Rick Scott Accused Of Not Enforcing Environment Protection Standards

Polluters are getting away scot-free in Florida, quite literally, according to one group that alleges Gov. Rick Scott and his slimmed-down Department of Environmental Protection are not doing their jobs.
Thursday Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (PEER) issued a statement that the DEP collected 70 percent less fines from violators in 2012 and opened half as many environmental investigations than the year before.
These latest figures document a jaw-dropping abdication of pollution protections in Florida,” wrote PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney, who conducted the analysis. “If Florida is in a race to the bottom, it has reached the basement.”  
The group says Scott advised DEP staff to restrain from pursuing enforcement as well as laid off staff formerly in charge of enforcing the state's environmental standards.
PEER also released an internal DEP memo in which the deputy secretary Jeff Littlejohn advises directors to focus on compliance without enforcement.
Meanwhile the DEP says the lower enforcement numbers are merely a consequence of more Florida industries operating within safe environmental standards.
Littlejohn reasoned in a July editorial that ran in several Florida newspapers that the lower penalties collected this year are the result of not only higher compliance rates, but also catching problems before they officially exceed standards.
Yet Phillips says that DEP is unable to back up this claim with specifics and that lower penalty revenue means the department has less financial resources to actually track whether industries are in fact adhering to set environmental standards.
And one of the 58 DEP employees laid off by Scott's cuts told the Tampa Bay Times, "I've seen the way politics has influenced that agency in the past, but never like this. It's not about compliance [with the rules]. It's about making things look like they're compliant."
2013 looks to be as just as quiet for the DEP.
As of May, the department has found only 145 incidents in which the state's environmental codes were violated, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Compare that to 2,289, the amount of "enforcement actions" in 2010, the year before Scott was in office.
Under Scott's reign, the DEP has also repealed over 300 environmental rules in order to cut down on "red tape," according to the governor's Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform as cited by the Orlando Sentinel.

New study out on your health care premiums

No Rate Increase, Rand Predicts

Contradicting Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation, a study from the RAND Corporation reports that the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to cause a hike in premiums for the individual market in this state or nationally.

The RAND study findings stand in stark contrast to the widely publicized predictions of Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty. On July 30, the Palm Beach Post published a prediction from McCarty that customers in the individual market would see rate increases of 30 to 40 percent for next year. Newspapers across the state picked up the refrain.

McCarty at the time said the premiums would shoot up because insurance carriers will no longer be able to screen out customers who have health risks. The forecast applied only to 5 percent or so of Floridians who bought their own policies, rather than getting them through their workplace or some other source.

But researchers from the well-known, non-partisan Rand Corp. found something quite different when they modeled what will likely happen in Florida, one of 10 states they focused on. 

In Florida and four other states, in an apples-to-apples comparison, "the law causes no change in premiums," the study summary concludes. Among the other states, premiums for the individual or "nongroup" market were forecast to rise in three and go down in two. 

RAND forecast that there would be little or no rise in premiums in the small group market in nine of the 10 states, including Florida. McCarty's staff predicted a hike of 5 to 20 percent in small-group premiums. 

"We conclude that the Affordable Care Act will lead to an increase in insurance coverage and higher enrollment in the nongroup market," the authors wrote. "Our analysis suggests that comparisons of average premiums with and without the Affordable Care Act may overstate the potential for premium increases."

McCarty's analysis, led by Deputy Commissioner Wences Troncoso, forecast an influx of sick people into the nongroup market that would force up costs and premiums. The Rand team predicts that will be offset by an influx of healthy young people, motivated by the law's requirement to get coverage and the subsidies available to those with modest incomes. 

In Florida, the federal online Marketplace will make tax credits available on a sliding scale to individuals and families with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. (Families USA has posted an income reference chart, and Kaiser Family Foundation provides a subsidy calculator.) The Marketplace is scheduled to be open Oct. 1 through March 31 for 2014 coverage.

The six researchers who performed the RAND analysis say they think the nongroup market in all 10 states will expand, growing from around 4.3 percent to about 9.5 percent. The small-group market, used mainly by businesses with fewer than 50 workers, will remain stable, they predicted.

They think that while some employers may drop coverage for workers, that will be offset by employers taking advantage of new "SHOP" exchanges. In the 33 states that are letting the federal government create and manage the exchanges, including Florida, the one for small businesses will be delayed for a year.

The study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It was peer-reviewed. 

40 Ways ObamaCare is Working

1. Say goodbye to lifetime limits: Insurance companies will no longer be able to place an arbitrary cap on coverage.
2. Children can no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
3. Starting in 2014, adults will no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
Free preventive care, including:
4. Annual check-ups
5. Contraception
6. Vaccinations
7. Gestational diabetes screenings
8. Mammograms
9. Screening and counselling for HIV
10. Cholesterol screenings
11. Colonoscopies
12. Blood pressure screenings
13. Cancer screenings
14. Osteoporosis screenings
15. Young adults can stay on their parents' insurance plans until the age of 26.
16. If insurance companies aren't spending your premium dollars on your health care—at least 80 percent—they've got to give you some money back.
17. Insurance companies can't raise your rates by double-digits without justification.
18. Insurance plans can’t require higher co-payments or co-insurance if you get emergency care from an out-of-network hospital.
19. Women will no longer be charged more than men just because they're women.
20. The health insurance marketplace will be ready to go in every state starting October 1 of this year.
21. No-hassle comparisons: The online marketplace provides easy access to information on all available plans, so you can do a side-by-side comparison and find a plan that works for you.
22. Many Americans will be eligible for financial assistance to help them buy health insurance on their own, so you can afford a plan that will be there if you get sick.
23. When you buy insurance through the marketplace, premiums can be determined based only on these four factors: where you live, how old your are, how large your family is, and whether or not you are a smoker.
24. In the marketplace, you can choose a plan that matches your budget and needs: Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze.
25. By 2020, the Medicare prescriptions drug "donut hole" will be closed for good.
These are the essential benefits that all health plans in the marketplace must cover:
26. Ambulatory patient services
27. Emergency services
28. Hospitalization
29. Prenatal care
30. Neonatal care
31. Mental health services
32. Prescription drugs
33. Rehabilitative services and devices
34. Laboratory services like bloodwork
35. Preventive care
36. Wellness services
37. Chronic disease management
38. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
39. Lower prescription drug costs for people on Medicare.
40. These states are already foreseeing dramatic drops in premiums: New York, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Oregon.
There you have it. 40 ways Obamacare is helping and will help Americans—benefits the House of Representatives is about to try to take away for the 40th time.
If you're sick and tired of repeal votes, add your name to stand up to the people trying to tear down Obamacare.
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USDA requesting public comments on Quantification of Greenhouse Gas Sources

The Climate Change Program Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of the Chief Economist today released and requested public comments on the report Science-Based Methods for Entity-Scale Quantification of Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks from Agriculture and Forestry Practices. The report is the work of 38 scientists from across academia, USDA and the federal government, who are experts in greenhouse gas (GHG) estimation in the cropland, grazing land, livestock and forest management sectors. The report has undergone technical review by an additional 29 scientists.
The report outlines a set of consensus methods for quantifying GHG emissions and carbon storage at the local farm, ranch or forest scale. It is important that the methods exhibit scientific rigor, transparency, completeness, accuracy, and cost effectiveness, as well as consistency and comparability with other USDA GHG inventory efforts. The report can be downloaded atwww.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/index.htm. A Federal Register Notice is included on the web site and provides detailed instructions for comment submission. Comments must be received within 45 days of the August 28, 2013 publication of the Federal Register Notice.
For more information on USDA’s Climate Change activities, please visit:www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/index.htm.

Florida Congressman Visits A Cancer Research Center, Gets An Earful About Damaging Sequester Cuts

When Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) toured Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center on Monday, he was likely hoping to connect with his constituents during the August recess. Instead, heended up hearing quite a few critiques from cancer researchers who say that deep sequester cuts are currently undermining their work.
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) visits with cancer researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) visits with cancer researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa
CREDIT: Daily Loaf
Since Congress failed to reach a deal to avert the sequester, deep across-the-board cuts are currently compromising everything from fighting wildfires toenrolling kids in Heart StartThanks to an 8.2 percent cut to the National Institute of Health (NIH), medical research has been similarly undermined. Before the sequester cuts kicked in this spring, scientists warned that slashing NIH’s funds could set back scientific innovation for a generation.
On Monday, researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center echoed many of those concerns. Moffitt currently gets about $62 million in cancer research grants — but, since well over half of that comes from the NIH, sequestration has thrown much of its funds into question. Researchers told their congressman that’s preventing them from being able to improve outcomes for cancer patients.
“We had a large grant for multiple lung cancer projects, (but) we’re having trouble getting it renewed because there’s just not enough money in the pot for that,” Eric Haura, a practicing oncology doctor, told Ross during his visit on Monday. “Less money is less science. It’s as simple as that.”
“It’s definitely harder to get a grant,” post-doctoral research fellow Daniel Verduzco explained. “We’ve been feeling the pain. My boss tells me you’ve just got to try to be really frugal with your experiments.”
Ross told the researchers that once Congress returns in September, he hopes to work on reversing the recent cuts to NIH. “We’ve got to keep the investment in NIH a priority,” he said.
In fact, lawmakers have already acted swiftly to reverse some of sequestration’s damage — but only when it comes to the cuts that directly impact them. Back in April, Congress voted to restore funding to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after sequester cuts created long lines at the airport that made their travel more difficult. They didn’t save other domestic programsfrom similar spending cuts, including ones that directly impact the Americans battling cancer. Cancer clinics — many of which have been forced to delay chemotherapy treatment as a result of sequester cuts — strongly criticized the move, saying that lawmakers should have taken care of their patients before taking care of airport delays.

Town of Palm Beach Approves Domestic Partnership Benefits

Domestic partner benefits approved

By 4-1 vote, Town Council extends benefits to gay and unmarried heterosexual couples

Daily News Staff Writer
August 15, 2013

Starting in January, all town employees will be eligible for the same health benefits - regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or marital status.

In a 4-1 vote Wednesday, the Town Council extended its health coverage to domestic partners, which include gay partners and unmarried couples.

The town's employee benefits plan, currently only offered to opposite-sex married employees, includes health insurance, bereavement leave, family illness leave, domestic violence leave and access to the employee assistance program. Domestic partners refers to same- or opposite-sex couples in committed relationships.

Council President David Rosow dissented.

"The State of Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages and quite frankly, I personally do not either," he said. "It's against my principals and my deep, deep personal feelings. That does not mean at all that I would ever personally discriminate against gays. What they do is their business, but this is anathema to my personal principals so I'm not going to support it in any way, shape or form."

Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said he thinks Rosow's comments are discriminatory.

"While Rosow said he would not 'personally discriminate against gays,' he voted in support of having the Town of Palm Beach discriminate. His true colors show right through his own comments."

But Hoch was pleased other members of the council approved the benefits.

"Once again, elected officials in Palm Beach County have looked beyond simple dollars and cents and have taken steps to equalize family benefits for their gay and lesbian employees," he wrote in a release.

Attend City Of Wilton Manors, Equal Benefits Ordinance Meeting August 13th 2014 7pm

Tomorrow the Wilton Manors City Commission will be holding a discussion on a proposed equal benefits ordinance. An equal benefits ordinance (EBO) would require that contractors that do business with the city offer the same benefits to domestic partners that they offer to married spouses. Recently, Broward County and Hallandale Beach passed similar policies. 

1. What an Equal Benefits Ordinance does:
● An Equal Benefits Ordinance (EBO) requires businesses that contract with the city to provide
employees' domestic partners with benefits equal to those offered to spouses of married
● If a company does not currently provide benefits to the spouses of their employees then they are
not required to provide benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.
● Benefits might include bereavement leave, access to health care plans and family medical leave.
● In recent years EBOs have been adopted as state law in California, and in the cities of San
Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Olympia, Minneapolis, Portland and Atlanta. In Florida,
Miami Beach, Key West and Broward County have passed EBOs.
2. Why EBOs are important:
● Domestic partner coverage is available, it typically costs the company nothing, and domestic
partners need these protections for the same reason married couples do to
take care of their
loved ones.
● By and large this policy won't cost employers a penny. And under this policy, no company
would be required to change insurance carriers.
● It won't cost anything extra to a company that does not pay for benefits for their employees
spouses. And it won't impact companies that do not want a contract with the city.
● If a company has two long time employees, one who is married and one who has a domestic
partner don't they both deserve to be able to take leave if their partner becomes gravely ill or dies.
Shouldn't both families be allowed to buy health coverage for their children through their
3. Williams Institute Study:
"Local ordinances that require city and county contractors to offer domestic partner benefits such as health
insurance coverage have no adverse economic or other impact on the governments, the contractors or the
economy as a whole. In fact, research shows that there are actually economic benefits associated with
passing what is known as an equal benefits ordinance (EBO). This study evaluated data from 16 of the 17
localities with EBOs and found almost no resistance from contractors, almost no enforcement costs and no
other adverse effects. The ordinances simply require that any benefits a local contractor provides to spouses
of employees also be provided to domestic partners.” Read the whole study here:
4. Key West Policy
5. Broward Policy

In section 16 1/2: http://www.broward.org/Purchasing/Documents/DomesticPartnership.pdf

For more information regarding Equal Benefits Ordinances, please contact Mallory Wells at

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Embargoed, Advance Copy, Jeb Bush Speech to ALEC Meeting

If you are going to be a Republican, at least be a democrat (small d), not one who headlines for one of the most subversive organizations to divert democracy away from the people and into the hands of a secretive unelected cabal.
If the Republican party is going to be a viable political voice in America, it needs to rediscover its soul.    It needs to abandon its rootless embrace of secretive anti-democratic policies that privilege the few and the powerful, and embrace the many people on whose behalf it claims to speak.
- See more at: http://omidsafi.religionnews.com/2013/08/08/jebbush/#sthash.HVfbAOBq.dpuf

Remarks of Governor Jeb Bush
As Prepared for Delivery
American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Meeting 
Chicago, Illinois
August 9, 2013

Thank you for your kind introduction. It is good to be with my friends at ALEC.

ALEC has been at the forefront of education reform since the beginning, and I am grateful for your efforts and honored to be here.

In 1993, ALEC took the growing cost of education, divided it by the lack of results, and demonstrated that we cannot buy student achievement from unaccountable government bureaucracies.

Since 1950, the number of adults in public education has increased at four times the rate of students. The increase in administrators and other non-teaching personnel has been sevenfold.

Big Government turned the one-room schoolhouse into a massive jobs program.  Kids were FTEs -- full time equivalents, good for a guaranteed payment regardless of outcome. FTEs also are the lynchpins for funding outsized pensions at the expense of current spending in the classroom.

If schools don’t do a good job, we are told it is because they aren’t getting enough money.  If spending increases and they still aren’t performing, it is because it isn’t enough money.

America has become a global leader in education spending, while also becoming a global laggard in math and science achievement.

By helping shed light on this, ALEC helped lay the groundwork for our reform efforts in Florida.

Instead of throwing more money out the helicopter door and hoping for the best, we began demanding the best.  And we became national leaders in learning gains instead of spending gains.

Now such reforms are being enacted across the country, thanks to conservative legislative leaders and Governors who opt for bold action instead of timid politicking.

The progress demonstrated by states turned education reform from a grassroots conservative cause into a widespread bipartisan movement.

Just last year, in this city, a Democratic mayor confronted the Chicago Teachers Union, hoping to address the fiscal implosion and academic failures of the city’s public school system.

I thought the unions called me some pretty bad things. Then I heard what they were calling Rahm Emanuel.  That I disagree with Mayor Emanuel on almost every other issue does not mean that I won’t welcome him to the cause on this one.

And he is by no means alone.  Look at Detroit. As the city descended into bankruptcy, its public school system was mired in corruption and mismanagement, prompting Education Secretary Arne Duncan to call it a “national disgrace.’’

The city spends more than $19,000 a year per pupil, and for that investment it produces some of the worst academic outcomes in the nation.

Is it any wonder charter enrollment is growing to take in more than a third of public school students?

What ALEC was talking about 20 years ago has sadly come to pass. In most places, we have an education system designed around the economic interests of the adults where academic achievement of the kids is secondary.

Cities like Washington DC, Philadelphia and Chicago are closing dozens of half-empty, failing schools while parents line up for charters. We have a glut of schools that parents don’t want and a dire shortage of those they do want.

I don’t think the fate of children should be determined by the luck of the draw at a lottery.

Those vested in the status quo lash out with political and personal attacks. They hatch conspiracy theories about plots to destroy public education. They do everything but confront the reality that the system they are defending has failed.

Not reforming is not an option. Our students have fallen behind their international peers in math, science and reading. This isn’t just our poor kids. It’s all our kids.

It is good that we are focusing on high school graduation, and that we are seeing an increase in graduation rates. But high school diplomas must be backed by sufficient academic rigor so the students receiving them are prepared for the next step.

When only one-third of our students leave high school ready for college or a career, we are kidding ourselves, lying to them and positioning this nation for decline.

The result is that we are not producing enough scientists and welders, doctors and plumbers, nurses and mechanics, engineers…and the list goes on and on.

Despite high unemployment, there are 3 million skilled jobs going unfilled because companies cannot find qualified applicants.

In the new economy, auto mechanics work with advanced electronics and complex drivetrains. Their toolboxes now come with computers. The assembly lines of old are being replaced with high-tech production processes.

Polls show Americans stand out in the world in their belief that individual initiative creates success.

But at the same time, a wide range of studies show social and economic mobility is declining. More than at any time in our recent history, children born into poverty are more likely to remain there as adults.

Studies done by the Brookings and American Enterprise Institutes show growing inequality in which the advantaged are becoming permanently better off and the disadvantaged permanently worse off. The prospect for economic mobility is becoming increasingly remote.

I recognize the added challenge of educating lower-income children.  But that does not excuse us from making every effort to do so. Nobody has the moral right to look at a child’s circumstances and, from that, pre-judge his or her ability to learn.

Low expectations are a cancer in the classroom. The future of far too many children hinges on only the first four years they spend in school. Those who can’t read after that point face dismal prospects for a future.

Just follow the statistical trail.
  • Almost 90 percent of students who fail to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade.
  • Eighty-five percent of kids who enter the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate.
  • Seventy percent of adult prisoners can’t read above a fourth grade level.
Right now, we have about 17 million kids enrolled in K-3. About half of those students live in poverty and almost half of those will enter fourth grade functionally illiterate.

Just how long do they have for us to turn this situation around?

Of course, Washington has an answer to this failure to educate. Make amends with ever bigger social programs.

And so instead of post-secondary education, far too many young people wind up in post-secondary dependency.

So where do we begin?

I have some suggestions that, implemented together, will create rising student achievement for all kids.

High standards are the most basic element of reform.  Standards define what children are expected to learn over their school year, what they need to know to prepare them for success in each grade.

Ultimately, the quality of the standards determines whether a high school diploma is worth more than the paper it is printed on.

That means that every student who earns one is prepared for college or a career.

To compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century, we must produce competitive high school graduates.

That means we have to raise the bar to make sure the skills they are learning are aligned with what employers and college presidents expect high school graduates to know.

Most states have recognized this need and are taking action.  Many states are implementing standards that focus on things that matter.

Fractions in elementary school. Critical thinking. Problem solving. Verifying work.

Now we ask children to write an essay about their favorite day. We ask them to express their feelings. Soon we will ask them to compare excerpts from two research sources to determine where the evidence adds up and where it doesn’t.

Our kids are capable of this.

State leaders have, together, developed a set of academic standards in math and English language arts.  These standards set an ambitious and voluntary goal line. The states develop their content or game plans to get into the end zone. State and local leaders call the plays. They remain in control of the results. They are free to drop out.

And then, what we will do is tap into the genius of American federalism and learn from each other’s results.

Like most reforms, doing the right thing will not be doing the easy thing.

There are critics of Common Core Standards from both ends of the ideological spectrum. I know there are some in this room. I respect those who don’t share my views. What I can’t accept are the dumbed down standards and expectations that exist in almost all of our schools today.

There will be a painful adjustment period as schools and students adapt to higher expectations. Just look at the results announced in New York this week. Remember, only one third of our students are college or career ready and higher expectations, assessed faithfully, will show that ugly truth.

But the greatest mistake we make in public education is underestimating the capacity of our children to learn. Under the banner of self-esteem we whitewash failure. We demand more of kids on football fields and basketball courts than we do in classrooms.

Next, we must stop the practice of socially promoting illiterate children into fourth grade.  It is an exercise in avoiding the problem at the expense of children.

By the time they enter fourth grade, children must have made the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

Those who don’t make this transition can’t read the text books. They can’t do homework. They can’t pass the tests. Every year they fall farther behind, get more frustrated and become more disruptive.

A decade ago, despite protests from all sides, Florida instituted a tough-love policy to retain these kids for intensive reading instruction.

That got everybody’s attention. It started schools focusing on reading in kindergarten.  My Mom’s foundation encourages starting even earlier by focusing on family literacy since parents are their child’s first teacher.

Since 1998, the illiteracy rate for Florida’s third-grade students has been cut in half and the number of retentions has dropped by almost as much.

Our fourth graders have advanced two grade levels in reading and recently finished second in the world, and far above the American average, on a prestigious international reading assessment.

Do you want to know something sad about that? I didn’t even see the Florida teacher’s union recognize or celebrate that incredible accomplishment achieved by teachers!

The success of our students is a threat to union leaders because it means reform works.

My third suggestion is to embrace technology since it has redefined the way we live and work but as of yet, has barely changed the way we educate.

Kids come home from school, drop backpacks laden with 40 pounds of books and other items, pick up their iPads, tap on an app, and off they go into the digital realm.

Bam Bam Flintstone becomes Elroy Jetson.

We need to make education relevant to 21st Century kids, and that means communicating with them on their terms. As digital natives.

Digital learning can customize and personalize education for each student.

Students can learn anytime, anywhere, in their own style and at their own pace.

In the classroom, digital learning provides real-time data so teachers can pinpoint weaknesses and differentiate instruction to address them.

Technology can increase the efficiency of education just like it has increased the efficiency of every other aspect of our lives.

With digital education, students in rural Mississippi can take the same Advanced Placement courses available to students in Boston.

They can advance to the next level or grade when they are ready, not when the class is ready. Advanced students would not get bored and struggling students would not get left behind.

Those opposed to reform hate digital learning because it is hard to collectively bargain for a teacher building content from Seattle for a student in Miami. In most states, protectionist laws retard the advancement of digital learning. But the fact is that digital learning provides us with endless opportunities to rebuild the education system for the 21st century.

Digital learning should be an option for students. And, we need an education marketplace that gives families a myriad of options.

The presence of a competitor forces you to focus more on quality and efficiency.

You can’t just open the door and take the customers for granted.

Options allow parents to shop for a school that best meets their child’s needs.

Kids are different. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have different ways of taking in information.

So why would we think one education model, which harkens back to the 19th Century, can fit them all? The reason there has been little innovation is because there has been no necessity and little competition.

We are confronted with opposition from unions and bureaucracies because they fear the loss of Full Time Equivalents.

Can you imagine if newspapers had been allowed to block the Internet, or if the Post Office had been allowed to block e-mail?

We don’t block progress because it is a threat to those vested in the past.

I applaud the courageous and principled members of ALEC who continue to fight for public and private school choice across the country.

Accountability is another key reform.

In Florida we began grading schools on a simple A-F scale based on the academic achievement of students.

And the result was a remarkable improvement in the academic achievement of students.

Imagine that.

Confronted with a public outing of failing schools, districts in Florida responded with new principals, better-trained teachers, tutors, new curriculum and a whole lot more attention from headquarters.

In a few short years, schools that had received Fs began celebrating As.

Let me give you an example of the power of school choice and accountability.

In 1999, Florida began a scholarship program for students with disabilities known as the McKay Scholarship Program. Parents of 26,000 students take advantage of this program and send their children to private schools.

Next, we began counting students with disabilities in the calculations used to grade public schools.

Lo and behold, they suddenly got a whole lot smarter because they suddenly got a whole lot more attention, and their parents were empowered with other options than just the assigned public school.

And now, Florida leads the nation in learning gains by students with disabilities.

You drive results, not by dollars, but by child-centered policies and the courage to stick with them.

And lastly, let me turn to teachers.  Great teachers matter a lot. A child in the classroom of a great teacher gets a 50 percent bonus.

He or she gets 15 months of learning in 10 months’ time.

A student in the classroom of an ineffective teacher, on the other hand, gets a 50 percent penalty. He or she gets five months’ worth of learning.

So when school lets out in June, a student who had a great teacher walks out the door a full year ahead of a student who had an ineffective teacher.

Yet we pay both teachers the same.

If there were layoffs, and the ineffective teacher had been hired a day earlier, the great teacher would be sent packing.

If the great teacher got frustrated and quit, little if any effort would be made to keep him or her.

This may be a union-friendly model.

It certainly is not a child-friendly model.

It certainly is not a model designed to attract the best and brightest into the teaching profession.

We need to stop treating teachers like interchangeable workers on an assembly line, and instead recognize them as individual professionals who matter.

Great teachers must be recognized and rewarded. And that will happen if we eliminate tenure and evaluate and pay teachers based on their performance instead of how long they’ve been on the job.

And, we must overhaul certification requirements that deter qualified professionals from changing careers and moving into teaching.

I will close with this.

Thank you for your work in states across the country.

Arizona has enacted an A-F grading system for schools that exposes failure and recognizes success.  It also is a leader in setting up education accounts for qualifying parents to use on things like private school tuition, tutoring and textbooks.

Utah and New Mexico have begun grading schools to flag failure and recognize success.

In Wisconsin, the birthplace of school choice, the state is expanding a voucher program to expand options for low-income students. The state also has implemented a number of policies, beginning in kindergarten, to advance childhood literacy.

In addition to grading schools, North Carolina recently began a statewide voucher program for low-income students.

Louisiana has become a national leader in both school choice and school grading. Last year, the state witnessed a record number of students earning college credit in Advanced Placement courses.

Alabama is upgrading its academic standards so its children will graduate from high school equipped with the necessary skills in math and language arts to succeed in college, a career or in the military.

Many other Governors and legislators are working at reform.

It’s not been easy – it’s only going to get harder – but it is more important than ever.

If we don’t completely transform education, we are defaulting on the American dream.

America was founded on the principle that every American has the right to rise according to his or her abilities and hard work. That has been who we are.  It gives us our mojo.

Anyone can accomplish anything in America.

Our greatness is dependent on our ability to unleash the power of individuals to create wealth and 

It is why poor parents sacrifice to send their children to college. It is why people work long hours, start businesses and take risks.

It is why the best and brightest from around the world come to our shores.

The promise of economic mobility fuels innovation and entrepreneurship.

In my recent travels, I have been to incredibly dynamic cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Bogota and Dubai.

They want to beat us by becoming us. This is what our kids are up against.

I suggest we prepare them.

Thank you very much.
# # #
bina fink, binafink.com, bina fink kohl, bina kohl fink,Bina Kohl Bina Fink Kohl public relations

A secret audio tape of one of Groundswell’s weekly meetings shows that prominent members of the group pressed House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House oversight committee, to expand the Benghazi investigation and make this supposed scandal a top-priority for congressional Republicans. This recording indicates

Groundswell, the conservative behind-the-scenes organization that forms a coalition between prominent Republicans, right wing media, and conservative activists to wage a “30-front war against Obama and progressives” has been revealed to have played a role in the hype and false scandalization of the Benghazi “controversy.” A secret tape released by Crooks And Liars (audio below) has detailed the cooperation between House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ginni Thomas (the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas), former Rep. Allen West, as well as high-ranking members of Judicial Watch and Breitbart. The meeting was presided over by Catherine Engelbrecht, one of the founders of the voter suppression group, True The Vote.
In the tape, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council are revealed to have met with Boehner and Issa to discuss Benghazi:
A secret audio tape of one of Groundswell’s weekly meetings shows that prominent members of the group pressed House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House oversight committee, to expand the Benghazi investigation and make this supposed scandal a top-priority for congressional Republicans. This recording indicates Groundswell’s mission extends beyond message coordination to scandal-stoking. (Mother Jones)
Also in the tape, which covers the first 20 minutes of a Groundswell meeting, they also reveal that GOP congresspeople are willing, albeit reluctantly, to raise the debt ceiling, which may be excellent news for future Washington negotiations. Unfortunately, however, they also discussed their war on voting rights — insanely accusing the left of being the political force attempting to disenfranchise voters.
During the meeting, True the Vote made a presentation (document below) about their plan to attack groups who are actively working to protect voting rights around the country, particularly after the Supreme Court gutted most of the protections. Code-named “Hydra”, True the Vote argues that the left is undermining voting rights, and must be stopped, by hook or by crook.
Here’s an excerpt from their laughable (but dangerous) Hydra propaganda:
hydra plan

Yes, they’re seriously saying that the left’s mission to extend early voting time and promote youth registration is undermining democracy — and is a war on voting rights. Meanwhile, they’re enacting laws that make it extremely difficult for minorities and other marginalized groups to vote, purposefully and admittedly preventing Democratic constituents from reaching the polls. Not only that, but the war they’re fighting against voter fraud is imaginary — there are hardly any documented cases of voter fraud, and none that are widespread. There is no cause and no enemy — sort of like another war perpetrated by the right.
True The Vote and Groundswell also played an interesting role in the false IRS scandal, when conservatives exploded in rage after the IRS investigated the tax-free status of obviously conservatively partisan nonprofits, despite later finding out that progressive groups were targeted as well.
Crooks And Liars establishes a timeline of events, showing the role of political operatives in engineering the false scandal:
On May 8, 2013, True the Vote is a facilitator and presenter at a meeting where Ginni Thomas and others are key players. TTV presents their plan to attack “the left” for daring to register voters. They’re committed to stopping them from challenging any and all efforts to disenfranchise voters. Or as they describe it, securing the vote. Others might call it democracy corrupted.
On May 9, 2013 the IRS “scandal” breaks after Lois Lerner plants a question in a conference Q&A about IRS “targeting.”
On May 21, 2013, True the Vote, represented by ActRight Legal Foundation, sues the IRS for not granting their tax-exempt status and targeting them for their beliefs. ActRight Legal Foundation uses Cleta Mitchell as one of their consulting attorneys. Mitchell is a well-known and very high profile litigator on behalf of conservative causes. There are very few conservative nonprofits that don’t have Mitchell’s fingerprints all over them.
Another interesting note — besides the obvious partisanship of True The Vote, as seen in their Hydra document below  – is that True The Vote was also under investigation by Congress for voter suppression when the IRS investigation and subsequent “scandal” came about.

Here’s the audio from the Groundswell meeting: