Veto anemic school budget | May 14, editorial
Bills put education in jeopardy
I agree with the recent editorial on proposed education legislation in Florida — the welfare of our children and the public education system are in jeopardy because of the proposed education bill and proposed education budget. I urge all members of this community to contact Gov. Rick Scott and please ask him to veto HB 7069 and the proposed education budget. Vetoes to both are equally important and will send our elected officials a strong message to adequately fund our children and teachers.
Both HB 7069 and the proposed budget threaten to reverse the progress being made in schools in Florida and Pinellas County. HB 7069 includes a misguided provision that would send $140 million to private charter companies outside Florida and allow them to employ uncertified teachers and administrators. We've already seen private charters shutter their doors in Pinellas after failing to raise student achievement in high-poverty areas or after misappropriating taxpayer dollars.
Another provision reroutes funding the Pinellas County School Board set aside for renovations to aging buildings to fund charter schools. The proposed funding formula allows districts to reduce the amount that must be given to charters based on a school district's debt. In Pinellas, where fiscal responsibility has resulted in a low debt service, a greater share of dollars will be diverted than in other districts that have encumbered higher debt. This threatens many school construction and renovation projects in Pinellas. HB 7069 also threatens Title I funding, money dedicated to resources and programming for high-poverty schools.
The Legislature's proposal is replete with problematic legislation and was finalized without our input. Properly educating more than 2.7 million children in Florida's public schools should not be a partisan issue. Please contact Gov. Scott (@FLGovScott or www.flgov.com/contact-governor) and ask him to do what's right for children with a veto of HB 7069 and the education budget.
Michael A. Grego, superintendent, Pinellas County schools, Largo
Alternate paths to diploma
High school graduation is one of the most memorable and life-changing events in a student's life. Over the next two weeks, Hillsborough County public schools will host 40 commencement ceremonies for the graduating class of 2017.
We are proud to say the graduation rate for Hillsborough County public schools is rising and is now 79.1 percent — up three percentage points from the prior year. However, the path to graduation is not the same for each student.
Some students struggle with the Florida Standards Assessments graduation requirements — the English Language Arts assessment and/or the Algebra I End-of-Course exam. This means a single test could block a student's hope for a diploma.
The state of Florida has made it possible for these students to obtain a concordant score on similar tests such as the SAT, ACT and PERT to fulfill graduation requirements. Hillsborough County schools have made an extra effort to raise awareness about these opportunities to help more students earn a diploma and to provide additional opportunities as well as prepare these students instructionally.
On March 1, the district had 1,565 juniors and 389 seniors meet their ELA graduation requirement through their performance on the school-day SAT. Scores are still coming in from the March 21 ACT, but so far we know at least an additional 49 seniors met their ELA graduation requirement that day.
This graduation season, I hope our community recognizes that each student's success impacts the success of our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our economy. Congratulations to the class of 2017. We are honored to provide you an education that prepares you for life and offers you the opportunities you need to be successful!
Jeff Eakins, superintendent, Hillsborough County schools, Tampa
Don't stand for NFL banishing Kaepernick May 12, Tom Jones column
Speech and consequences
The NFL seems to understand that many of its fans believe that last year's on-field protests by Colin Kaepernick disrespected our country and many of those who serve it at great personal risk.
Not a single team has been willing to sign a free-agent quarterback who may be one of the most divisive figures in pro football history, at least to Americans with more traditional beliefs about their country and those who protect it.
But this just isn't about Kaepernick and his lack of business acumen for going out of his way to alienate the people who ultimately write his checks. Teams now may be wondering if there's more to come in 2017 from other players willing to disrespect the patriotic beliefs of millions of fans who made them millionaires.
According to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, three agents said "their clients told them teams had asked players about Kaepernick." The agents added that "interviews included more political questions than any of them could ever remember." The questions focused on Kaepernick's protest or the possibility of future protests by other players.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. But there's nothing in the Constitution that guarantees that there won't sometimes be consequences for free speech, especially in business.
And if professional football is anything, it's a business. It's a lesson that Kaepernick apparently is learning the hard way.
Mike Kersmarki, Tampa
Cruel treatment of wildlife
H.J. Res. 69, supported by every Republican senator and opposed by all independent and Democratic senators, overturns the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule. This allows Alaska to use unscientific and barbaric predator control practices including killing mother bears with cubs, killing wolves with pups, baiting, snaring and scouting bears from the air for hunting — all on public lands.
This is unbelievably cruel and comes when our most important and valuable wildlife need more protection, not less.
William L. Carter, Tampa