Senator John Legg, Charter school Operator, sponsors bills that will make him rich

He recently became chairman of the K-20 Education committee and sits on the education appropriations committee too. Talk about conflicts of interests.

“How is it OK for a senator to chair one education committee and serve on another, run a charter school in New Port Richey, and sponsor bills that will benefit him and his charter school? ” 
Well, Florida, whats the answer?

Florida makes the right move by revamping graduation requirements.

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Beth Kassab

Our state lawmakers aren’t known for putting politics aside to reach a compromise that solves a problem.
When they do, they deserve credit.
So kudos to Sen. John Legg and Rep. Elizabeth Porter.
“Somebody was listening,” said Walt Griffin, superintendent of Seminole County schools.They are two of the main architects behind a proposed revamp of high school graduation requirements that will give students more choices in how they prepare themselves for college or careers but will keep the rigorous standards Florida grads need to be competitive with the rest of the world.
Here is why Griffin is happy — and parents and students should be, too.
The proposed new graduation requirements ease back from some of the must-pass exams the state established three years ago.
Under the proposal, all students must pass year-end exams in algebra and 10th-grade English to graduate. But year-end exams in biology and geometry, as well as chemistry or physics, are no longer “must-pass,” but they will count toward 30 percent of the student’s grade.
On top of that, Algebra II would no longer be required.
If you’re worried that requirements are being dumbed-down, don’t be. These are reasonable adjustments to an overhaul of graduation requirements approved three years ago.
At the time, critics said those requirements would be too tough and were focused only on students who wanted to go to a four-year university.
They were right.
“We are addressing the forgotten half of our students,” said Porter, a Republican from Lake City.
Legg, a sponsor of the 2010 changes, said the old standards amounted to a virtually worthless diploma and the state took “three steps forward.”
“This moves back about a half a step,” said the Port Richey Republican.
These new requirements wouldn’t be the equivalent of Basket-Weaving 101. That could have happened with an earlier version of a House bill that would have allowed some students to graduate without taking geometry and some standardized tests.
That would have been a giant step back. A diploma with too-low standards could have put poor or minority students at risk of being steered to less rigorous course work from an early age.
Florida would have been right back to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” that former President George W. Bush talked about when all students aren’t held to the same high standards.
There would be one diploma under the new proposal, and the standards could continue to increase as Florida moves toward the top-notch math and English curriculum called “Common Core.”
In addition, the proposal comes with the option for students to earn “scholar” or “gold” distinctions on their diplomas.
The “scholar” level means a student passed all of the year-end exams and is prepared for college. The “gold” level means the student passed rigorous “industry certification” classes in subjects such as nursing or cyber-security.
Education Commissioner Tony Bennett supports the proposed requirements.
“I in no way see what the House and Senate did as backing up,” he said. “It’s more doubling-down.”
That’s an important endorsement, because Bennett is a longtime champion of higher standards in public schools and using Common Core to get there. Jeb Bush‘s education foundation, a leader in the education reform movement, also supports the changes.
Even the teachers union, typically at odds with Bush and other conservatives who want to reform public schools, didn’t oppose the change this week.
A rare day in Tallahassee, for sure.
bkassab@tribune.com or 407-420-5448

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-beth-kassab-common-core-20130329,0,6267428.column

Florida: How to discourage the best and brightest from going into education.

From News Press.com, by Christopher Giller

I
am extremely concerned with what is happening in Tallahassee regarding
education. Dangerous legislation is in the process of being passed by our state
representatives.


In particular, House Bill 7011, which is an effort to
reconstruct the Florida Retirement System. This reconstruction would not only
discourage our best and brightest graduates from going into education and other
important public occupations, but it would harm hard-working taxpayers and
those who are already participating in the Florida Retirement System.
House Bill 7011 is an attempt to end the Florida Retirement
System and force new employees into a 401(k) style retirement plan. Legislators
are attempting to fix something that is not broken.
The Florida Retirement Fund is operating very effectively. If
this bill is passed, the base of future teachers and other public workers
needed to fund the system will be depleted because the new teachers will be
putting their retirement money into a private account. Where will the money
come from to fund those who worked for 30 plus years making contributions to a
plan that was promised as part of their contract?
Two places: First, public employees will be asked to contribute
more to their retirement plans, which were negotiated as part of the
compensation in their contract.
Next, taxpayers will have to foot the rest of the bill.
So why would our legislators want to privatize the Florida
Retirement System when the math is clear that it is not a responsible decision?
Eventually, legislators argue that it will save taxpayers money because the
state won’t have to pay into the retirement system at the current rate.
Instead, participants will depend on the market to gain interest, but what
happens when the market suffers a correction and it is a public employee’s turn
to retire after a dedicated career?
These people will have to turn to other government programs that
are funded by taxpayers. It is very simple, people pay into the Florida
Retirement System, the state matches contributions as part of the public
employees’ contract, the money is invested in conservative bonds and funds, and
people get the money they have been counting on after working a long career.
This
is another attempt at taking short cuts to try to balance the state budget.
Many argue, why should public employees get a pension plan when other workers
have to fund their own retirement?
To begin with, the retirement contribution that the state makes
should be viewed as part of a public employee’s salary, which in Florida, for
teachers, is around $10,000 less than in other states. Second, teachers and
many other dedicated workers, with equal or sometimes superior credentials,
make much less than those in the private sector.
Therefore, they have less money to contribute each month to a
401(k). My father has always preached, “You get what you pay for.”
Florida, what caliber of people do you expect to attract to
public service jobs when short cuts like the one in House Bill 7011 are taken
at the expense of public employees?
Please contact your local representatives and Governor Scott.
Tell them that House Bill 7011 is an irresponsible bill. It is vital to
teachers and other public employees that these representatives hear from you as
soon as possible. This bill is in danger of being passed in this current
legislative session. The quality of education your children receive will be
greatly impacted by this bill.

How Florida killed the teaching profession

Today when speaking about the proposed changes to the
Florida Pension Fund, long considered one of the best in the nation and not
currently needing any changes Vice President of the FEA Joanne
McCall
pointed out the changes to the teaching profession that Florida
has made over the last few years.

“Because of the actions of our political leaders,
teachers have no expectation of continuing employment, no due process and a
performance-based pay system that is not funded and based on bad or irrelevant
data. Now they want changes to the pension system that guarantee
retirement insecurity. These proposals make it more difficult to recruit
and retain high-quality teachers.”
She could have added how Florida’s teachers were some of the
poorest paid in the nation too.
So before you complain about the state of education in
Florida, consider what teachers have to deal with (and not just from their
students or in their classrooms) first.


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/03/teachers-union-to-lawmakers-back-off-frs.html#storylink=addthis#storylink=cpy

Are guns coming to a school near you?

From the Tampa Times by Kathleen McGrory

TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would allow school employees to carry weapons on campus won the support of the House education subcommittee on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, HB 1097, principals and superintendents could designate school employees to carry concealed weapons. The employees would have to undergo extensive training, said sponsor Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota.
Steube amended the proposal shortly before Wednesday’s meeting; it now requires the firearm to remain on the employee throughout the school day. Steube also expanded the proposal so that it applies to both public and private schools. “I’ve been getting feedback from principals all over the state about how strongly they support an initiative like this,” Steube said.
Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton said the law would place a “huge” liability on school systems. Plus, Blanton added: “Our teachers and principals are role models. You are going to send the wrong message to these students.”
Still, most members of the subcommittee supported the proposal, including two Democrats — Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Orlando, and Rep. Carl Zimmermann, D-Palm Harbor.
The bill still has a long way to go. To advance to the floor, it must now win the support of three additional committees. And the window for committee meetings is quickly shrinking.
Steube hopes the bill continues to move. “Most counties do not have the funds to put a school resource officer in every elementary school,” he said.

Low Performing Charter School Operator begs for more public money

By Jason SchultzPalm Beach Post Staff Writer

A West Palm Beach charter school that the Palm Beach School District is trying to close has appealed, arguing the school district has no right to shut its doors because the district didn’t do enough to help the school.
“Charter School Students are Public School Students like everyone else, and Palm Beach Public Schools has an obligation to them, no less than to any other student,” wrote Christopher Norwood, consultant for the Excel Leadership Academy in an e-mail detailing Excel’s appeals arguments to fend off its closing. “They are responsible for providing, operating, controlling and supervising all free public schools within its boundaries.”
The school board voted 5-1 on March 6 to close Excel starting next school year. A district report recommending the closure cited 13 alleged failures by the school to comply with state rules and its charter contract with the school district. The alleged Excel failures ranged from academic problems such as not having all the required core subjects for a reading program to having “deteriorating financial conditions,” with a $38,000 deficit found by auditors.
Excel filed its appeal on Friday stating that it disputed the facts of each of the alleged failures cited by the district “in whole or in part.” The appeal also argued that the school district is obligated to provide support and services to charter schools under state law and additional support to low performing charter schools under the district’s own policies.
The appeal also argues that the school district is not properly utilizing the fee of 5 percent of its state funding that Excel and other charter schools pay to the district for certain administrative and educational support. It asks a state administrative law judge to issue an order recommending the school district keep Excel open and pay its legal fees for the appeal.
“Not only do we dispute the grounds the School District asserts for non-renewal. We also dispute the District’s process for review,” Norwood said. “It was done in haste, under conditions where the District is clearly either misinformed or negligent in its understanding of its statutory role in providing administrative and support services.”
District Senior Counsel Bruce Harris said the district does not comment on pending litigation. He said the state would set a date for the appeal hearing within 60 days.

Politfact gives Rep Carlos Trujillo a false about the parent trigger. Will this guy ever tell the truth?

From Politifact

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, says he doesn’t know why his “parent trigger” bill is creating a partisan fight in the Capitol.
Yes, it’s supported by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, but it’s also popular with supporters of President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, he said.
“This legislation was drafted by President Obama’s top advisers. It was drafted by President Clinton’s top advisers,” he said on March 18, 2013, during the House Education Committee hearing on his bill. “Gov. Bush is a big supporter of this, so it’s not a partisan issue. I’m not sure why it’s turned into that.”
We wondered if Trujillo was right about the roots of the parent trigger bill. Did state Democrats miss the bipartisanship memo? The bill in question is HB 867, “Parent Empowerment in Education.” The law allows parents at failing schools to demand changes, including asking for public schools to be turned into charter schools.
Opponents say this power already exists under state and federal law, and teachers unions don’t like that public schools could be turned into charter schools. Supporters, like Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, said it gives parents at those schools a “legal seat at the table” in turning around a school.
California became the first state with a parent trigger law in 2010, and states including Texas and Indiana have followed in its footsteps. The nonprofit group Parent Revolution launched the California initiative and is supporting Trujillo’s bill.
Asked to support the claim, Trujillo’s legislative aide Alex Miranda pointed us to the executive director of Parent Revolution, Ben Austin. Austin played a role in drafting the original California legislation, which was introduced by California Democratic Sen. Gloria Romero. That legislation was used as a model for Florida.
Austin’s online biography says he has worked on several Democratic presidential campaigns and inside Clinton’s White House “in a variety of roles.” Plus, he was “an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign,” the website states.
We asked Parent Revolution for more details about Austin’s working relationship with the presidents, as well as seven other board members and staffers whose bios included Obama or Clinton ties.
Parent Revolution spokesman David Phelps told us the group designed California’s legislation to help that state qualify for a grant under Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. But he also said “the usual political definition of ‘top adviser’ ” would not apply to their board members and staff.
“President Obama has spoken frequently (as has Education Secretary Duncan) about the need for parents to be full partners in the decision-making process around their children’s education,” Phelps said. “Parent trigger and our work at Parent Revolution is a proactive response to those Obama administration calls.”
Phelps was not aware of Obama or Clinton publicly endorsing the measure. He also stressed that Florida is not using a carbon copy of California’s parent trigger law, as each state “has its own specific priorities and educational needs, and state legislators write bills accordingly.”
We caught up with Pat DeTemple, Parent Revolution senior strategist. DeTemple winced a little when we told him Trujillo’s statement. “I don’t want to speak for Rep. Trujillo,” he said. He touched on Austin’s “political” role in Clinton’s White House and ticked off a series of Austin’s Democratic credentials.
Okay, but does that make him a top adviser to either Clinton or Obama?
“No, no,” DeTemple said. “I was a general election director for Barack, and I was not a top adviser to him either, you know?
Still, Trujillo has a point about the law attracting national Democratic support, even if Florida Democrats aren’t into it, DeTemple said. He pointed to Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as examples of high-profile Democrats who support the concept, as well as Obama’s former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Opponents of the parent trigger movement, such as Orlando parent advocacy group Fund Education Now, say talking up liberal credentials is an attempt by supporters of parent trigger “to blur political lines and to declare support from Democrats for this conservative free-market effort.”
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of Fund Education Now, stressed the parent trigger law was picked up as model legislation by the conservative, pro-business advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council after California’s parent trigger law survived a legal challenge.
She called Trujillo’s Clinton/Obama claim an overreach.
“Ben Austin and Mike Trujillo each worked on Obama and Clinton campaigns,” she said. “That does not mean that Obama asked to have the trigger law written, or that he supports it.”
Our ruling
In trying to persuade Democrats to support his parent trigger bill, Trujillo said, “This legislation was drafted by President Obama’s top advisers. It was drafted by President Clinton’s top advisers.” He makes it sound as if the legislation were written in the West Wing.
Parent groups, unions and activists may disagree vehemently on the bill, but they sound in agreement on one thing: The concept was not drafted by “top advisers” to Clinton and Obama. The people who had a hand in creating the legislation would more accurately be described as supporters of Obama and Clinton, not “top advisers.” We rate his statement False.