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Did the Florida Commissioner of Education lie about the cost to implement Common Core?

A question was posed to Pam Stewart, interim Florida Education Commissioner, during public hearings on Common Core State Standards at a public meeting in Tampa, FL.

The question posed by a parent was: Has any cost analysis been done on Common Core – what will it cost taxpayers?

Commissioner Stewart answered “It will cost nothing.”

Brenda Pastorick, who attended the Tampa, FL meeting, states, “Of course, there was loud applause. Now, is she that naive? Or, if she lied about this to the general public, what other lies are being told by the Florida Department of Education with regards to Common Core. We certainly don’t want liars dictating policy over the education of our children here in Florida, do we?”

The Florida Coalition to Stop Common Core issued a report on implementation in the sunshine state. Chapter 6 is on “The Cost to Implement Common Core Standards.” According to the report:

Based on data from several sources, the Common Core standards and accompanying tests will be very expensive – both to implement and to maintain.

Florida is projected by the Pioneer Institute to spend $1,024,163,000 to pay for testing, technology, textbooks, and professional development in what they characterize as a “middle of the road” estimate compared to $905,838,000 in grants received, leaving at least $118,325,000 in costs to Florida taxpayers just for implementation.

Given that former Commissioner Bennett and the State Board of Education (SBOE) originally asked for $442 million in one year to implement assessments, which is more than what Florida has already spent on the FCAT between 1996 and 2008 combined, that $118 million amount might well be low and will serve as a huge unfunded mandate to already strapped county districts. Marion County has had to lay off 160 teachers, and Charlotte County was forced to discontinue physical education classes until parental outrage and funding shifts reversed that decision as costs for Common Core implementation continue to mount.

Even more concerning is that Bennett changed his education budget request to $100 million in the middle of the legislative session. This constitutes a $342 million swing, indicates enormous credibility problems, and appears to be an effort to hide the true costs of this capaciously expensive system. In addition, the commissioner later said that Florida may consider some other completely different testing scheme at an unknown cost, even though Florida is the fiscal agent for PARCC.

Read the full report here.

According to Pastorick, “Just to let you know the hearing on Common Core last night in Tampa was well attended, but with only one member of the FL Board of Education, John Cologne, present. He left early and did not even hear me and I was #26 speaker. Hillsborough County had an unending number of teachers, etc. praising the results they are having in their classrooms using Common Core – one even broke up in tears because her daughter who has always had trouble reading is now reading and excelling under Common Core.  It was evident that the words of the two experts, Dr. Sandra Stotsky (English) and Ze’ve Wurman (Math) probably fell on deaf ears with the advocates of CC – credentials attached – each was allowed 15 minutes at the beginning of the hearing.”

There have been concerns that advocates would be given more time to speak than opponents.

Chrissy Blevio from the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FLCC) wrote in an email, “Dear FLCC Fighters, Please do your best to get to the remaining two hearings. Our opinion, after sitting in on the FDOE meetings in Tampa and the public hearing, is that the FDOE has no intentions to consider dropping Common Core but only to change the name or ‘rebrand.’ It’s the old ‘bait and switch’ routine.”

Florida parents cannot “opt out” of Common Core data mining

Florida Governor Rick Scott has voiced concern about the student data mining component of Common Core State Standards. When asked if he supported the data mining aspect of Common Core, Scott answered “no” to the question. Public hearings were held this week across Florida to hear the concerns with Common Core by teachers, parents and concerned citizens.

According to Diane Kepus, The National Education Data Model (NEDM), available online, lists hundreds of data points considered indispensable to the nationalized student tracking racket. These include:

  • “Bus Stop Arrival Time” and “Bus Stop Description”
  • “Dwelling arrangement”
  • “Diseases, Illnesses and Other Health Conditions”
  • “Religious Affiliation”
  • “Telephone Number Type” and “Telephone Status”

It now appears that Florida is one of the states that, according to the Florida Department of Education, parents cannot “opt out” of providing private information to the companies running the data mining system. A parent provided the below letter reply to the possibility to “opt out” for their child.

red-and-yellow-florida-letter

For a larger view click on the image.

The What is Common Core blog states, “So, [Andre Smith] the ‘Bureau Chief’ of the PK20 Florida Data Warehouse informed the Florida parent that he was ‘unable to identify opt out provisions to PK2O Education Data Warehouse.’ That’s right: unable to identify an opt out provision. Parents like me are unable to identify any constitutional provision whereby parents might be ethically overridden so that a federal-state partnership could then track personally identifiable information about our children without our parental consent in a federally promoted and funded State Longitudinal Database System!”

According to the Florida Department of Education PK20 Florida Data Warehouse website, “The mission of the Florida K-20 Education Data Warehouse (EDW) is to provide stakeholders in public education-including, but not limited to, administrators, educators, parents, students, state leadership, and professional organizations-with the capability of receiving timely, efficient, consistent responses to inquiries into Florida’s Kindergarten through University education.”

The Chairman of the US House Education Committee Representative John Kline in letter dated February 2010 to Arne Duncan stated his concerns and dismay that grant awards were to be based “in part on the willingness of the states to expand their statewide longitudinal data systems that would include a broad swath of student information”. Kline quotes Duncan as stating data collection was part of the “cradle to career agenda”.

The following outlines the Common Core data requirements and uses:

Click on image for a larger view.

An open letter to Governor Scott on Common Core

Parents, teachers and concerned citizens sent an “Open Letter” to Governor Rick Scott by Chris Quackenbush, Co-founder StopCommonCoreFL.com, on the eve of hearings being held in three locations in the state on the implementation of Common Core State Standards in Florida. The open letter is provided in its entirety below.

10/11/13

Open letter to Governor Scott

Subject:  Common Core Hearings Oct 15, 16 and 17

Dear Governor Scott,

October 15th, private citizens are bringing two of the best experts on education standards to testify on Florida’s adoption of the Common Core Standards also known at the New Sunshine State Standards.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman are generously providing their time to help us prevent these flawed standards from being implemented in Florida.

We have previously offered you a private meeting with these experts who wrote standards for Massachusetts, now #1, and California which is close behind.  You have not responded.  Instead, you have offered only 3 “hearings” in the entire state where parents, teachers, stake holders, or experts must drive or fly for hours and are allowed just 3 minutes to comment only on the standards themselves.

There are only 3 hours offered and your appointed State Board of Education are only accepting 60 requests to speak.  This means, with the maximum total of 3 minute, only 180 citizens in the entire state will be able to testify.  Your Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, was quoted saying she does not expect any changes resulting from our testimony.  Written testimony will also be accepted and likely ignored as well.

I must ask, Governor Scott, why is there so much energy expended to quell the experts, parents and teachers who are opposed to Common Core?  Why are we paying huge tax dollars to switch to a new set of national standards, Common Core, when Dr Stotsky, the author of the Massachusetts Miracle, has offered her standards used to achieve #1 in the nation for free?  To add to the mystery, why would we give up our control over Florida’s education by adopting these copyrighted national standards?

It is only reasonable that you at least listen to the experts on a matter of such great importance.  Not only does education spending comprise 25% of our state budget, but our children need our best efforts to insure they have education choices that work for them, as individuals.

Common Core Standards eliminate choice.  If all schools are tested and measured by Common Core Standards, and those standards are copyrighted and controlled by Washington DC groups, how can charter schools, religious schools, home schools and others escape?  They must teach to the test in order for their students to advance into the goal, Community College.  I say community college is the goal because Common Core Standards do not provide for curriculum required to enter institutions of higher education such as Georgia Tech or Stanford.

By moving Algebra 1 to 9th grade, students will not be able to reach calculus or trigonometry.  The experimental geometry methods in Common Core have never been tested at all.  We have what amounts to a massive experiment on 300 million children with no pilot testing whatsoever.

These concerns should make you realize that powerful interests have a great stake in our state and our country adopting Common Core, but our stakes are higher.  Our children and our future are more important and we will fight to break through the fog created by their massive PR and lobbying campaign designed to serve corporate interests over the interests of our children and our state.

We implore you to explore Florida’s options with an open mind and allow us the same access to your attention as has been provided to those corporate interests.

Sincerely,

Chris Quackenbush

Co-founder

StopCommonCoreFL.com

RELATED:

FL Governor Scott’s newest State Board of Education appointee comes under scrutiny

FL Parents & Educators Launch Executive Order to Stop Common Core 

FL Governor Scott stepping from the frying pan into the Common Core fire!

FL Parents & Educators Launch Executive Order to Stop Common Core

Florida parents, supported by parents and educators nationwide, released a Parent & Educators’ Executive Order, demanding an end to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and its student data mining  component taking place in every state.

For a larger view click on the image.

The website Common Core Education Without Representation (CCEWR) states, “As parents, we claim the privilege of directing our children’s’ educations, free from SLDS (state longitudinal database tracking systems), free from Common Core-aligned testing, standards, or “model” curriculum; free from private trade group EIMAC/CCSSO data collection, free from federal micromanagement, free from federal “accountability”; free from the both student and teacher data mining and tracking that is offensive to individual liberty and to Constitutional, local control.”

“As parents and teachers, we claim the privilege outlined in the Declaration of Independence that government is by consent of the governed. We, the governed, have not been asked nor have we approved these unvetted standards and systems. Therefore, any governance of children or school staff under the Common Core agenda is simply invalid,” states CCEWR.

CCEWR released its Executive Order because:

The promises of the promoters of the Common Core Standards do not add up. The evidence is overwhelming, and increases daily, that the Common Core agenda damages where it claims to serve; yet those who push back against the Common Core agenda are disrespected by school boards and in hearings around the nation. This is outrageous. We are the children’s parents; children are not the government’s human capital” despite what the Department of Education repeatedly claims.

Along with the executive order, parents have issued a longer, referenced document that explains the reasoning behind the executive order. This document is entitled “Welcome to the Common Core Fuzzy Math: Common Core Equals Conditions Plus Coercion Plus Conflict of Interest.”

RELATED:

“No Common Core!” says Peter Feaman Florida Republican National Committeeman

Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education calls for abolishing FL Department of Education

FL Governor Scott stepping from the frying pan into the Common Core fire!

HuffPo labels Florida the “anti-gay state”! Why?

In May 2013 the Huffington Post reported, “Florida lawmakers let two important LGBT rights bills languish this year, sealing the state’s reputation as an ‘anti-gay state‘ for another 12 months. One bill created a statewide domestic partnership registry, uniting a patchwork of select municipalities that grant health care visitation, among other rights, to same-sex couples.”

FL Senator Nancy Detert, District 28.

State Senator Nancy Detert (R- District 28)  has become the champion for a statewide domestic partnership registry. She was the swing committee vote on CS/SB 196: Domestic Partners.

The Florida gay rights group pushing for the creation of domestic partnership registries is called “Equality Florida“. Equality Florida issues are: Adoption, Discrimination, Family Recognition, Hate Crimes, Student Safety/GSA and Voter Mobilization.

The Student safety issue for Equality Florida is support for the US Department of Education anti-bullying campaign in public schools. CBS reports, “University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong analyzed data collected from 7,000 students from all 50 states. He thought the results would be predictable and would show that anti-bullying programs curb bullying. Instead — he found the opposite. Jeong said it was, “A very disappointing and a very surprising thing. Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work.”

In 2008 the Florida Definition of Marriage, Constitutional Amendment 2 passed by over 61%. The Amendment reads:

This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

The “substantial equivalent of” are domestic partnership registries say critics.

It is expected domestic partnership registries will come up during the 2014 legislative session. This gives many pause, given what has happened in other states where gay marriage has been instituted. Massachusetts, the first state to adopt gay marriage, is perhaps the best example of how the social fabric, schools, businesses, legal system and culture are fundamentally changed when marriage is redefined.

The below video provided by the pro-family group MassResistance.org provides a historical review of changes and their impact:

EDITORS NOTE: Wikipedia lists states, counties and cities that have instituted domestic partnership registries. The following are those listed for Florida.

  • Broward County (Fort Lauderdale): Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Clearwater: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Gainesville: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Key West: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Kissimmee: Employees of the city. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Leon County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Miami Beach: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Miami-Dade County: Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. The cities of Miami and South Miami also grant additional benefits to domestic partners registered in Miami-Dade County.
  • Monroe County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. County employment benefits only.
  • Orange County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Orlando: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Palm Beach County: Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Pinellas County: Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Sarasota: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. City employment benefits only.
  • City of St. Cloud: Employees of the city. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of St. Petersburg: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Tampa: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Tavares: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Volusia County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of West Palm Beach: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.

Call to abolish Florida Department of Education

Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita, University of Alabama.

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D., former Senior Associate Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Education and Professor Emerita at the University of Alabama, released a statement concerning the upcoming summit called for by Governor Rick Scott on Common Core State Standards.

Dr. Stotsky is known nationwide for her in-depth analyses of the problems in Common Core’s English language arts standards. Her current research ranges from the deficiencies in teacher preparation programs and teacher licensure tests to the deficiencies in the K-12 reading curriculum and the question of gender bias in the curriculum. She is regularly invited to testify or submit testimony to state boards of education and state legislators on bills addressing licensure tests, licensure standards, and Common Core’s standards (e.g., Utah, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida and Texas).

The following is the full text of Dr. Stotsky’s statement:

I have been invited by parent groups in Florida to comment on Common Core’s English language arts standards using the format that Interim Commissioner Pamela Stewart chose to give them.  Although Governor Scott requested meetings at which parents could express their concerns, she deliberately chose a method that in effect prevents discussion and an open forum.  By telling parents that they can comment only one by one, and only on the particular standards in Common Core, in a 3-hour period of time, she is in effect spitting in their faces. Parents can also send in their individual comments by computer, a method that also prevents discussion. If this is how a Department of Education treats the parents of the children whose education this Department is supposed to improve, then there is no reason for Florida parents to support the existence of such a Department. It should be abolished by referendum.

I was a senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003.  At no time were critics of the Department’s draft documents treated as shabbily as Florida parents are now being treated.   Public comment was regularly allowed at Board of Education meetings, and the Department held many meetings around the state when it was developing the Bay State’s own standards. And when criticism was received on drafts of standards documents, the Department staff courteously and publicly answered these criticisms. They acted as public servants, not as bureaucrats trying to foist their own untested ideas on other people’s children.

The Massachusetts Department of Education also held a large public meeting on Common Core’s standards to which the standards writers were invited. It was informative for the audience to hear Jason Zimba, the mathematics standards writer, indicate that Common Core’s math standards would not prepare high school students for STEM. I recommend that the Florida Department of Education hold a similar meeting and invite parents and teaching faculty at its own higher education institutions to attend and question Common Core’s standards writers.

WDW – FL contributor Diane Kepus wrote, “Governor Scott recently tossed the parents and taxpayers of Florida a bone regarding implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) leading many to believe he was going to “shut down” implementation of CCSS via his Executive Order Number 13-276. However some are questioning if the EO has any teeth.”

“Governor Scott issues an Executive Order and uninformed citizens believe he is stopping CCSS in Florida. What he did was withdraw Florida from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) only. He stated he was going to hold three hearings for public comments, look into finding someone else for testing and acknowledged concerns regarding the Federal overreach and the data collection of psychological attitudes and beliefs,” noted Kepus.

Kepus concluded the bottom line is: The Florida implementation of Common Core State Standards is untouched, unaffected and on track. It appears former Commissioner Stotsky has come to the same conclusion.

Florida Stop Common Core Coalition Calls Out Governor Rick Scott

Pressure is growing to stop the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Florida. There are concerns that parents, students and citizens are being pushed aside and not listened to by those responsible for the education of Florida’s children, especially Governor Rick Scott.

George Levesque, General Counsel for the President of the Florida Senate Don Gaetz

One concern is that George Levesque, General Counsel for the President of the Florida Senate Don Gaetz, may be biased in favor of the implementation of Common Core. Levesque is the husband of Patricia Levesque, who runs the state-focused Foundation for Florida’s Future and the national Foundation for Excellence in Education, both created by former Governor Jeb Bush. Bush is pushing CCSS in Florida and nation wide.

Floridians Against Common Core Education (FACCE) has asked the governor to take a further step in cleaning up the CCS legislative apparatus in Tallahassee to include insisting that Pam Stewart, Kathleen Shanahan and Sally Bradshaw of the Florida Board of Education, Mary Ellen Elia, Hillsborough Superintendent of Schools, and Florida legislators John Thrasher, John Legg, Joe Negron, Erik Fresen, Anitere Flores, Don Gaetz, Kelli Stargel, and Will Weatherford to remove themselves from serving on the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education.

On Friday, October 4th, the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC), a statewide coalition representing dozens of organizations and hundreds of thousands of Florida parents and citizens, sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott with copies to interim Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand, and the Florida legislature.

The letter accuses Governor Scott of playing the citizens of Florida. The FSCCC letter lists the following concerns:

  • Commissioner Pam Stewart has made statements to the press that “while the Department of Education plans to hold community town hall meetings to hear from the public about the pros and cons of the new Common Core State Standards, she [Stewart] expects little changes in the curriculum as a result.”
  • Statements were made by the commissioner to other opponent groups indicate that parents will have a mere three minutes per specific standard to make their concerns known, forcing them to wade through hundreds of pages of standards documents and become pedagogical experts in order to advocate for their children, mirroring the same intimidating process put forth by Senator John Legg in his call for input.
  • The planned format will not allow for parents and experts to discuss what is missing from the standards, poor organization, and other problems.
  • Each hearing is scheduled to be only three hours long, which will be inadequate for both the public and experts to testify about the many flaws with the standards themselves, much less the very important related concerns regarding data mining, psychological manipulation and testing, etc.

“The plan for these hearings and the statements by the commissioner are reminiscent of the manipulative practices employed during the education accountability summit,” said Randy Osborne, director of education for Florida Eagle Forum and Heartland Research.  “These actions combined with the deceptive radio ads promoted by former Governor Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a foundation funded by the corporate interests that stand to profit immensely from Common Core at the expense of our children, are an insult to Floridians and an assault on our liberties.”

“All of this evidence that these hearings are meant to be manipulated to the pre-determined outcome of continuing to ram Common Core down the throats of Florida families and citizens, as was done during the education summit, is a major betrayal of the trust of Floridians,” said Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch and a co-founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.  Our statewide coalition calls upon Governor Scott and the legislature to stop protecting the wealthy and powerful special corporate and foundation interests at the expense of our children.  We demand open and transparent public hearings now and support of Representative Mayfield’s HB 25 to completely stop funding and implementation of Common Core until much more information is available regarding academic quality, cost and data privacy. HB 25 is the true implementation of concepts in Governor Scott’s order and letters.”

Common Core = Conditions + Coercion + Conflict of Interest

WDW – FL received an email from a frustrated parent in Florida who was tired of the “script” being repeated to her. Her opposition to Common Core came after months of research and really trying to understand all of it.  She is just one voice among many parents that feel the same way. . In her email she states, “Please see attached doc[cument] that I have been working on. The concept of the doc[ument] was to take all those quotes that came from [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan, [Microsoft founder Bill] Gates, [President] Obama, etc and to put them all into a doc[ument] that helped to clearly debunk the standards and all the claims that are being made in regards to them … from the original source. ”

Read  the report titled “Welcome to the new Common Core fuzzy math: CC = Conditions + Coercion + Conflict of Interest“.

The following are excerpts from her document:

We also changed the way we do business at the Department of Education. Instead of issuing top-down edicts, we provided incentives for and supports for states districts, schools and local communities to undertake reform themselves, including offering more flexibility to states in the form of waivers from No Child Left Behind … The Obama Record in Education, Secretary Duncan’s Remarks to the Mom Congress, April 30, 2012

bush obama duncan

President Obama, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Miami. Photo courtesy of the Miami-Herald.

“Why deal with pesky Congress when you get to make all the rules?” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The department doesn’t have the authority to declare waivers high-risk, he said, and one of the states should call Duncan’s bluff.

States are awarded points for their compliance with a rubric of standards on issues like teacher evaluations and the number of charter schools, and applicants compete for a share of the $3.4 billion pool. The program, which began with $4.6 billion in stimulus funds, has been credited with galvanizing almost every state to either make significant changes to education laws, gain support of teacher unions, or to raise education standards across the board—all without distributing a penny in federal money. Education reforms spark ‘quiet revolution’ By ABBY PHILLIP, July 27, 2010.

Read the full document here.

“While sometimes I’ve been called an architect of their standards, I think their true architecture is evidence,” Coleman said. “That’s the binding secret of the standards.” Coleman, Zimba and Sue Pimentel, an education consultant, made sure the standards reflect the skills students need to succeed after high school.

National Governors Association:

According to the latest IRS 990 form for the NGA’s Center for Best Practices, the nonprofit arm of NGA that shares “a common pool of cash and investments” in 2010 received 80 percent of its $14.8 million annual income from taxpayers. Tax documents also show that back in 2004, the earliest available documents traced, NGA received $31 million from taxpayers. Tax funding has made up most of NGA’s income every year in between.

Despite its heavy tax support, NGA is not required to make meetings, votes, and materials public like government bodies, and it has not done so for its work on Common Core.

NGA is a private trade organization whose actions have no legal binding on states. Governors do vote during NGA’s two annual meetings to express shared priorities, former Virginia Gov. George Allen (R) told School Reform News, but “by the time they vote on a position the [resolutions] get watered down so much any objections are already accommodated. It’s unlike legislatures, with committee hearings and votes.”

Previous School Reform News reports have revealed state and federal tax money provide approximately half of CCSSO’s operating funds, and that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation money has been intimately involved in this behind-closed-doors process. ‘State-Led’ Common Core Pushed by Federally Funded Nonprofit, By: Joy Pullman, Heartland Institute, April 24, 2013.

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. Imagine having the people who create electrifying video games applying their intelligence to online tools that pull kids in and make algebra fun. Bill Gates – National Conference of State Legislatures, July 21, 2009

Pinellas citizens continue to challenge corrupt commissioners

The following is courtesy of the Florida Term Limits blog:

According to a 2012 study, Florida is the most corrupt state in the United States based on the number of state officials convicted on federal public corruption charges.

“Florida faces a corruption crisis that threatens the state’s reputation, its economy and its ability to attract new jobs and capital,” wrote study authors Dan Krassner and Ben Wilcox.

This should come as no surprise to Pinellas County residents, who are governed by four county commissioners in defiance of the county’s voter-approved 8-year term limits law. After the term limits amendment was approved by 73% of voters in 1996, commissioners refused to insert the amendment into the county charter even after it was validated by a district court in 1999 and the state Supreme Court in 2012.

That it was their duty to do so is beyond question. Per charter Article VI Sec. 6-02 (3): “If approved by a majority of those electors voting on the amendment at the general election, the amendment shall become effective on the date specified in the amendment, or, if not so specified, on January 1 of the succeeding year.” While a court has the power to invalidate an amendment, there is no leeway here for commissioners alone to refuse to accept the vote of the people.

After a commissioner-friendly local court refused to grant relief, Pinellas citizens are now appealing to the Second District Court of Appeals to have their votes finally counted. On Sept. 30, appellants H. Patrick Wheeler and Maria Scruggs filed their Initial Brief to the Lakeland court.

The filing is against Susan Latvala, John Morroni, Kenneth Welch and Karen Seel, the four commissioners who cling to their power and paychecks in defiance of law. Among other things, the brief documents their ill-gotten gains, including annual salaries of close to $100,000 when including expenses. It also points out the commissioners are using taxpayer money to invalidate the clearly expressed will of those same taxpayers.

Florida’s 303 public pension systems are unsustainable

Florida has the third highest number of public pension systems in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the states with the most public pension systems were Pennsylvania (1,425 systems), Illinois (457 systems) and Florida (303 systems).

The U.S. Census Bureau publishes The Annual Survey of Public Pensions: State- and Locally-Administered Defined Benefit Data, which is a census of all 222 state government pension systems and a sample of local government pension systems. The latest report was published in August 2013.

The six states with the largest amounts of total state and local cash and investment holdings in 2011 (the latest year data is available) were California ($600.0 billion), New York ($319.3 billion), Texas ($192.6 billion), Florida ($157.8 billion), Ohio ($152.4 billion) and Illinois ($127.7 billion) in total holdings and investments. Total holdings and investments in these states comprised just over half (51.2 percent) of total holdings and investments for the United States.

The Florida pension system is overseen by the State Board of Administration (SBA), which was created by the Florida Constitution and is governed by a three-member Board of Trustees (Trustees), comprised of the Governor as Chair, the Chief Financial Officer and the Attorney General.

The basic problem is there are fewer paying into public pensions with a growing number taking funds out of the systems. The report looks at active public pension members versus beneficiaries over time. The ratios of member to beneficiaries are: 1991 2.8 to 1, 2001 2.3 to 1 and 2011 1.7 to 1. Public pension systems are unsustainable.

For a larger view click on the chart.

The Florida Retirement System (FRS) carries the bulk of the public pension system load in the sunshine state. Cities, counties, school boards and public hospital employees pay into this system. According to the MyFRS website, “The FRS Pension Plan funding valuation takes place annually, available December 1st and was 86.9 percent funded, as of July 1, 2012. You can view a chart that compares the plan’s actuarial liabilities to the plan’s actuarial assets for the past five fiscal years. The annual benefit payments to FRS retirees and beneficiaries (shown in white on the chart) are a part of the overall plan liabilities. The market value of the total assets of the FRS Pension Plan is updated monthly.”

The Census Department reports the following public pension data for Florida (in thousands of dollars): Total contributions of $4,993,460, total employee contributions of $349,947, contributions from the state government $875,190, and from local government $3,768,323. Contributions from state and local government means from Florida taxpayers.

According to the report in 2011 Florida’s public pension systems payed out between $20,000 to $24,999 on average.

Defined benefit public pension programs are a growing financial burden for cities, counties, school boards and public hospitals. If one pension system fails Florida taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

RELATED: Florida’s public pensions still bleeding taxpayers

Study: Florida’s Marginal Tax Rate at 42.6% – Ouch!

This week the Tax Foundation is featuring two new maps which pull data from a Fiscal Fact released last week, “Individual Tax Rates Impact Business Activity Due to High Number of Pass-Throughs,” and look at the top marginal tax rates for sole proprietorships and S-corporations throughout the states. In his study, economist Kyle Pomerleau explains that more than 30 million pass-through businesses file their taxes at the individual rate, and why a large percentage of those businesses have a marginal tax rate exceeding 40 percent.

According to the Tax Foundation: The map [above] is not examining the effective rates of businesses in the top bracket, but rather, the top marginal tax rate on (S-Corporations/Sole Proprietorships) in each state. A “marginal” rate is the amount that is taxed of the next dollar of income earned by pass-through businesses in each state’s highest tax bracket. These rates reflect the sum of federal, state, and local income taxes (minus the state and local tax deduction); self-employment taxes; and the limitation on itemized deductions.

View the Tax Foundation map archive here.

ABOUT THE TAX FOUNDATION:

Founded in 1937, the Tax Foundation is the nation’s leading independent, non-partisan organization providing sound research and analysis on federal and state tax policy. The Tax Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and our offices are located in the National Press Building in Washington, DC.

FL Human Rights Organizations defeat Miami-Dade “Transsexual” Ordinance

Recently, the Christian Family Coalition (CFC), a Florida based human rights and social justice advocacy organization, with seventeen other civil and human rights organizations held a press conference at Miami-Dade County Hall to permanently defeat the discriminatory “Transsexual” ordinance.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro

The ordinance was sponsored by Miami-Dade Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Bruno Barreiro. The “Transsexual” ordinance would allow men dressed up as women or pretending to be women to use women’s bathrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms, and showers. Furthermore, in the area of employment, it would legalize the firing of anyone disagreeing with this policy simply because of who they are and what they believe.

“We must make sure that this discriminatory ‘Transsexual’ ordinance never returns,” said Nathaniel J. Wilcox, Director of  People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE), a South Florida civil rights organization.

CFC notes, “Even though the ordinance was never approved, it claimed its first victim when Commission Vice-Chair Lynda Bell was threatened and dehumanized by the extremists pushing the ordinance.”

“I am truly grateful to Miami-Dade Commission Vice Chair Lynda Bell for doing her duty as a public servant and voting against a proposed ordinance on its first reading,” Teresita “Tessie” Miglio said at Monday’s press conference. “Unfortunately, she became a victim of discrimination and hate by the very group that was trying to force this discriminatory law on every Miami-Dade County resident. Commissioner Bell, please know that there are numerous human rights organizations that proudly stand by you.”

“Today, we are calling on Commissioners, Edmonson, Barreiro, Jordan and Heyman to sign the CFC Anti-Discrimination Challenge to make sure this discriminatory ordinance never returns to Miami-Dade County,” stated Anthon Verdugo, CFC Founder and Executive Director.

CFC protest against Transgender ordinance. For a larger view click on the photo.

The “transsexual” proposal, passed 11-1 on first reading. Commission Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell casting the lone vote against it. The proposal then went to the commission’s Health and Social Services Committee, comprised of chairwoman Edmonson, Bell, Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Jean Monestime and Javier D. Souto.

After intense lobbying by the CFC and a broad coalition of human rights organizations, ordinance co-sponsors withdrew it on Aug. 13, when they realized they did not have the votes to pass it in committee.

According to CFC, “Now, Miami-Dade residents and human rights activists are asking all four ordinance sponsors to lead by example by signing the ‘NO to Discrimination Challenge‘.”

State Senator Nancy Detert is one of those behind an effort to recognize domestic partnerships (a.k.a gay marriage) in Florida. Many believe Detert would support transgender ordinances like the one defeated in Miami-Dade County. According to the Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), “On February 20, 2013 at approximately 3:25 p.m. in the Florida Senate Children and Families committee (which Detert is a member), a deceptive and highly controversial bill died. The bill, SB 196, was labeled as a domestic partnership but actually attempted to create a full blown civil union and a form of homosexual marriage in direct violation of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment passed by Floridians in 2008 by 62%.”

Miami-Dade Commission Transgender Ordinance video:

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Smoking gun: Pinellas commissioners conceded on term limits in 2000

Philip Blumel from Florida Term Limits Blog reports:

A smoking gun has been uncovered in the Pinellas term limits case and the defendant’s’ fingerprints are all over it.

You may recall that Pinellas County Commission and constitutional officer term limits passed with 73 percent of the vote in 1996, but the county refused to insert the amendment into their charter as clearly required by the law due to its alleged constitutional ambiguity.

The county commission and the five constitutional officers sued the voters to get the amendment overturned. The district court denied them, upholding the constitutionality of the term limits.

The constitutional officers continued their suit and requested authorization to add the Pinellas County Commission to the appeal. However, the minutes of the 5/30/00 county commission meeting — uncovered via a FOIA request on behalf of plaintiffs in the ongoing case to force commissioners to comply with the law — clearly show that the Pinellas County Commission chose not to participate.

According to the above document, County Attorney Susan H. Churuti advised the commission of their options and the process of becoming appellants. But, the document says, “following discussion, Commissioner [and current defendant Karen] Seel moved, seconded by Commissioner Parks and carried, that the county commission do nothing and let the ruling stand.”

The constitutional officers went all the way to the Supreme Court, alone. This is why only constitutional officer term limits were reviewed in the split 2002 Cook decision that declared constitutional officer limits to be unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court never tackled the issue of county commission term limits until 2012 when it unanimously declared them to be constitutional. For good measure, the Supremes overturned Cook at the same time, declaring without ambiguity that charter county voters have the right to impose term limits on their public servants.

Since then, 10 of the 11 charter counties with county commission term limits are obeying the law. Most of them always did. Only Pinellas — after losing at the district level and then at the Florida Supreme Court — continues to defy the voters and the law.

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Philip Blumel is president of U.S. Term Limits, a single-issue advocacy group based in Fairfax, VA, and a certified financial planner working out of downtown West Palm Beach, FL.

Republican support for Common Core crumbles

Chrissy Blevio from the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition states,  “After the recent release of the well-documented response [CLICK HERE] from twelve Republican leaders from all over Florida to the Common Core [HERE] put forth by Senator John Thrasher and other former Republican (RPOF) leaders, support was overwhelming from many others within the RPOF.  So much so, that twenty-five additional leaders RPOF and a few other officials have asked for their names to be added, and the letter has been released again.”

“This effort to impose Common Core on our children and divide our party must end,” said Randy Osborne, Marion County chairman, director of education for Heartland Research, and lobbyist for the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.  “The signers of this letter represent Republican Executive Committee membership – parents, grandparents, concerned citizens, and grassroots activists from all over this state, the heart and soul of the Republican Party.”

“The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition is extremely pleased and appreciative of the stand taken by these wise leaders,” said Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch and a co-founder of the FSCCC.  “It is not these leaders, the Republican Executive Committee membership or the many groups and individuals that have joined our coalition that are “misinformed” or “laboring under conspiracy theories,” but rather it is Senator Thrasher and the many other proponents that are trying to force this untested education system on Florida and the nation.  The standards are academically inferior to what many states, including Florida, already have.  There is no evidence that they will raise student achievement.  Failed attempts at this type of centralized education planning litter the ash heap of history all over the world. We call upon the RPOF and elected officials to reject the Common Core system and return education accountability to local instead of federal control.”

Below is the complete list of Republican officials that reject the imposition of the Common Core standards system in Florida and have signed on to this rebuttal letter.

Randy Osborne – Chairman Marion County Republican Executive Committee

Eric Miller – State Committeeman, Martin County

John Drozinski – Chairman, Republican Executive Committee Highlands County

Teri Armstrong – State Committeewoman, Marion County

Michael Levine – Chairman, Lake County Republican Executive Committee

Elvira Hasty – Former State Committeewoman, Saint Johns County

Gaye Ellis Chair – Okaloosa, County Republican Executive Committee

Tony Ledbetter – Chairman, Republican Party Volusia

Sheri Ortega – Chairman, Republican Suwannee County

Patricia Sullivan – State Committeewoman, Lake County

Alan Burton – State Committeeman, Volusia County

Marguerite Cavanaugh – Former State Committee Woman, Marion County. Executive VP Florida Eagle Forum

Carlie Rogers, Brevard State Committeewoman

Bradley Maxwell Leon County Chairman

Larry Taylor, Wakulla County State Committeeman

Mrs. Taylor, Wakulla County School Board Member District 2

Debi Large, Okeechobee County Chairman

Sandra Atkinson,   Okaloosa County State Committeewoman

Anne-Marie Shaffer, Flagler County State Committeewoman

Frank Meeker, Flagler County State Committeeman

Dave Sullivan, Flagler County Chairman.

Bill Fochi,  Charlotte County Chairman

Steven Czonstka,  Okaloosa County State Committeeman

Robert E. Hagaman, Citrus County State Committeeman

Jane Sturges, Charlotte County Committeewoman

Lindsay Harrington, Charlotte County Committeeman

Joe Arnold, Okeechobee County State Committeeman

Melissa Arnold, Okeechobee County State Committeewoman

Mike Cribby, Putnam County State Committreeman
BryAnne White, Calhoun County State Committeewoman

Mark Cross, Osceola County State Committeeman

William Paterson, St. Lucie County Chairman

Michael Hofstee, St. Lucie County State Committeeman

Mary Ann Russell, St. Lucie County State Committeewoman

Joseph Sowell, Holmes County State Committeeman

Susan Sowell, Holmes County State Committeewoman

Ryan Anderson, Broward County State Committeeman

To learn more about the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition contact Chrissy Blevio flstopcccoalition@gmail.com.

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Message to “defund Obamacare” resonated with Florida grassroots

Jim DeMint speaks at the “Defund Obamacare” town hall tour in Tampa on August 21, 2013. Photo courtesy of Eve Edelheit, Tampa Bay Times staff.

Heritage Foundation President and former Senator Jim DeMint and Raphael Cruz, father of Senator Ted Cruz, came to Tampa, Florida to bring their message that now is the time to defund the Affordable Care Act. The Heritage Action for America sponsored event was over booked. Tampa was the third stop on a nine city tour. Over 850 signed up for the event, with only 550 seats available.

Raphael Cruz gave the invocation and was greeted with a standing ovation when he was introduced by Karen Jaroch, Tampa Regional Coordinator for Heritage Action, as the father of Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz ended the event with a stirring call to action.

Senator DeMint then took the stage to a standing ovation. DeMint looked over a packed house of diverse concerned citizens, who traveled from across the state of Florida. DeMint then said in his soft southern voice, “We had you wait in line to get into this event so you can get used to standing in line to get medical care under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. With the over 550 people jammed into this hall you now know what your doctor’s waiting room will look like very soon.” These comments were like throwing raw meat to the grassroots activists in the audience.

Senator DeMint then went into detail on how the Affordable Care Act can be defunded. DeMint explained defunding Obamacare means attaching a legislative rider to a “must pass” bill (e.g. debt limit, annual spending bill or continuing resolution to fund the government) that 1) prohibits any funds from being spent on any activities to implement or enforce Obamacare; 2) rescinds any unspent balances that have already been appropriated for implementation; and 3) turns off the exchange subsidy and new Medicaid spending that are on auto-pilot.

DeMint was then joined by Mike Needham, Chief Executive Officer for Heritage Action for America, to answer questions. The issue of what is the urgency to defund Obama care now was raised. According to DeMint and Needham on January 1, 2014, Obamacare’s new main entitlements – the Medicaid expansion and the exchange subsidies – are scheduled to take effect. Open enrollment for both programs begins on October 1, 2013, at the start of the new fiscal year. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal government will spend $48 billion in 2014 and nearly $1.8 trillion through 2023 on these new entitlement programs. Also on January 1, Americans will be forced by their government to buy a product, health insurance, for the first time in history. Individuals and families who don’t comply will be penalized by tax penalties administered through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

One Floridian asked Senator DeMint isn’t is mean to not provide the funding for healthcare. Senator DeMint replied that it is mean for the President to promise Americans that they can keep their current insurance and doctors under Obamacare. It is mean for the President to say that health insurance premiums will go down $2,000 when in fact they will go up over $2,000 or more in some states. It is mean for the President to say everyone will receive better health care when we know from the experiences of Canada and England that socialized medicine leads to rationing and poor care, even to patients dying for lack of attention..

The question of some House Republicans supporting the repeal of Obamacare but not defunding it came up.

DeMint noted that some fear if they take a stand on Obamacare it will hurt them in the 2014 elections. He then pointed out that same tactic of “first do no harm” lost Republicans the US Senate and White House twice. DeMint noted that when he was in the Senate, and since he has become President of the Heritage Foundation, he experienced a Republican leadership that will “cut the legs out from under any who oppose them”.

DeMint said that Republicans took the House of Representatives in 2010 and retained the majority in 2012 on the promise of repealing Obamacare. Either Republicans keep their promise or go home and explain why they lied. DeMint noted that repealing Obamacare is not enough. The House has had numerous votes to repeal the law, but the chances of statutorily repealing the law decreased once President Obama won a second term. Those who oppose Obamacare, he said, cannot wait another three and a half years to ” begin dismantling Obamacare; they need to leverage current opportunities to defund using ‘must-pass’ spending bills.” DeMint said time and again, it is now or never.

The Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact blog took exception to four of the things Senator DeMint said during his presentation. However, DeMint’s message clearly resonated with the audience. The devil is always in the details.

ABOUT HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA:

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