Opinions across Florida: Few raves for Legislature
Ten days after lawmakers ended their regular legislative session, Florida's editorial boards and columnists are still slamming them.
Where to start?
Let's try education, where the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell took lawmakers to task for teacher bonuses. Lawmakers agreed to spend $233 million, much of it through the "Best & Brightest" scholarship program, for "highly effective" teachers, who would receive a $1,200 bonus and "effective" teachers, who would get an $800 bonus. But as Maxwell points out, these bonuses often don't go to those who are most deserving, including a second-grade teacher recently profiled in the Sentinel for making a difference in the lives of her students. Maxwell:
As soon as I saw the story, I thought: As good as she is, I bet she didn’t even qualify for the state’s boneheaded “Best and Brightest” bonus plan — the one that allegedly rewards good teachers.
It was a safe bet. Many of the state’s best teachers — including teachers of the year — haven’t qualified.
Why? Because the plan doesn’t reward teachers who change lives, open minds or inspire students. It’s based on test scores — student scores, but also the scores that the teachers themselves earned back in high school … which, in Rock’s case was more than three decades ago.
Rock confirmed that she didn’t get the bonus. But she wasn’t bitter. “I love my students — good, bad or indifferent,” she said. “Rich, poor or middle class.”
Exactly the kind of response you’d like to hear.
Still, Rock noted that basing pay on test scores overlooks the complexities of life. “Does the Department of Education really care if Johnny’s dad died of an overdose and he is having a hard time dealing with it?” she asked. “No. Does it care that Fred’s family lives in a trailer and there isn’t enough food to go around, and his parents oversleep and never provide him support with school? No.”
The Palm Beach Post's editorial board is recommending that Rick Scott veto all or part of the $82.4 billion budget and HB 7069, which includes the aforementioned "Best and Brightest" program. The Post:
Gov. Rick Scott is signaling that he may veto all or part of the recently passed state budget and an accompanying bill that spell big trouble for Florida’s public schools.
On Monday, he said words that ought to cheer the thousands of educators and parents who have flooded his office with emails, petitions and phone calls, begging him to torpedo a budget and accompanying bill that add a skimpy $24 to average per-pupil spending while transferring nearly $140 million to boost charter schools.
“We have budget surpluses … We ought to be funding education,” Scott said Monday in Miami. “We’ve got to make sure we properly fund education, whether we have a great college system, a great K-12 system.”
Scott has never been known as a firebrand for education. But he’s fuming that the Legislature gave the big raspberry to his pet priorities, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, the agencies that market tourism and business development.
Yet Scott can’t simply veto this part of the budget to get back at his nemesis, House Speaker Richard Corcoran; it would stay unfunded. Corcoran, a zealous crusader against “corporate welfare,” would happily see these agencies disappear.
But vetoing education items dear to Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes; that’s leverage.
Scott should use his power. Because there’s plenty concerning education in the $82.4 billion budget to dislike.
Even the Jacksonville Times-Union editorial board, hardly known for its liberalism, questioned why the Florida House won't expand Medicaid, a topic that was dead before legislative session even began.
A total of 31 states have passed Medicaid expansion, including such Republican-dominated states as Indiana and Ohio. But 19 states have refused, leaving many of their citizens uninsured.
A total of 13 states won by Donald Trump have expanded Medicaid while 16 expansion states have Republican governors.
The National Governor’s Association (two-thirds are Republicans) reports a “strong bipartisan consensus” to keep Medicaid expansion.
Among the beneficiaries are groups of heavily Trump voters, such as working age adults who do not receive subsidies for Obamacare. Medicaid expansion also provides more funding for mental illness, which is a crisis in Florida.
The opposition of Florida leaders is even more head-scratching since this state already uses market-based systems for Medicaid and has some of the stingiest reimbursements in the nation.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's editorial board wasn't all criticism. It complimented the Legislature for what it didn't do: pass a bill that said cities and counties can't treat vacation rental homes differently than other residential uses. But the bill was sponsored by Sarasota's own Greg Steube.
Steube wanted to prevent local governments from recognizing that poorly regulated, short-term rental properties are transforming residential neighborhoods into the equivalent of motel strips.
Steube told the Herald-Tribune that SB 118 was based on his personal experience. The senator, who lives on a large lot in semi-rural Sarasota County, tried to buy an investment house on Florida’s east coast but learned that a local regulation would prevent him from renting the house out for less than six months.
“For me it boils down to a property right,” Steube said.
As we have asked: What about the rights of homeowners who bought properties in neighborhoods zoned as residential but now face the prospect of being surrounded by houses that effectively serve as motel or hotel rooms, rented out a day or two at a time, sometimes to an unlimited number of occupants? What about their investments? What about their reliance on reasonable regulations?