- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Feb. 17

Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat on FSU’s challenge of finding new president:

Florida State University is one of the dominant components of this city’s life, so it’s no surprise that word spread like wildfire that Eric Barron was leaving to become president of Penn State.

People were shocked. Some hoped it wasn’t true, and others felt abandoned. It showed the respect that Dr. Barron has earned since becoming president of his alma mater four years ago.

By Monday, with Penn State trustees unanimously approving Dr. Barron’s appointment, the reaction shifted to: What’s next? Whom will trustees name as interim? What will they seek in a new leader? When will that person be on board?

Florida State isn’t used to losing a president this way. Not since Gordon W. Blackwell left for Furman University in 1965 has a president of FSU stepped down to take a job at another school.

A comfort zone was disturbed. As president, Dr. Barron sold a vision that FSU was bound for greatness, not only in sports but also, more importantly, in academics and economic development.

Dr. Barron constantly dove into the political arena, pressing the importance of investing in higher education to a governor and Legislature that had shortchanged higher-education funding while insisting that universities meet the demands of the future job market.

An ambitious $1 billion giving campaign already has netted more than $500 million. The university’s football team won the national college championship and its quarterback the Heisman trophy. Dr. Barron’s understanding of the business of college sports influenced change within the Atlantic Coast Conference, benefiting the university.

Tallahassee owes Dr. Barron thanks for what he has accomplished. We’re sorry to see him leave.

He has instilled a belief that FSU is a great university that can become greater.

Getting there makes the trustees’ next steps even more challenging.




Feb. 14

Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal on Florida’s taxes going elsewhere:

Fellow Northwest Floridian taxpayers, it is our fiscally conservative Floridian duty to inform you that your Floridian tax dollars are being dumped on an out-of-state effort that has nothing to do with, well, Florida.

In the latest misadventure of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, her Florida-funded salary has been put toward work way up north in Chesapeake Bay, more than a 14-hour-drive from Tallahassee.

You may be wondering how in the world Chesapeake Bay fits into the Florida attorney general’s job description, which, according to the official state website, entails:

“protecting Florida consumers from various types of fraud and enforcing the state’s antitrust laws. Additionally, the Attorney General protects her constituents in cases of Medicaid fraud, defends the state in civil litigation cases and represents the people of Florida when criminals appeal their convictions in state and federal courts.”

The short answer - it doesn’t.

But that hasn’t stopped Bondi, who used her office and, presumably, her work hours, to file a brief opposing the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, which sets pollution limits that have been agreed upon by six states in the region and the federal government as a pathway toward restoring the damaged ecosystem.

The effort to overturn the pollution limits has been led by the American Farm Bureau Federation which is being backed up by Bondi and 20 other attorneys general.

Don’t forget that you are paying Bondi to do a job - with duties here in Florida - and that meddling in the affairs of other states at the behest of private, special interests is a direct dereliction of the duties of her office. That is not what we, the taxpayers, are paying her to do. Needless to say, we doubt any private-sector employer would put up with such behavior.

So remember all this when November comes around and there’s a blank box next to Bondi’s name on your ballot, and ask yourself this question: What does the Chesapeake Bay have to do with us in Florida?

Nothing. Yet, everything.




Feb. 18

Star-Banner, Ocala, Fla., on another school grading folly:

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will present her newly revamped school grading system to the Florida Board of Education today in Orlando. The board should summarily reject it.

Stewart, who has been in her job less than six months, has said her grading plan is simplified with the intent of restoring credibility to Florida’s much-maligned school accountability measurements. As part of her simplification, Stewart has done away with a number of triggers that in the past automatically dropped a school’s grade a letter. Among the things that would be tossed is dropping a school’s grade a letter if less than one-fourth of a school’s students read below grade level. She also wants to do away with using SAT scores, Advance Placement performance and certain graduation rates as metrics.

Florida’s school grading system has undergone dozens upon dozens of changes since the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was adopted as the measure of school and student performance. There were 16 changes in 2010 alone.

Florida’s school grading system would be laughable if so much was not riding on these annual declarations of quality education - or not - in our public schools.

To Stewart’s credit, she is trying to create a method that indeed measures performance, identifies weaknesses at the school level, and holds educators accountable.

Gov. Rick Scott should be providing leadership on this issue, but he has shown repeatedly he’s more about lip service on education than actually fixing what is wrong with it. For example, he met earlier this month with 30 school superintendents who beseeched him to delay a new grading system and take it slow in the transition to a new and yet-to-be-written curriculum, test and school grading system. He obviously ignored them.

It is foolhardy to think that, after years of failure and embarrassment, adopting a school grading system based on a test that is not yet written will have much chance of being successful.

The Board of Education should take the advice of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and delay issuing school grades until the new curriculum and the new test are finalized and, well, tested. It is only common sense.





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