Archive | Unionism

The Union of the State

I approve the concept of the labor union. In the private sector long ago, I spent my off-school time manning a wrecking crew, loading and driving trucks (age 15!), cleaning toilets, serving in food lines and carrying trays to patients. Most boys below draft age had full-time summer and part-time school-year jobs; there weren’t enough males yet returning from war to take their place until late 1946 and even after. Was I ever a union member? I’m not sure now, but I experienced and accepted the idea as an ordinary and useful economic aspect of our society. The worker needs a competitive economic status, thus he organizes to offset the power of the employers. The union allows him to share in the success of the latter’s enterprise which in turn depends upon the employee’s skill and diligence.

The union is thus a perfectly plausible part of the free enterprise system, taking its bargained share of the surplus generated by the business. If the workers take too much, there well soon be no jobs; all depends on the continued existence of the employer. In my home town (Duluth) the post-war strikes in the then prosperous steel mills became so cumbersome for the owners that many simply ceased business or moved down the Great Lakes to more viable locations. Does that suggest unions are bad? Not at all; they are merely fallible like the rest of us, and in my town they accidentally killed the goose for thousands of their members. Perhaps the experience taught their leaders prudence; maybe not. In any case what they had demonstrated was an elementary lesson in free enterprise. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Deadly school shooting, funding for schools and more

School shooting: A 19-year-old man who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland returned Wednesday to shoot and kill 17 people and wound 16 more in the worst school massacre in Florida’s history, according to Broward County deputies. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested at a house near the school by deputies shortly after escaping by hiding among students running from the school. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Florida TodayOrlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Politico Florida. The 74. The shooting suspect had been flagged as a potential threat, and family members say he seemed troubled and depressed in recent years. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. Associated Press. CNN. Students tell their stories of horror, and videos capture the scene. Sun-Sentinel. Stoneman football coach Aaron Feis is called a hero for stepping between the gunman and students. Miami Herald. The rifle used in the shooting, the AR-15, is “designed to kill multiple enemy combatants at once,” says a weapons expert. Miami Herald. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High will be closed today and tomorrow. Sun-Sentinel. There have already been at least six school shootings that have killed or injured U.S. students in 2018, and at least 17 other incidents involving a gun fired at or near U.S. schools. USA Today. Business Insider. Time. MSN. The 74. Fox News. CNBC. Political leaders express their anguish over the shootings but wonder if anything will change. Sun-Sentinel. How vulnerable are kids at school? USA Today.

School choice funding: A bill that would create a new funding source for private school choice scholarships is approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. The proposal would let businesses donate to a state to a scholarship funding organization and receive a full credit for sales taxes they collect. It’s projected that the measure could collect as much as $150 million a year. That money would help fund state-approved scholarship organizations such as Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog and helps administer the Gardiner Scholarships for children with special needs and tax credit scholarships for low-income students. Both have waiting lists. The bill also creates tax holidays for certain back-to-school items and hurricane supplies. The total tax relief amount is almost $350 million. redefinED. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

School funding formula: The House Education PreK-12 Appropriations Committee approves a bill that calls for a study of the way state funding is distributed to school districts. Smaller and more rural districts around the state have complained for years that price-level index portion of the funding formula unfairly favors urban districts. The House has allocated $100,000 for the study. The Senate also passes its version of the school funding bill, which includes more money for school mental health services. News Service of FloridaGradebook. Politico Florida.

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Florida schools roundup: Tax breaks, medical marijuana rules and more

House tax package: The Florida House is expected to introduce a $332.7 million tax relief package today. About 46 percent of the total – $154 million – would come in the form of credits for companies that contribute to the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. Another $74.5 million would be for a 10-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school purchases of clothes, school supplies and technology, and three separate seven-day periods for buying hurricane supplies. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner programs. News Service of Florida.

Medical marijuana: The Broward County School District is working on a policy to deal with students who are approved to use medical marijuana. Students would not be allowed to carry the drug or store it at school, but parents or a caregiver could come to campus to administer it as long as they have medical clearance. School staff would not be permitted to handle the drug. Palm Beach County allows the drug to be administered by nurses, who are supplied by the county health department, while Miami-Dade prohibits medical marijuana on campus, citing the conflicts in state and federal laws. Sun-Sentinel.

Turnaround schools: Polk County school officials choose a Kentucky company to begin operating six persistently struggling schools this fall if they don’t get a school grade of C or above from the state this year. Educational Directions would charge the district at least $387,500 per school for the first year, then $225,000 to $250,000 per school for each additional year. The school board will vote on the recommendation Feb. 27. Bartow Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy and Lake Marion Creek Middle have each received grades of D or F for the past three years, prompting the state to require the district to close them, turn them into charter schools or hire an outside company to operate them. Lakeland Ledger.

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Florida schools roundup: School transportation, textbooks and more

Bill for school buses: A bill that would make more Florida students eligible for transportation to school gets the approval of the Senate Education Committee. The proposal would allow students who live 1.5 miles from school – instead of the current standard of 2 miles – to be eligible for busing, redefine hazardous walking routes as four-lane roads instead of six-lane ones, and provide busing to all students instead of just those in K-6. The changes could cost the state $58 million and local districts $100 million, according to a staff analysis. Gradebook. News Service of Florida.

Textbook adoption bill: The Senate Education Committee approves a bill creating a process for the public to comment on textbooks and instructional materials and recommend them for adoption. Right now the education commissioner approves materials from a list put together by state instructional materials reviewers. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, says this bill is “simply an opportunity for the citizens to have a voice.” The House version of the bill would require the Florida Board of Education to allow public comment on materials at any meeting where they’re up for adoption. Politico Florida.

District investigation: A grand jury has been convened to hear “evidence of all aspects of the (Okaloosa County) school district that have become public issues,” according to state attorney Bill Eddins. An elementary teacher has been charged with child abuse of a special-needs student, and three other district employees have been charged with failure to report child abuse. But Eddins says the grand jury will hear testimony that goes beyond the child abuse investigation and the district’s record on disciplining employees. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teacher honored: Jason Lancy, an 8th-grade math teacher at Windy Hill Middle School in Clermont, is chosen as the Lake County School District’s teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Budget battle, Hope Scholarship, charters and more

Education budget: Battle lines are forming over the House’s nearly 200-page education bill, H.B. 7055. The House Democratic caucus says it will oppose the bill, calling it an “attack on public education,” and even some Republicans in the Senate are critical of the way the House has put so many issues into a single bill. The House could vote on the bill as soon as today, and the Senate is expected to begin considering its version today as well. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The House Education Committee approves a proposal to create a scholarship for bullied students, called the Hope Scholarship, after hearing stories from parents whose children have been victimized. The program is part of the omnibus education bill. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs and would help administer the Hope Scholarship program if it is created. redefinED. WZVN. WFLA. News Service of Florida.

Funding for charters: The House’s education bill would set aside $120 million in state funding for charter schools’ capital needs, lifting the burden off school districts and undercutting one of the reasons many of them are suing the state over last year’s education bill. The benchmark amount would increase annually with inflation and the growth of charter school enrollment, and school districts would have to chip in with local property tax money only if the state funding fell below that benchmark. redefinED. WLRN.

Turning over schools: Six struggling Polk County schools will be turned over to an outside operator in August, district officials have decided. Bartow Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy and Lake Marion Creek Middle have all received grades of D or F from the state for three straight years, which requires the district to close them, reopen them as charters or turn over their operation to an outside company. Three companies have submitted proposals, and school officials expect one will be chosen to manage all six schools. Lakeland Ledger.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7055 debate, CRC, replacing Avossa and more

H.B. 7055 debate: The Florida House begins debate this afternoon on its omnibus education bill, H.B. 7055. The nearly 200-page bill incorporates multiple topics, from the creation of scholarships for bullied students to the imposition of requirements on teachers unions, and is such a priority for House leaders that they have tied the per-student funding language for all public schools to the passage of this bill or similar legislation. Gradebook.

CRC hearing: Several speakers criticize a proposal to provide state funding for religious schools at the first Constitution Revision Commission public hearing in Davie. “This will resegregate our schools, not by race but by religion,” said Daniel Cook, a board member of the Broward chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Among the other topics that got attention from the hundreds of people in attendance were proposed abortion restrictions and amendments on greyhound racing and privacy rights. The next hearing is Feb. 19 in Melbourne, followed by Feb. 20 in Jacksonville, Feb. 27 in Pensacola and March 13 in St. Petersburg. Sun-Sentinel.

Replacing Avossa: Several Palm Beach County School Board members say they’ll look within the district to replace Superintendent Robert Avossa, who is resigning June 12 to work for a Palm Beach Gardens publishing company. Among the internal candidates: David Christiansen, deputy superintendent and chief of schools; Keith Oswald, chief academic officer; and Donald Fennoy, chief operating officer. And four other candidates for the job when Avossa was hired in 2015 still work for the district and could be considered. The board is expected to discuss the search at its meeting Feb. 14. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Still absent: The Seminole County School Board member who hasn’t been to a meeting or done any board work since Feb. 28, 2017, missed a pair of meetings Tuesday despite agreeing to call in to participate. Board members directed Superintendent Walt Griffin to send yet another letter to Jeffrey Bauer asking him  “whether your resignation is the right thing to do for all involved.” Bauer, 49, had a stroke in 2016 and reportedly has had other health issues since then. Orlando Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Education bill, guns and schools, unions and more

House education bill: The Florida House Education Commission approves the 109-page education bill, which includes new scholarships for 3rd-graders who fail the state reading exam, an expansion of school choice, a cutback in computerized state testing and new regulatory accountability rules for private schools accepting tax credit scholarships. Representatives spent considerable time debating the merits of a provision that allows school boards to set up autonomous networks within their districts that would be managed by the highest-rated principals. News Service of FloridaredefinED. Politico Florida. The Senate and House plans for higher education spending differ by hundreds of millions of dollars, but leaders in the chambers say they are optimistic they can strike a deal agreeable to both. News Service of Florida.

Guns and schools: A Senate bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in churches and religious institutions that include schools is amended  during a hearing Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Those senators approved the bill only after making a change that would prohibit firearm possession in religious institutions during hours when schools or day-care centers are operating. And two south Florida Republicans are asking the bill’s  sponsor, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, to provide assurances that he won’t continue to push the bill if the amendment is removed. Baxley says he will try to avoid having the bill changed. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. WFSU.

Public employee unions: The full Florida House passes a bill that would require public employee unions to apply for recertification if their total dues-paying membership falls below half of all those eligible. Unions representing police officers, prison guards and firefighters would be exempt from the bill. Florida Education Association president Joanne McCall says the bill is “an attempt to silence those who dare to speak out and speak up on behalf of our public schools and our students.” The bill’s chances in the Senate are uncertain. “The bill hasn’t moved in the Senate this session, and I don’t see it gaining traction,” says Senate president-designate Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Education bills, guns in schools, flu closing and more

Legislative education bills: The Florida House and Senate release their education bills, revealing differences in per-student spending and the teacher bonuses program. The Senate proposes spending an additional $110 per student, while the House wants $100. Both are below Gov. Rick Scott’s $200 proposal. The Senate also puts $184 million into general operations for teacher pay raises, while the House wants to keep the Best and Brightest bonus program and spend $234 million on it. Other highlights of the Senate proposal include $88 million to remove the limit on the number of traditional public schools eligible for extra money under the Schools of Hope program, almost $18 million for teacher classroom supplies and $40 million for student mental health issues. The House’s 109-page proposal includes new scholarships for 3rd-graders who fail the state reading exam, an expansion of the powers of charter schools and networks, a cutback in computerized state testing and new accountability rules for private schools accepting tax credit scholarships. Gradebook (Senate). Gradebook (House). redefinED. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Meanwhile, the Senate release its higher education budget, which calls for a $383 million boost in spending. Tuesday, the House proposed cutting spending for universities and colleges by $217 million. Tampa Bay Times. WFSU.

Guns in schools: The Florida House Criminal Justice Committee approves bills that would allow people to carry guns in public schools and churches with schools. H.B. 621 would allow designated people, chosen by superintendents or principals, to carry concealed weapons in public schools. Those designated, who could be any school employee or even volunteers, would have to complete 40 hours of proficiency training. H.B. 1419 would allow concealed weapons in churches, synagogues or religious institutions, even if they have schools. Current law prohibits anyone from having a gun in a school. Sunshine State News. WFSU.

Flu closing district: All Gulf County schools will be closed Friday due to the widening flu outbreak. Superintendent Jim Norton says about 20 percent of students have missed school this week with the flu, and the district is running out of healthy substitute teachers and school bus drivers. Schools will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized Friday. Other northwest Florida counties are also seeing more flu cases. Port St. Joe StarWMBB. WJHG. Destin Log.

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