Florida Five: Florida’s education ranking nosedives, Supreme Court’s ‘Judicial Hellhole’ ranking

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Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

Florida’s education ranking nosedives in national “Quality Counts” ratings – For several years, Florida’s political leaders, including Gov. Rick Scott, have touted across the state that their public schools were among the nation’s best. But one set of rankings — which just two years ago put Florida in the top 10 — has come out with a revamped formula that saw Florida tumble to the 28th best school system in the nation. Education Week on Thursday released its “Quality Counts” rankings for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The last time the rankings were released Florida was sixth. Since then, Education Week has changed the formula to focus more on “outcomes” instead of policies and procedures. Some of the criteria that aided Florida in the past — such as its system for grading and evaluating schools — had helped its overall grade. Read more

Florida Supreme Court named nation’s 4th worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’ – The controversial Florida Supreme Court managed to score fourth on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s 2014-2015 list of “Judicial Hellholes” — putting it among the nation’s “most unfair” courts in the handling of civil litigation. According to the annual ATR list and report, issued with little fanfare just before Christmas, the only judicial hellholes ranked worse than the Florida Supreme Court were 1) New York City’s Asbestos Court, 2) California, and 3) the West Virginia Supreme Court. Read more

United for Care starts new effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida – The medical marijuana fight is back on. Attorney John Morgan’s United for Care group has submitted a new constitutional amendment to the Florida Division of Elections that could go to voters as early as the 2016 general election. United for Care’s first proposed medical marijuana system gained 58 percent of the vote last November — 2 points shy of the 60 percent required to amend Florida’s Constitution. That’s close enough to make another effort worthwhile, said campaign director Ben Pollara. “The voters of Florida clearly want a medical marijuana law and we intend to pass one, whether in the Legislature this session or on the ballot in 2016,” Pollara said. Read more

Advocates make early push for Medicaid expansion – Health care advocates are making an aggressive push to put Medicaid expansion back on the table. Their latest effort: a statewide “Day of Action” to close the coverage gap. For the past two years, Florida House Republicans have refused federal dollars to extend publicly funded healthcare coverage to nearly a million residents. But there are signs 2015 may be different. A new plan offering an alternative to expansion as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act has found support in the Capitol. And a federal judge ruled last week that the state’s artificially low Medicaid budget has caused needy children to be deprived access to healthcare. Read more

Florida State faces lawsuit from Winston sexual assault accuser – The woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of sexual assault is suing the school’s board of trustees. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Orlando. It requests a jury trial on claims the board had an unreasonable response to her accusations and created a hostile educational environment for her. Also Wednesday, Winston declared his intention to enter the NFL draft. At a student code of conduct hearing last month, Winston was cleared of charges that he violated any or all of four sections of the code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment. A criminal investigation concluded last year without charges being filed. Read more

Bonus 2016 watch: Asian-Americans are the new Florida

For more Florida political news, visit BPR’s FLORIDA NEWS page

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