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Round-up of key Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers
Tampa Bay Times—A new state law gives Gov. Rick Scott unprecedented discretion to steer $86 million in public money to private companies that promise to create jobs. Now it’s Scott’s job to ensure that every penny of that taxpayer money is accounted for and wisely spent, which would be a sharp departure from the past. A pair of new reports highlight just how bad Florida has been at making private companies account for the government handouts they receive. It’s Scott’s job to change business as usual.
Tougher FCAT holds negative consequences: rise in failures, erosion of public confidence in public schools
Bradenton Herald—With high pressure on teachers, cheating scandals have erupted. While a crackdown on cheating is imperative, a comprehensive overhaul of standardized testing should follow. Students are denied a high-quality, well-rounded education by this singular focus on standardized tests to measure achievement, as mandated by the flawed No Child Left Behind law. Florida’s tougher FCAT — certain to flunk more students and schools — only exacerbates the current misguided reliance on standardized testing.
Daytona Beach News-Journal–The Keystone XL oil pipeline is back in the news. President Barack Obama postponed the expansion of the pipeline. He may have been hoping the move would give him a political boost, but it appears that it has backfired on the White House. Now the Canada-to-Texas pipeline — which would transport up to 700,000 barrels of oil per day — has been inserted in a transportation bill. This could force the president to revisit his decision on the pipeline for the second time this year. But pipeline supporters must decide how far they want to push this issue.
Florida Times-Union—Vote suppression laws have received a lot of attention in Florida lately. These laws are the subject of lawsuits and a federal inquiry; the nonpartisan League of Women Voters stopped voter registration drives because of the laws that were passed last year. So it was surprising that Gov. Rick Scott said he didn’t “understand the complaint” about the laws when he was asked during an appearance before the Times-Union editorial board whether the measures should be reconsidered.
The Lakeland Ledger—On Feb. 24 in Lakeland, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft told faculty and staff of USF Polytechnic that their employment with USF would continue if a legislative bill to immediately convert the institution into an independent state university became law. She emphasized the point to employees, and students, saying, “I will never, ever let you down.” She added, “We are not going to leave you.” Monday, that’s exactly what she did.
The Miami Herald—Despite this vital role that the Everglades plays in our lives, it has, over too many years, been abused by polluted runoff from farming areas and homes, gouged by development and, of course, had its funds drained to help balance the state budget. Last year, Gov. Scott and the Legislature decimated funds for Everglades restoration projects. Short-sighted, to say the least. This year, $30 million was restored for projects. Everglades restoration needs sustained and consistent funding. In Mr. Eikenberg, the River of Grass appears to have a sustained and consistent voice advocating for its good health.
Orlando Sentinel—This year Florida lawmakers launched what former Gov. Bob Graham aptly described as “a political assault on higher education.” How rough was it?
-Lawmakers passed a budget that would slash $300 million in funding for the state’s 11 public universities, directing them to raid their reserves and ratcheting up pressure on them for another year of 15 percent tuition hikes.
Tampa Tribune—Gov. Rick Scott must not randomly inspect the bodily fluids of state workers to see if anyone has been ingesting illegal drugs, a federal judge has correctly ruled. Evidence indicates so broad a search without suspicion of drug use serves no useful purpose. Scott should not appeal the quashing of his executive order, nor should he try to preserve a state law that takes effect in July that would do essentially the same thing.