voted 67-50 to approve the school-safety measure sparked by the nation’s second-worst school shooting, that also left three faculty members dead, Wednesday evening.

He praised the House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott, and called the measure an important first step to ensure the safety and security of school children.

“On a personal note, my precious daughter Meadow’s life was taken and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But make no mistake, I’m a father and I’m on mission. I’m on a mission to ensure that I’m the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind. If you want to help me, and keep my children safe, I want you to follow me cuz there’s strength in numbers, at remembermeadow.com.”

Here’s Pollack speaking to reporters immediately after the vote.

 

School safety measure in House’s hands

All eyes are now on the House, after a sweeping school safety measure squeaked out of the Senate on a 20-18 vote Monday evening.

But could a tweak that may have kept the bill from going down in the upper chamber result in its demise across the rotunda?

Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, sponsored an amendment that would exclude individuals who “exclusively” provide classroom instruction from participating in the school marshal program, rebranded by the Senate on Monday as the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” The controversial program would allow specially trained teachers or other school personnel to bring guns to class.

With the clock ticking down until the session ends Friday, there’s no guarantee that the House, slated to take up the bill (SB 7026) tomorrow, will pass it as is, Senate leaders acknowledged.

“It’s been a very dynamic process. There were even amendments on third reading, which is unusual for a bill of this stature,” Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told reporters late Monday evening.

“There’s some general consensus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both the House and the Senate had some additional input into the process. But I think on some of the fundamental areas, there’s agreement,” he said.

The Senate plan also includes a provision that requires both school districts and sheriffs to sign off on the plan, while the House’s version would only require the blessing of the school boards.

Gov. Rick Scott has opposed arming teachers, and it’s unclear whether he would support the revised bill.

Sen. Bill Galvano, who’s negotiated with Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva and Scott on the proposal, said that the measure passed by the Senate Monday night “was not a deal with the House,” but was generated from “the discussion” during Saturday’s floor debate.

Garcia was a no vote, Galvano pointed out.

(Translation: If Garcia had joined the opposition on Monday, the bill would have died on a 19-19 tie.)

 

 

Teachers’ union ad sends Corcoran down the drain

Florida’s largest teachers’ union is taking to the airwaves to hammer the latest move by House leaders to tie major education policies to the state budget process.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a 198-page “conforming” bill, which is formally linked to the budget process, that has dozens of changes for the K-12 system. The bill — which includes a voucher-like plan that would let bullied children transfer to private schools — has a measure directly aimed at the teachers’ union, allowing the unions to lose their state certification if the membership drops below 50 percent of the bargaining unit.

This week, the Florida Education Association responded, announcing a media campaign that features  a 30-second spot slamming the House leadership and, in particular, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who may run for governor.

The spot, titled “The Swamp,” is expected to be aired on television channels in the Tallahassee market this week.

“Political insider Richard Corcoran has a plan to divert even more of our tax dollars to unaccountable private schools while slashing the pay of even our best teachers,” the ad says.

“His bully bill wastes more money on failed programs while our schools starve, and our children suffer,” the ad goes on.  “It’s time to drain the swamp…and we know just where to begin.”

The video, not so subtly, ends with a picture of Corcoran disappearing down a street sewer grate.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger.

Brogan faces Senate committee confirmation

Florida homeboy Frank Brogan — a former Sunshine State lieutenant governor, education commissioner and university-system chancellor — appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on Thursday.

Brogan was nominated in December by President Donald Trump to be assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, noted that the letters of support for Brogan included a missive from Gov. Jeb Bush, Brogan’s top-of-the-ticket running mate in 1998 and 2002.

Brogan left the state in 2013 to become chancellor of Pennsylvania’s university system, a position he held until this past summer.

If you have an hour to kill hearing Senators offer pontificating questions and Brogan’s response, here ya go.

By Jim Turner.

Texas men shouting Nazi slogans arrested after shooting at car in Gainesville

Tenbrink

Tyler Tenbrink

FEARS, COLTON_preview

Colton Fears

FEARS, WILLIAM_preview

William Fears

Authorities in Florida breathed a sigh of relief after white nationalist Richard Spencer’s speech in Gainesville went off with just minor hiccups on Thursday.

The University of Florida avoided the types of confrontations on other campuses that prompted Gov. Rick Scott to issue a state of emergency in Alachua County earlier this month.

A $600,000 security effort resulted in “a mostly peaceful day” in Hogtown, according to a joint press release issued by various law enforcement agencies involved.

According to the press release, the speech resulted in “minimal acts of violence” and two arrests.

But those arrests didn’t include an ugly off-campus confrontation that wound up with three Texas men, two of them brothers, behind bars.

According to a Gainesville Police Department report issued this morning, the Texans — aged 28 to 30 — a violent argument, which took place shortly after Spencer’s speech ended, resulted in gunfire.

Tyler Tenbrink, 28, of Richmond, Texas; William Fears, 30, and his brother, 28-year-old Colton Fears, both of Passadena, Texas, are all currently in the Alachua County Jail on charges of attempted homicide. Tenbrink is a convicted felon and faces additional charges of possession of a firearm by convicted felon. The Fears brothers are being held on $1 million bond, and Tenbrink is on $3 million bond.

At least two of the three have shown connections to extremist groups, according to a press release issued by the GPD this morning.

Here’s what went down, according to the release:

Shortly before 5:30pm, it was reported that a silver Jeep stopped to argue with a group of protesters and began threatening, offering Nazi salutes and shouting chants about Hitler to the group that was near the bus stop. During the altercation, Tenbrink produced a handgun while the Fears brothers encouraged him to shoot at the victims. Tenbrink fired a single shot at the group which thankfully missed the group and struck a nearby building. The suspects then fled in a silver jeep.
One of the victims amazingly remained calm and was able to get the vehicle tag number and reported it immediately to law enforcement. Due to the Richard Spencer event, law enforcement resources from the local, state and Federal level were still operating in “Unified Command” which allowed local investigators and FBI analysts to quickly identify the vehicle and possible occupants. This information was immediately relayed to area law enforcement to look for the vehicle.

The Texans were nabbed later Thursday night on I-75 by an Alachua County deputy — with help from local police — on his way home from the Spencer event.

GPD spokesman Ben Tobias praised both the victim and the LEO handling of the situation.

“I am amazed that immediately after being shot at, a victim had the forethought to get the vehicle’s license number” Tobias said. “That key piece of information allowed officials from every level of multiple agencies to quickly identify and arrest these persons. This was an amazing team effort by everyone involved.”

Darnell said the incident and quick response “displays the true teamwork that went into yesterday’s Unified Command Center activation.”

“Information was quickly gathered and disseminated to all law enforcement partners involved and a potentially dangerous situation was averted quickly with the arrests,” she said.