Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 15

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

On Rick Scott/Richard Corcoran feud; ‘incentives’ not needed to draw business to Florida

In 2012, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan went on a personal crusade to convince Bass Pro Shops to build a store in Brandon.

Hagan’s aim was to create jobs as the county struggled to recover from the Great Recession. He proposed an “incentive” package that was about $15 million of taxpayer money, arguing that it was the cost of doing business with a company like that.

Many people disagreed. They screamed. They howled. They complained that giving a Death Star-like Bass Pro public money to open shop forced small outdoor businesses to subsidize a multibillion-dollar corporation that could run them into bankruptcy.

Eventually, the incentive package was winnowed way down to some infrastructure improvements. Bass Pro came anyway. It seems to be thriving in its Brandon location.

I mention this in the context of the now-public feud between Gov. Rick Scott and Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the governor’s signature issue — jobs.

Scott has repeatedly shown he is a true believer in offering tax and other incentives to lure business to Florida. Corcoran guards the public bank account like a hungry pit bull, which is apropos because one of Corcoran’s targets was Visit Florida — the state’s tourism promotional arm that paid rapper Pitbull $1 million to tout our glory.

Scott built $85 million into his budget proposal for business incentives. Corcoran has dismissed that as corporate welfare and will have none of it.

I think Corcoran’s aim is more on target. Hillsborough’s experience with Bass Pro is proof.

Big businesses do create jobs, yes, but they also exist to make money. They will go to places where they can do that. Florida, now the third-largest state in the nation, is fertile ground for any company that wants to turn a profit.

But with the assumption that Scott will run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, the ability to “create” jobs seems to be his singular mission. There are about 1 million more jobs now in the state than when Scott took office in 2010. When you peel back the layers, though, the picture isn’t quite as bright.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported, the nonpartisan Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability studied eight state incentive programs and found that most of the money went to existing Florida companies that have more than 1,000 employees.

It also found that many of the companies receiving grants from the Innovation Incentive Program failed to hit their marks.

That underscores the notion that these are little more than giveaways that companies that shouldn’t be receiving tax dollars.

Scott tried to turn the tables from his own ambition, questioning what Corcoran has to gain politically. While the Speaker has been quiet about his plans, many wonder if a run for governor in 2018 could be part of his game plan.

“What else could it be,” Scott told reporters during a gaggle Tuesday in Tallahassee.

Well, just spit-balling here, it could be the idea that giving millions of tax dollars to companies who, like Bass Pro, might come here anyway is ethically and morally wrong. From what I can tell by watching and listening to Corcoran, this is not a position he adopted last week because it looks good politically. He really believes that spending needs to be scrutinized and minimized.

I would add that any company needing an “incentive” beyond Florida’s obvious strengths to do business here is probably not a company we need. But that’s just me.

With sanctuary city comment, Rick Kriseman defiant, but misguided

Whether you agree with the rules or you don’t, it’s never wise for a person in authority to say they are not going to follow the law. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman essentially did that when he stated the following in a blog post:

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” he wrote.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States. Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

Kriseman was forced to retreat Sunday after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his officers would enforce the law. That’s when Kriseman said in an interview that St. Pete isn’t really a so-called Sanctuary City — it just agrees with the concept.

That’s called trying to have it both ways. It usually doesn’t work.

That said, I agree completely with Kriseman that President Trump’s demonization of undocumented immigrants goes against everything America is supposed to stand for. So much about the president’s immigration policy is morally and ethically repugnant, designed to stoke irrational fear among the citizenry.

I just wish Kriseman had taken the approach of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He visited the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque Friday to support those jittery about the travel ban Trump wants to impose on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told them. “I don’t care what this President did — that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!”

See the difference in the approaches of the two mayors?

Buckhorn stepped up to the line and maybe jumped up and down on it a bit, but Kriseman stepped over it.

Buckhorn was supportive. Kriseman was defiant.

Both are Democrats, by the way.

Buckhorn told reporters covering the Friday event that Tampa is not a Sanctuary City, but he left enforcement up to his police department. When Kriseman said St. Petersburg police wouldn’t stop someone suspected of being here illegally, that took it a bit too far.

Hence, his retreat Sunday.

That could have repercussions for Kriseman in a re-election bid. While Pinellas County has only 245 more registered Republicans than Democrats (out of 641,484 voters), Trump won there in November by about 5,500 votes over Hillary Clinton.

A recent poll showed Kriseman trailing former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in a theoretical rematch (Baker has not declared he is running).

That’s a discussion for another day, though.

For now, I’ll give Kriseman high marks for having his heart in the right place. On the rest of it, though, he gets an incomplete.

Uber, Lyft here to stay – time to level the playing field with taxis

I have spent a lot of words arguing that Tampa and Hillsborough County should welcome the ride-share companies Uber and Lyft instead of fighting to preserve a monopoly that has been enjoyed by traditional cab companies.

I still feel that way.

However, if Uber and Lyft are allowed to operate the way they want, taxi companies should have a greater latitude to do the same – lest the free market put them out of business.

That led to an exchange Thursday at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority that could be the sign of a gathering storm.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Yellow Cab President Louis Minardi wants to renegotiate his company’s contract with Tampa International Airport. He argued the contract requiring his company to pay the airport about $35,000 a month for access isn’t fair because drivers for Uber and Lyft don’t pay a thing.

The fee is financed by a surcharge passengers pay for taking a cab out of the airport. Uber and Lyft passengers don’t fork over that dough, so their ride is cheaper.

Minardi has an excellent point. That led to a lot of “er, uh, homina homina” from airport chief Joe Lopano.

He said “we can’t change the payment plan” because the airport has already budgeted for the money. He added that this should be a matter for the Public Transportation Commission.

That would be fine, except the PTC is on life-support legislatively and might not exist much longer. The PTC also is under siege after county attorneys reported that public records have been scrubbed from as many as seven agency cellphones. This may not be the best time to bring the PTC into anything, if you get my drift.

The contract between the airport and Yellow Cab runs until the end of February 2018. That’s basically 13 more months where ride-share drivers have a significant pricing advantage over traditional cab companies.

This is all a bit awkward.

To Lopano’s point about the PTC, taxi companies have enjoyed a cozy relationship for years that agency. It sets rates and other rules for them to follow, which they are happy to do because the PTC pays them back by restricting competition.

Uber and Lyft didn’t play ball, though. They fought against the PTC, resulting in threats and harassment against their companies until they won a temporary contract last November to operate freely until the end of this year.

There is no turning back. They’re going to be around for a long, long time.

Cab companies are the big loser in this, of course. That explains why Minardi was making the case to the airport board for a level playing field. I don’t blame him a bit.

What’s fair for one should be fair for all. What we have now at the airport doesn’t qualify.

Rick Scott, Legislature set for an old-fashioned ‘T’ word throwdown

If there was any uncertainty what the main event will be in the 2017 Florida Legislature, that has been answered.

It’s the throw down over the “T” word.

In one corner, Gov. Rick Scott is seeking an $815 million increase in public school funding. To help pay for that, the governor wants to use the ongoing spike in property values that is expected to bring in an additional $558 million.

In the other corner, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said no way, no how. Even though the actual tax rate isn’t going up, that doesn’t seem to matter. Corcoran sees using the extra money as a de facto tax increase. And you know he feels about that.

“I’ve said it a thousand times: The House will not raise taxes,” Corcoran told reporters at a gaggle on Tuesday.

It was widely reported that he gave special emphasis to the last six words, probably channeling his inner George H.W. Bush when the former president famously stated, “Read my lips … no new taxes.”

Bush later changed his mind about that but I can’t see Corcoran giving an inch — even if it means going head-to-head with his fellow Republican who sits in the governor’s mansion.

I think Corcoran would relish that battle anyway. He has already clashed with the governor over Scott’s penchant for offering business incentives. He is at it again. His proposed $83.5 billion budget includes $618 million in tax cuts that largely benefit businesses.

Scott calls it “job creation.”

Corcoran calls it “corporate welfare.”

Public schools aren’t corporate welfare, though. Without excellence in education, the whole state suffers.

To be fair, I don’t know if Scott’s education pitch was a grandstand play, aimed at a potential 2018 run for the U.S. Senate. He had to know how Corcoran and House members would react. It’s worth noting that he put way more into the budget than education officials requested.

Even so, Scott zeroed in on a couple of things related to education that need to be addressed, no matter how the main event turns out.

He has proposed ending the ridiculous Best and Brightest bonus program that awkwardly required all teachers, even those with 30 years of experience, to submit their high school SAT or ACT test scores to be considered.

Really stupid. Really, really, really, really stupid. Insulting, too. The governor gets an extra cookie for recognizing this.

He also wants to eliminate some the fees teachers pay to be certified. That can amount to more than $500 per teacher at the start, along with regular renewals that cost $75. Teacher retention is a major systemwide problem and nuisance fees like those make it worse.

I hope Corcoran is at least sympathetic to that. Florida seems determined to push ahead with as many for-profit charter schools as possible, but public schools remain the backbone of the state’s education system.

They won’t get all the money the governor has requested. That doesn’t mean they should get shut out.

After years of piling on standardized testing that has put teachers’ jobs in jeopardy, cutting education funding, and generally devaluing the incredible work being in public schools, the Legislature needs to cut teachers a break.

Kathy Castor is right calling ‘extreme vetting’ order immoral, un-American

It might be easy to dismiss the harsh comments by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa regarding President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order that called for “extreme vetting” of potential refugees from seven Muslim nations.

As Mitch Perry reported Sunday on SaintPetersBlog, Castor said, “President Trump’s executive order targeting and banning legal permanent residents and refugees from war-torn areas is illegal, immoral and un-American.  It has made us less safe.  If the president wants to empower jihadists, this is the way to do it.”

I would expect nothing less from Castor. She is reliably liberal. She is from the opposition party, and Trump’s action is right in the Democrats’ you-were-warned wheelhouse. And she was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton.

There is something else to keep in mind, though. In my dealings with Castor, I have found her concern for all people to be genuine and deep. She also is extremely smart and usually says exactly what she believes.

I don’t think she was just trying to make political hay here. I think she was trying to make an important point before this deeply divided nation drives off the edge of the cliff and careens into the abyss.

Did I say divided?

For all the notoriety about President Trump’s Twitter habits, his Facebook page is what raised my eyebrows Monday morning.

His statement explaining the executive order had more than 574,000 reactions – most of which appeared to be positive. The statement also had been shared with other Facebook users more than 213,000 times. And he is doing exactly what he promised to do if elected. More than a few people have said they find that refreshing.

There appeared to be thousands of comments under the statement – I didn’t have time to count them all – and most of them (but not all) were supportive of the president.

One reader noted, “If you’re saying you’re doing this to keep America safe, and now you’re saying you’re doing the same thing President Obama did (in 2011, when he restricted visas for refugees from Iraq), then why did you waste all your time during your campaign saying Obama did nothing to keep America safe?

“And if he’s doing the same thing Obama did, then why are his supporters praising him now but trashed Obama during his entire presidency?”

C’mon, we know the answer to that.

President Trump is playing politics.

The reality of his administration is matching his campaign rhetoric, and it puts Florida (of course) in the middle of the maelstrom. Perhaps inspired by Trump’s jingoistic rants, Gov. Rick Scott last week promised economic reprisals against Florida ports that do business with Cuba.

Part of his reasoning: security.

That seems to be a catch-all word when politicians want to pander to jittery voters. Republicans have demanded tighter border security for years and now they will have it. But at what cost?

Go back to what Castor said about this being “immoral.”

President Trump said Christian refugees would get priority for admission to the U.S. I’m no constitutional scholar, but that sounds dangerously like establishing Christianity as the national religion – something expressly forbidden by the First Amendment. And if we turn our backs on refugees driven from their land by war, that’s not exactly the Christian response.

Our enemies will use that as propaganda, so Castor is right that it will empower jihadists. Our friends will think Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill has turned dark and foreboding.

Castor is right when she says that is un-American. This is not who we are. If we’re not careful, though, that’s who we’re going to be.

Rick Scott cannot condone Cuba’s ‘oppressive behavior.’ What about China’s?

Gov. Rick Scott threatened Florida ports with sanctions if they do business with Cuba. He underscored it with a pair of tweets, the first in Spanish: “No podemos tolerar una dictadura brutal en Cuba.”

Translation: We cannot tolerate a brutal dictatorship in Cuba.

In another tweet, channeling his inner Donald Trump, Gov. Scott noted, “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior. Serious security/human rights concerns.”

He has vowed to withhold state money from ports ink trade agreements with that island nation.

Well, OK. Let’s think this through. If Cuba is off limits, I guess China should be too.

According to a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch: “China remains an authoritarian state, one that systematically curtails a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion … the trend for human rights under President Xi Jinping continued in a decidedly negative direction.”

Well, shucks. That sounds suspiciously like, to use the governor’s words, “serious security/human rights concerns.”

A report from Enterprise Florida shows our state did more than $28 billion (with a B) in merchandise trade with that totalitarian nation from 2013-15. The Miami Herald reported that China ranks behind only Brazil and Colombia as trading partners with South Florida.

But, if we’re going to make a stand …

We also sent about $2 billion in exports to Saudi Arabia from 2013-15. Of that nation, Human Rights Watch notes: “Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest. Judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.”

That sounds, oh … what’s the word I’m looking for?

Brutal.

Thanks, governor.

I think we know what’s going on here. Republicans from Washington to Tallahassee have used Cuba as a political piñata for decades. They stepped it up after President Obama made several moves toward normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has been particularly outspoken on that subject, but after his poodle-like yapping against the business relationship between incoming secretary of state Rex Tillerson has with Russia didn’t result in a vote against his confirmation, we can tune that out.

By the way, Florida has a lot of trade with Russia too.

It is assumed Scott has his eye on Bill Nelson’s Senate seat in 2018, and the game plan for any serious GOP candidate involves cutting into Democrats’ traditional support in south Florida by pandering to those who hate the Castro family.

Scott’s actions look to me like a ready-made campaign ad for future ambitions. Meanwhile, Cuba will just keep doing business with the rest of the world. Nothing changes.

 

Richard Corcoran walks the walk, denies extra $13M for DEP water war

His job as Florida House Speaker requires Richard Corcoran to make some tough calls, but this one had to be easy for a man whose stated mission is to clean up the way Tallahassee operates.

While some politicians talk with a swagger (here’s looking at you, Marco Rubio) but don’t want the ball when the game is on the line, Corcoran has shown that his deeds match his words. He was at it again Monday when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection asked for an extra $13 million to fund its legal fight with the state of Georgia over water rights.

His blunt answer: Nope.

In addition to demanding more ethical behavior by House members, Corcoran guards the public’s purse like a hungry Rottweiler. He told the DEP that there will be no more money until it gives a full accounting of the approximately $98 million it already has spent.

That’s just common sense.

The bigger message was that this action came after Jon Steverson, who served as DEP head for the last couple of years, resigned his job to join the law firm of Foley Lardner.

Just what is Foley Lardner?

Why, one of four firms that is working on the lawsuit against Georgia that now is well into its second decade.

Corcoran has made it his mission to end that far-too-cozy relationship between the people’s representatives and those who would like to profit from that relationship.

“We won’t approve the money until an audit is done and we will pass legislation barring the revolving door from agency head to lobbyist/lawyer,” Corcoran said in a statement.

We can say this was an easy call because the conflict of interest is so obvious, but for years Tallahassee winked and nodded far too long as legislators slid seamlessly into lucrative lobbying. There is no calculating how many millions of dollars that likely cost the public

That is why Corcoran is so public about trying to stop stuff like this. Message sent. Was it received?

Saying no to DEP’s $13 million request is just the first step. We wait for the audit and what comes next. What we can hope comes out of this is more rigorous oversight in how taxpayer dollars are spent because, you know, take $13 million and $13 million there and soon we’re talking about real money.

I think Richard Corcoran already knows that.

Donald Trump was right about ‘Little Marco’ all along

Little Marco.

Donald Trump had it right all along.

By announcing he will vote to approve Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, the fittingly titled junior U.S. senator from Florida proved he is compromised and cut down to size.

As they say out West, he is all hat and no cattle.

Under what certainly was significant pressure from the Republican Party and President Trump’s operatives, Marco Rubio confirmed that all that bluster he directed at Tillerson about the human rights violations in Russia was just for show.

Tillerson, of course, had extensive business dealings with Russia and Vladimir Putin. In the hearing, Rubio pointedly asked Tillerson if Putin should be considered a war criminal. It was a tough question and made for a dandy sound bite, but the real bite would have been if Rubio had stood on principle instead of politics and voted not to confirm.

Instead, he caved.

He can dress it up however he wants, but the fact is that with a chance to make a big statement Rubio shrank when the spotlight was the brightest.

This isn’t about whether Tillerson will make a good secretary of state. Opinions are mixed on that one, and Democrats seemed to have their eyes on blocking other targets. But with his mugging for the cameras at the hearing, Rubio defined the rules by how this confirmation will be judged.

I believe – well, believed – that Rubio’s concern about rights violations is sincere. If he really holds those core values, though, then he should have voted his conscience. The next time prattles on about the dictatorship in Cuba and all that, just tune him out. He is not prepared to back up his convictions with action.

If he voted no, there have been retribution from both his party and President Trump. Welcome to Washington. Surely, Rubio had known that before he went on his one-person jag while grilling Tillerson.

Did he really think all along he was going to vote to confirm and was just trying to make a statement that, roughly put, was, “OK, Rex, you’re approved, but I’m going to be watching every move.”

Or did he trade his principles for some political hay he can use later?

We may never know.

Here is what we do know.

After a disastrous run for the presidency and a flip-flop on whether he wanted to stay in the Senate, Rubio had an opportunity to reboot his political career by backing up his words with action. He would have climbed to the higher ground.

Instead, he proved again why voters have little to no faith in what politicians say versus what they do.

He wilted.

He melted.

He lived down to the name Trump hung on him.

A Donald Trump administration; Too late America, we’re doing this

You ever talk yourself into trying one of those amusement park thrill rides, the kind that turns you upside down and inside out?

You told yourself a million times you would never ride that thing, but here you are, strapped into your seat as your car reaches the top of that terrifying first drop.

Just before you slip over the edge, you think, “What have I done?”

Too late now. You’re doing this.

And so, America, welcome to the Trump administration.

Polls show considerable buyer’s regret since the election in November, as his approval ratings are at historic lows for an incoming president. Once he puts his hand on the Bible and repeats the 35-word presidential oath, Donald J. Trump will officially be the leader of the free world.

Too late now, America. We’re all doing this.

Let’s see if what he promised matches the reality of his term. Here are a few of the biggies, in order of the likelihood of the promises being kept.

REPEAL AND REPLACE OBAMACARE: That will happen. That process is well underway. But replacing it with “something great” that accomplishes Trump’s stated goal of insuring everyone? That will be President Trump’s first and maybe biggest test of leadership against a hawkish Congress controlled by his own Republican Party.

Probability of repeal and replace: 100 percent.

Probability that a majority of Americans will accept it when they realize their favorite part of Obamacare no longer exists: 10 percent.

APPOINT A CONSERVATIVE JUDGE TO THE SUPREME COURT: Book it. Probability: 100 percent.

DEPORT 11 MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: That was a promise that helped Trump skyrocket with voters who blame illegal immigrants for everything except global warming (because that’s a hoax, right?). Since the cost of fulfilling that promise has been estimated at $600 billion minimum, there zero probability of that happening. But … there are reports that the new administration is ready to immediately implement what surely will be a selective high-profile sweep of illegals. Maybe that will be enough for Trump to declare victory.

OVERHAUL THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION: I think if that could be done, President Obama would have accomplished it. The disasters at Veterans Affairs were one of Obama’s greatest failings. Trump will take a swing. Heads will roll. Heads should roll, and we know how good he is at saying “You’re fired.” So, yeah: Probability he will try: 100 percent. Probability he will succeed: 30 percent.

THE WALL: Yes, that wall he promised along the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico can be built. He can back up his vow to make Mexico pay for it by deductions in foreign aid, tariffs on Mexican imports, and so on. But governing is different from campaigning. I don’t think this is a sure thing. Probability: 80 percent.

OVERHAUL TRADE AGREEMENTS TO PUT AMERICA FIRST: Trump’s tough talk on this issue probably won him the election by appealing to disenfranchised Midwestern voters. But every action triggers a reaction, and just ditching things like NAFTA and imposing massive tariffs on imports could send the economy over the edge of our mythical thrill ride. This likely will be one where Trump gets a couple of treaties rewritten and declares victory. But for the kind of impact he envisions and promised? Probability: 40 percent.

ALSO, THESE: Prosecute Hillary Clinton (zero percent) … Allow waterboarding and other means of torture slipped to 2 percent after incoming defense secretary James Mattis told Trump it doesn’t work … Leave Social Security and Medicare alone (95 percent). … Cut taxes (100 percent) … Reduce the national debt (zero percent; can’t cut taxes, increase infrastructure and other spending, leave social safety nets alone, and expect to reduce the national debt).

And finally …

BE UNPREDICTABLE: Even Vegas wouldn’t offer book on this one. Probability: Infinity to the 10-millionth power.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could mean more Florida charter schools, a lot more

Betsy DeVos, whose children never attended public schools, may soon lead the nation’s Department of Education. Assuming she is confirmed, care to take a guess what Florida public education will look like four years from now?

Perhaps former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is DeVos’ biggest cheerleader, can provide some insight. He wrote a stirring endorsement of her in Tuesday’s USA Today, coinciding with her hearing before a U.S. Senate confirmation panel.

“Instead of defending and increasing Washington’s power, Betsy will cut federal red tape and be a passionate advocate for state and local control of schools. More importantly, she will empower parents with greater choices and a stronger voice over their children’s education,” Bush wrote.

“In the two decades that I have been actively involved in education reform, I have worked side-by-side with Betsy to promote school choice and put the interests of students first. I know her commitment to children, especially at-risk kids, is genuine and deep.”

Let’s dissect those words.

First, the biggest federal overreach in education was the No Child Left Behind program signed into law in 2002 by Jeb’s brother, President George W. Bush. It had strong bipartisan support in Congress and from the business community, which argued that U.S. public school students were falling behind those from other nations in math and science.

In the name of “accountability” for schools, NCLB mandated a battery of standardized tests for students. It also allowed students from poor-performing schools to transfer to ones with better overall test results.

There were other federal demands on local school districts, including offering free tutoring to students in need. Of course, the money that was supposed to pay for that never quite materialized in the federal budget, and many schools still struggle to provide that service today.

“Accountability” testing has become a raw spot for teachers, who can face reprisals if low-performing don’t improve.

By not “defending and increasing Washington’s power” we would assume DeVos would defer more education power to Florida. That may not be much help. Besides the federal mandates, Florida tacked on many other tests, leading to teacher burnout and complaints they were only “teaching the test” to bored students while Republicans touted charter schools as the answer.

In the next four years, Florida undoubtedly will have many more than the 652 charter schools currently serving more than 270,000 students. That is an increase of 134 charters and about 90,000 more students since Rick Scott took over as governor in 2011.

Public school teachers and administrators complain loudly that some of those charters don’t have to meet the same standards they do and don’t have to accept problem students.

Charter advocates counter that many financially secure people already can (and do) opt out of public education by sending their kids to expensive private schools.

Tampa’s highly regarded Jesuit High School, for instance, charges nearly $15,000 in tuition, plus other fees. Tampa Prep High School charges more than $22,000 a year in tuition, although it also offers needs-based financial help for those who can’t afford to pay full freight.

Offering charter alternatives to students who couldn’t think about getting into schools like that is only fair, advocates say.

It’s a bedrock Republican ideal: private business is better than government programs, and private education (or charter schools) can be a good alternative to public schools in many cases.

Class, let’s review: School “choice” means less money for public education. Hillsborough County, the nation’s ninth-largest school district, already is grappling with severe budget problems. That presumably will get worse.

We will see more private charter schools – probably a lot more.

That will be done over the wailing and teeth-gnashing of Florida Democrats (like that matters, given their general impotency these days) and the state teachers’ union.

Florida Republicans will celebrate that victory with particular vigor.

 

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