Lynn Hatter

News Director

Lynn Hatter is a  Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has been a member of the WFSU news team since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative.  When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.

The State Board of Education has approved a much-debated series of changes to Florida’s process for grading schools. The changes come after the Federal Government allowed the state to break free from the No Child Left Behind school accountability law. But Lynn Hatter reports, the board continues to struggle with what to do with students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

The Senate has signed off on a new chief elections officer for Florida. Lynn Hatter reports Ken Detzner has been confirmed as the new Secretary of State.

Ken Detzner previously served as the first appointed Secretary of State under former Governor Jeb Bush. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he told members of the Ethics and rules panel that he has three priorities:

The State Board of Education will consider proposals that will increase the number of “F”- rated schools in Florida. Lynn Hatter reports, the Board is set to meet Tuesday to consider changes in the way the state calculates school grades.

The proposed changes to the school grading formula has met with opposition from superintendents, parents, and advocates for disabled students. Under the changes, schools where less than a quarter of students are rated proficient in reading on the state standardized FCAT test, would automatically receive an “F” grade.

A proposed rewrite of Florida’s high school athletics rules has come under fire from a coalition of groups that say the move is retaliation by a small group of sore losers. Lynn Hatter reports critics of the legislation say it will make it easier to illegally recruit athletes.

A Florida House member has resigned after admitting to sending several harassing text messages to a married federal prosecutor. Lynn Hatter reports Representative Richard Steinberg stepped down from his post Friday.

Miami Democrat Richard Steinberg’s resignation comes two days after news reports that he used a fake identity to send unwanted text messages to an assistant U.S. Attorney who is married. The minority caucus’ spokesman Mark Hollis says the party got word of the resignation Friday morning. 

Cheating spouses could soon get a break in divorce hearings. A bill that would change the way adultery can be used to award alimony payments has cleared the House. Lynn Hatter reports it’s a part of a larger bill that seeks to scale back how the courts award alimony payments in marriage dissolution cases.

Divorces can get messy, especially when it’s because of cheating.  In many of those cases, the cheater ends up having to pay his spouse alimony. And under Florida law—that alimony can be permanent. But a bill by Representative Ritch Workman, is trying to change that.

The House Higher Education Committee has released its plan to further revamp the state’s college and university system. Lynn Hatter reports the proposal would expand the power of the board that oversees the state’s 11 public universities—and make it harder for the colleges to establish bachelor’s degree programs.

Leon County school district officials are launching a campaign to renew the half-cent sales tax. The money goes for school construction and maintenance and, as Lynn Hatter reports, the district is partnering with the Leon Chamber to justify the expense.

Florida’s charter schools are looking for some extra money this year, and they’ve set their sights on traditional public schools to get it. Lynn Hatter reports the charter groups held a rally in Tallahassee Wednesday to urge the legislature to pass bills that would give them both enrollment and financial boosts.

Cheri Shannon with the Florida Charter School Alliance has a specific list of demands:

If you want to be a Gator or Seminole it could soon cost you a lot of money. Students at two of the state’s largest universities could see tuition bills more in line with those at other top-tiered schools in the nation. Lynn Hatter reports a proposal to allow the schools to break free of the state’s tuition cap is now making its way through the legislature.

Tampa Bay Times

Senate budget Chief JD Alexander and University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft met face-to-face for the first time Monday since squaring off back in November. The two are at odds over a plan to allow the University’s Polytechnic Campus to work toward becoming the state’s 12th state university. Lynn Hatter reports the University is also at odds over the Senate’s higher education budget.

Two of Florida’s biggest universities could soon be allowed to raise their tuition rates to the national average. Lynn Hatter reports a proposal to allow the schools to break free of the state’s tuition caps is now moving through the legislature.

A bill to shield public schools from lawsuits when groups like the local little league or individuals use their facilities after hours, is making its way through the legislature. Lynn Hatter reports the proposal has had an easy ride through most of its committee stops, and faces little resistance.

Senator Jim Norman says the intent behind his public school sovereign immunity bill is simple:

 “This is so needed. Taxpayers paid for these properties. Taxpayer properties that are sitting there when kids in the communities cannot access these properties.”  

flbog.org

Almost a decade after it was created the board that oversees the state university system is still working to get its footing. Over the past few months, conflicts and scandals at some of the schools have made state and national headlines. And as Lynn Hatter reports, the board’s chairman says his group should have more authority when it comes to the affairs of Florida’s universities.

A measure aimed at giving parents a greater say in what happens to a failing school is now heading to the House floor. Lynn Hatter reports the proposal is one that divides parent groups, and has opponents calling it a power grab.

Right now, Florida public schools labeled as “chronically failing” face a few different choices. Districts can replace principals and switch staff, increase funding, hand the school over to a private company or, convert it into a charter school. 

The Senate budget committee hearing almost broke down Wednesday over a battle to fund the University of South Florida and its Polytechnic Campus. Lynn Hatter reports after hours of blistering criticism, the Senate backed off a plan to hold back money from USF until it handed over Polytechnic as part of a plan to eventually make the campus an independent university.

What started as a simple, charter school accountability bill quickly morphed into a debate over whether school districts should be required to share some of their funding. Lynn Hatter reports the effort follows a similar move adopted by the Senate last week on a similar funding mechanism to boost construction dollars to charter schools.

A bill that would have granted sovereign immunity to emergency room doctors is changing as it moves through the legislature. Lynn Hatter reports a House panel has approved a series of amendments that supporters say would bring down the cost of healthcare. But the move has opponents arguing it would limit a patient’s right to sue for medical malpractice.

The University of South Florida’s polytechnic campus could be on a fast-track to becoming the state’s 12th public university under a senate proposal. Lynn Hatter reports the proposal slipped into the Senate’s appropriations budget would grant the college almost immediate independence from its parent university.

The state’s education budget is slated to be increased this year after years of funding cuts, and public schools say any increase is better than nothing. But within the traditional school structure, an internal battle is brewing. And Lynn Hatter reports it revolves around funding for one specific type of public school- charters.

Charters are public schools with more flexibility in who they hire and how they operate.  But there’s a trade-off to that flexibility, as a report out of a state tax watchdog points out:

The Florida Senate has signed off on new voting district maps, and they are now headed to a judicial review. Democrats have long claimed the state’s new elections law and current process of redistricting are an attempt to block them from having any substantial influence in Florida politics. Republicans hold super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature, and have full control of the Cabinet. Now, as Lynn Hatter reports, the minority party is making a case that the majority party is engaging in voter suppression and gerrymandering.

Florida Democrats are voicing their displeasure with several budget cutting proposals under consideration before the full chamber. Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the legislature, but as Lynn Hatter reports, that didn’t stop the minority party from launching a series of criticisms --thinly disguised as questions— to try and poke holes in the Houses healthcare budget plans.

The House Economic Affairs committee has passed out several bills to help ease the price tag on Florida homeowners. Lynn Hatter reports included in the list of bills heard includes a plan to reform the state’s largest property tax insurer, provide some additional tax breaks, and change the way foreclosures are handled in the courts.

It’s the Senate’s turn to begin work on its budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Lawmakers in that chamber Tuesday began crafting the education section of the bill, which includes funding for K-12 and higher education. Lynn Hatter reports a preliminary view of the Senate’s plan includes a little more money for K-12 and a little less for colleges and universities.

WFSU

A class-action lawsuit has been announced against the state’s largest property insurer. Citizen’s is being accused of artificially raising home values in order to charge higher premiums. Lynn Hatter reports a group called the Florida Association for  Insurance Reform, or FAIR, is backing the lawsuit.

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