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October 01, 2015

Education accountability system is 'broken,' Florida school board members say


Echoing a host of critics, the Florida School Board Association today joined a slew of education groups who are calling for an "overhaul" of the state's education accountability system because of the Florida Standards Assessments' botched debut last spring.

In a statement today, the group said it "firmly supports the Florida Standards and valid and reliable state assessments to measure student progress in mastering those standards.

"However, Florida school board members are deeply concerned about the integrity of Florida’s current accountability system, which they believe has continuously deteriorated," the group continued. "Additionally, the FSBA is concerned with the lack of trust from educators, students and the broader public in the fairness of statewide assessments and standards."

The Florida Department of Education has stood by the FSA, citing an independent validity study last month which found that, despite the technical disruptions in the test administration, the test results can still be used in "group-level" situations -- such as determining school grades and aiding in teachers' performance evaluations. The agency is beginning to release results of last spring's FSA this fall; district percentiles were published Wednesday.

Both the PTA and superintendents association recently declared they have “lost confidence” in the exams and have pushed the state not to issue school grades this year. The school board association agrees.

“The accountability system in Florida is broken. In such a high-stakes testing environment, it is imperative that we reassess current procedures so that we can move forward with a reliable system that educators, students and the community can support,” FSBA Executive Director Andrea Messina said in the statement.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson top PolitiFact Florida's Truth-O-Meter in September


The GOP presidential debate on CNN fueled many of PolitiFact Florida's most-clicked fact-checks in September.

Claims by three of those candidates -- retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of West Palm Beach, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- dominated our Top 5 most clicked-on reports in September, as did a couple of attacks on frontrunner Donald Trump.

Here’s a look at our most popular reports from September, counting down to the most popular.

Hillary Clinton to stump in South Florida Friday

With the private-email scandal hurting Hillary Clinton — and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders rising in the polls — the Democratic presidential candidate has expanded her public appearances the past couple of months and will bring her first organizing meeting in Florida to Broward County on Friday afternoon.

She will hold the meeting at Broward College in Davie to pitch herself to Democratic voters. Florida, a swing state with 29 electoral votes, will be a crucial state for Clinton if she is the party’s nominee.

Clinton is choosing the most left-leaning county for one of her first public appearances in Florida. When she appeared at the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale and at Florida International University on July 31, those events were targeted to a specific topic — for example her opposition to the Cuba embargo at FIU — and to a segment of voters, including African-Americans.

This time she isn’t coming to speak on a particular topic or subset of Democratic voters — she is pitching herself to the left more broadly in an attempt to get them excited about her campaign.

Cynthia Busch, chairwoman of the Broward Democrats, said that Clinton, or any Democrat running for president, needs to let volunteers get to know the candidate in person, and she needs to do it now and not wait for Florida’s March 15 primary.

“In order to get Democrats out to vote in these big urban countries where it really is hard to reach people, you have to have a very focused and totally engaged volunteer effort,” she said. “We saw that with Obama. He did it twice — they were here for two straight years organizing. You need to start early in Broward.... Regardless of what is going to happen in the primary you have to plan for the general now.”

More here.

2 more Republican presidential candidates will attend Florida cattle call


The Republican Party of Florida said Thursday two more 2016 presidential candidates will attend the party's Sunshine Summit in Orlando next month.

Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee have been added to the schedule, RPOF said in a statement. The party announced earlier this week that Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio have also said they'll be there.

The Florida GOP is trying to draw attention to the nation's largest swing state, which doesn't hold its winner-take-all-delegates primary until March 15. Some candidates have been reluctant to campaign here in earnest because Rubio and Bush have monopolized most Florida Republicans' attention.

"The road to the White House goes through Florida, and our grassroots leaders and volunteers are ready to hear the candidates share their vision for the future of our nation," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement.

By attending, the candidates avoid penalties that the RPOF was threatening to impose. New rules adopted recently  by the RPOF require candidates either to show up at the Nov. 13-14 Summit at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, write a $25,000 check to the state party, or gather 3,375 signatures from Florida Republicans in order for the party to place their names on Florida's presidential primary ballot in March.

It is all meant to boost attendance at the newly created Summit, which lacks a debate or straw poll that have been big draws at past state party-organized rallies during past presidential election cycles. The RPOF earlier this year announced it was changing the name of its event from what would have been Presidency 6 to the Sunshine Summit.

Without a debate or straw poll, the RPOF has turned the event into a more conference-like structure like the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where speakers addresses crowds separately over a period of days and hold breakout sessions and other events with their supporters.

--with Jeremy Wallace

Ben Carson's Mostly False claim about illegal immigrants from Iraq, Somalia and Russia

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says the federal government has failed to secure the border and is releasing "hardened criminals" who are trying to invade the United States -- including from Iraq.

Criticism about the federal government releasing criminal illegal immigrants has been a familiar talking point during the GOP presidential primary following the murder this summer of a woman in San Francisco by a convicted felon who had previously been deported.

In a Sept. 25, 2015, speech at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, Carson said that after a trip to the Mexican border, he found that "anybody could get through there." Then he made a claim about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement releases illegal immigrants:

"And then, you know, when they capture people, ICE tells them to release them. And a lot of those people are not from Honduras and Mexico. They’re from Iraq and Somalia and Russia. And many of them are hardened criminals. And it seems like our federal government is actually fighting against the sheriffs and the people who are down there."

Two days later, Martha Raddatz of ABC News asked Carson if he had evidence that many were hardened criminals from those countries.

Carson, a GOP presidential candidate from West Palm Beach, replied: "Well, I talked to a number of the sheriffs on the borders and they've told me what kind of people are coming over. So I'm not sure that I would trust, quite frankly, any figures coming from the government, given the fact that they are the ones who are problematic."

We decided to check whether "a lot" of illegal immigrants who are released are from Iraq, Somalia and Russia. We couldn’t find comprehensive data on the citizenship of those who are released, but within the universe of those who are apprehended, only a tiny speck are from the countries cited by Carson.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our fact-check.

Davie police say they will provide security at Hillary Clinton event - but not as much as Secret Service asked for

Davie police will provide some security for Hillary Clinton’s visit to Broward College Friday but not the amount of personnel that the Secret Service asked for, a Secret Service spokesman told the Miami Herald Thursday.

The New York Times reported earlier today that Davie police refused to provide security.

From the Times: “An assistant police chief who attended an interagency meeting to prepare for the visit announced the news that the city would not provide security. The Secret Service officials who were at the meeting did not take it well, and promised to name names about the episode if ever called before Congress, according to one of the people at the meeting, who was not authorized to discuss the private session.”

William Cachinero, an assistant special agent in charge of the Miami field office for the Secret Service, said that the Secret Service asked Davie police if they could supplement security. Clinton already gets Secret Service protection since she is a former First Lady but the Secret Service wanted extra protection for her public campaign organizational meeting at Broward College in Friday afternoon.

The Davie police “said they would not be able to have the bodies that we required, they will have people there but not in amount we wanted,” Cachinero said. He said he didn’t have any specific numbers to give the Miami Herald regarding the number of personnel the Secret Service wanted Davie to provide compared to what the police department will actually provide.

The Secret Service had already asked the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward College to also provide security -- and both will, he said. Nearby Florida Atlantic University will also provide security.

Continue reading "Davie police say they will provide security at Hillary Clinton event - but not as much as Secret Service asked for " »

As Legislature returns to Tallahassee, Scott is headed to New York

A cranky Florida Legislature returns to Tallahassee next week for a full schedule of committee meetings, including a closer look at budget requests by the state agencies under Gov. Rick Scott's control.

What better time for the jobs governor to hit the road?

Scott announced Thursday that he will travel to New York City on Oct. 6-8 to meet with prospective employers, including hedge funds and financial institutions, and give a luncheon speech on Florida's resurgent economy to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research on Oct. 7.

A release from Scott's office noted that about 250,000 people move to Florida each year and that the state is the No. 1 destination for New Yorkers on the move.

2 Florida state senators from Miami back Marco Rubio instead of Jeb Bush


The Florida Capitol has been Jeb Bush Country for months, something the former governor's presidential campaign noted this week by trumpeting that 20 of 26 GOP state senators have endorsed him. The list was first published by Politico.

Two of the senators not on the list are from Miami, Bush's hometown. And they're backing the other local Republican running for president, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

State Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and René García say they're bucking their colleagues because they're closer to Rubio, the former state House speaker -- not because they have anything against Bush. (The third Miami Republican state senator, Anitere Flores, is on Team Bush.)

"I respect and admire both Jeb and Marco," Diaz de la Portilla said in a text message to the Miami Herald. "I share their political philosophy. But I particularly like Marco's vision for America's future; Marco's energy, optimism, and passion are contagious."

García, of Hialeah, said he has known Rubio since the 1996 Bob Dole presidential campaign.

"I really think he could bring this country together," he said. "I will never speak ill of Jeb -- he was a great governor. When you go to Tallahassee, you do feel everyone is supporting Jeb Bush.

"But I do feel some people are giving Marco a second look."

The other senators missing from Bush's endorsement list are Charlie Dean of Inverness, Alan Hays of Umatilla, Travis Hutson of Jacksonville, and Tom Lee of Brandon.

Here are the senators who endorsed Bush, per his campaign:

Continue reading "2 Florida state senators from Miami back Marco Rubio instead of Jeb Bush" »

Antiabortion group attacks Gov. Scott on Planned Parenthood


A conservative group that supported Gov. Rick Scott in his 2014 reelection bid is now going after the governor for not taking a hard enough stand against Planned Parenthood.

The Florida Family Policy Council is demanding that Scott end Florida’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood and intervene to stop family planning programs in Broward and Collier counties that use federal grants to partner with Planned Parenthood.

“We’re asking him to lead,” John Stemberger, president and general counsel for the Florida Family Policy Council, said Thursday. “And we’re asking him to lead on an issue other than just jobs.”

Stemberger sent a letter dated Sept. 22 to Scott’s office.

Now, the Florida Family Policy Council is launching a public campaign. Stemberger said he wants to mobilize anti­abortion voters who supported Scott primarily because of his stance on abortion. He called this a “new litmus test” for which politicians can truly consider themselves pro-life, as Scott does.

In a statement, Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said Stemberger's attack relies on bad information and said that without Planned Parenthood, health care access would decline in Florida.

Continue reading "Antiabortion group attacks Gov. Scott on Planned Parenthood" »

Carlos Gimenez files reelection papers for Miami-Dade mayoral race


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's fund-raiser broke the news Thursday morning that Gimenez had filed his reelection papers for the 2016 mayoral race.

“It's Official! Mayor Gimenez wanted me to make sure you were one of the first to know that 10 minutes ago, he filed his paper work to run for re-election,” Gimenez’s professional fundraiser, Brian Goldmeier, wrote in an email to Gimenez donors and supporters shortly after 9:30 a.m.

“With that said, we are launching our campaign fundraising efforts today! Remember, we are required to file campaign reports monthly now, so we need to make sure we have a great showing for our first report in October. Please mark your calendar! We will have our Fundraising Kickoff event on Thursday, October 29th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Biltmore Hotel."

A spokesman for Gimenez's campaign said it was Goldmeier himself who filed the reelection papers on Gimenez's behalf sometime Thursday morning. 

Gimenez has already said he will seek another four-year term, and Thursday's planned filing was not a secret among local media. By filing his papers, Gimenez officially launches a showdown that so far is between him and Raquel Regalado, a two-term school-board member and daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

When this post first went live a little before 10:30 a.m., Gimenez's reelection papers had not been posted to the website of the county Elections Department. 

Read the story here.

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