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15 posts from October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012

Broken promises marred last bond issue by Miami-Dade schools, which has new proposal on ballot

Years of school construction delays. Hundreds of millions in cost overruns. Broken promises. Shoddy construction.

Those were the headlines from the last time Miami-Dade voters agreed to pay extra property taxes to fund school construction and renovation.

When the measure passed in 1988, the $980 million bond was the largest ever in the country for school construction. It was meant to relieve crowded classrooms in the boom times of real-estate development and growth.

That program will end in 2017. Now, the Miami-Dade school system wants to launch a new one to fix aging buildings and modernize technology. Schools like Hialeah Senior High have cracks in the walls. Miami Norland Senior High has outdated electrical panels. Shenandoah Elementary needs plumbing.

Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to approve a $1.2 billion bond issue that would be repaid over 30 years with an additional property tax..

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is staking his legacy on a promise: No waste. No delay. No communities left out.

“We’re relying on four years of unparalleled performance, both on the financial side as well as the academic side,” he said. “The best predictor of future success is past performance.”

In the end, the previous bond did get new schools built, including Barbara Goleman Senior High in Miami Lakes, Turner Tech in North Miami-Dade and Coral Reef Senior High in Southwest Miami-Dade, and others got renovated. The Miami Herald requested an analysis of the results of the 1988 bond issue, including a final work list and how the money was spent. School district spokesman John Schuster said a report is expected to be released in the days ahead.

Many community leaders have pledged support for the new bond, despite the mistakes of the past.

More from Laura Isensee here.

Movers & Shakers: Scott appoints cabinet affairs director, Ross hires new aide

Adkins hires new aide

 Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, has hired Jim Adams as an aide.

Adams served as lead supervisor at the Department of Children and Families in Jacksonville from 2001 to 2011 and on the Nassau County School Board from 1996 to 2011, according to a release from Adkins's office.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers: Scott appoints cabinet affairs director, Ross hires new aide" »

Watchdog groups, Fasano call for probe into Citizens’ ‘integrity’ firings

Two groups and one Senator are asking Gov. Rick Scott to look deeper into why Citizens Property Insurance Corp. fired its entire Office of Corporate Integrity unit this month.

On Monday, the leaders of Integrity Florida and Policyholders of Florida fired off a letter to Scott, stating that Citizens’ recent decision to disband its corporate integrity unit was “incomprehensible.”

 “Abusing travel expenditures is unacceptable, but gutting the watchdog inside of the so-called people’s insurer of last resort is incomprehensible,” wrote Integrity Florida director Dan Krassner and Policyholders of Florida founder Sean Shaw. “We find it especially troubling that the terminated employees were asked to sign confidentiality agreements. It certainly gives a perception of corruption.”

 Scott has also said he was concerned by Citizens’ decision to fire four corporate watchdogs, even as internal complaints of waste, fraud and abuse are on the rise.

 Citizens president Barry Gilway said the state-run insurer is realigning its integrity efforts in order to beef up forensic fraud detection, and it has put out job postings for new ethics officers. But the corporate integrity team was disbanded before any forensic accountants were hired.

 Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, also asked the governor to probe the firings, which he called shocking.

 “The Office of Corporate Integrity should be the watchdogs, not the scapegoat,”  Fasano wrote in a letter to Scott

Read the letters from Integrity Florida, Policyholders of Florida and Sen. Fasano, below:

Continue reading "Watchdog groups, Fasano call for probe into Citizens’ ‘integrity’ firings" »

Big new player in campaign cash race: for-profit charter schools

In the looming battle for public education dollars, Jon Hage has launched a preemptive strike.

His school management company, Charter Schools USA, has doled out more than $205,000 in contributions to political candidates and organizations this election cycle, state records show. That’s more than triple what the Fort Lauderdale-based company spent on political campaigns in 2010, and seven times what it spent in 2008.

“If we don’t support our friends in Tallahassee, they are left out there to take the enemy’s bullet,” Hage said.

For-profit education companies are becoming serious players in lobbying the Florida Legislature. In the current election cycle, charter school companies, school management firms, online learning outfits and for-profit colleges have lavished more than $1.8 million to statehouse candidates, electioneering organizations and political parties, according to a Miami Herald review of Florida campaign finance data. Most of the money went to Republicans, whose support of charter schools, vouchers, online education and private colleges has put public education dollars in private-sector pockets.

Some observers say the big dollars foreshadow the next chapter in a fierce fight in Tallahasse: the privatization of public education.

“Education battles are starting to resemble private-industry battles,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat. “There are a lot of players poised to make a lot of money.”

Historically, the teachers’ union has been the political Goliath of the education world. That’s still true. National, state and local teachers’ union shelled out about $3.2 million on statehouse races and political committees in Florida this season, records show, with most of the money going to Democratic candidates and causes. More from Kathleen McGrory here.

From defense spending to Cuba to Haiti to immigration, Florida is a foreign-policy state

Just 90 miles from a state sponsor of terrorism. Awash in military spending. Teeming with Latin American exiles and pro-Israel voters.

Florida couldn’t be a more apt spot to talk foreign policy, the topic of the third and final presidential debate Monday night in Boca Raton.

Obama, who won the previous debate, according to a CNN poll, started losing Florida after he was walloped in the first one by Romney, a Miami Herald poll showed.

This debate is likely to dwell on Syria, Iran, Israel and the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that caught the Obama administration flatfooted and embarrassed officials who suggested early on that it wasn’t terrorism-related.

But in Florida, which has 15 deepwater ports that benefit from Latin American trade, foreign policy is about all that and more:

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/21/3060664/foreign-policy-is-a-local-issue.html#storylink=cpy