Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on truth riles up Venezuela
Facing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few days ago, Samantha Power, President Barack Obama's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, surely didn't expect to stir up the proverbial hornet's nest.
Power told the committee that as America's U.N. envoy, she believed in "contesting" what she described as a "crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela."
That was truthful, if not exactly an exercise in delicate diplomacy, and it enraged Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, the hand-picked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, the flamboyantly anti-American socialist. ...
He demanded an apology.
Maduro, a former bus driver who was elected in April after Chavez succumbed to cancer, had called for improved relations with Washington. In June his foreign minister, Elias Jaua, met Secretary of State John Kerry, who described their meeting as the "beginning of a good, respectful relationship."
Jaua announced that his government had sent a letter of protest to the American embassy in Caracas. ...
The United States needn't overreact to Maduro's bravado, but it needn't apologize for Power's accurate characterization of Venezuela.
We suspect all this will fade away. Despite the ill will generated by Chavez, the United States remains a critical trading partner for Venezuela. And the United States is a major importer of Venezuela's major export, oil.
Maduro's tough talk probably is no more than that. In any event, such threats shouldn't keep American diplomats from calling out oppressive regimes, however thin-skinned they may be.
Ocala StarBanner on school grading system gets an F:
Maybe the best thing that can be said about the school grades released last week by the Florida Department of Education is, they could have been worse.
Had the state Board of Education not intervened earlier this month and voted by the narrowest of margins — 4-3 — to not allow any school grade to drop more than one letter grade, the report card would have been horrific. How horrific? If not for the Board of Education's inflating of the grades, the state would have had 262 failing schools. Instead, it had only 108 failing schools.
Here in Marion County, there were no F schools, thank goodness. Of the 41 elementary and middle schools graded — high school grades have not yet been issued — there were 13 D's, 14 C's and nine B's. Four schools, all elementary schools, received A's.
What do these grades mean? Well, frankly no one from the Board of Education to the superintendent of Marion County Public Schools is sure.
Said Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan of Tampa, who as ex-Gov. Jeb Bush's one-time chief of staff helped develop the system. ...
No grading system that changes virtually every year, and then is tinkered with every year to make it politically palatable, could possibly be considered valid.
The original purpose of the school grades was to measure academic progress of each student body, therefore giving policymakers a guide to where to direct necessary resources. ...
An awful lot has come to ride on school grades since they were first devised during the Jeb Bush years. Careers and real estate values, not to mention students and schools, rise and fall by school grades. Yet, few in and out of education know for sure what a school grade really means anymore in Florida.
Florida's accountability system deserves an F, and it is time the Legislature and the Board of Education accept responsibility for this public-policy train wreck and fix it.
The Miami Herald on the politics and costs of divisiveness:
Gov. Rick Scott's call for a day of prayer last week in pursuit of racial harmony among Floridians outraged/elated/rattled by the George Zimmerman verdict and the vociferous aftermath was a deft touch. Perhaps thousands of people across the state followed his counsel.
But many residents, especially those who have gotten the short end of Scott's policy stick during his tenure, have a right to question whether his suggestion to pray for harmony was sincere or politics as usual. The call for unity aside, the governor himself has been too content to sow the seeds of divisiveness. The price has been high — costing Florida money, prestige, progress, the quality of people's lives and, perhaps, their very lives. Scott's refusal to revisit "stand your ground" laws, for instance, guarantees more bloodshed.
Perhaps the most blatant instance of Scott's willingness to pound a wedge between Floridians lies in the painful memory of last year's presidential elections. ...
It was an un-American act of dividing in hopes of conquering. But its only success was in rendering Florida's vote useless and making the state, once again, look ridiculous, inept. It was a disgrace to democracy.
So was the governor's refusal to allow the teenage or adult children of undocumented immigrants to get temporary driver's licenses after an Obama administration policy allowed them to stay in this country and work. ...
The governor initially stood steadfast against covering up to 1 million low-income uninsured people in the state. The expanded coverage would have been paid for, mind you, by federal tax dollars and delivered health care to many who need it most. However, the governor had no problem sending Floridians' money to states that knew a good — and principled — deal.
This year, Scott said that he would support a three-year trial run for Medicaid expansion. Too little, too late. Lawmakers failed to come through with legislation, and Scott hasn't boldly stepped up call a special session.
The governor's call for unity had a nice ring to it. But instead of relying on a higher authority to provide it, he, too, must take seriously his own ability to close the gap. Otherwise, too many Floridians just don't have a prayer.