Hillsborough schools getting it right by changing with the times

While the district is frequently in the news for what goes wrong at its schools, the district deserves kudos for its efforts to prepare our students for the global economy — particularly as it relates to new technology.

Students in 27 of the county’s 44 high schools are now offered the opportunity to earn certificates. Those certificates show a student’s proficiency in programs such as Photoshop or Excel. Certificates are offered for Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Microsoft, Quickbooks and the COMPTIA A+ products. Last year 3,040 information technology-related industry certifications were awarded to Hillsborough students.

By Chris Ingram

Hillsborough County residents pay more in taxes to fund the county’s school system, which has a budget of $2.8 billion, than they do to run every other department or agency in the county combined.

The Hillsborough school system is the largest employer in the county, with more than 25,000 employees, of which nearly 16,000 are teachers. The system is the third largest in Florida and the ninth largest in the country with over 202,000 students (for comparison, the city of Tampa has about 350,000 residents).

Of those students, nearly 60 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunches. At last count, there were 168 languages spoken by students attending the county’s schools, which has a graduation rate of 82 percent.

The challenges of the Hillsborough school district are immense. The number of students, and the diversity of the population, adds to the enormity of those challenges.

While the district is frequently in the news for what goes wrong at its schools, the district deserves Continue reading “Hillsborough schools getting it right by changing with the times”

Committed to Crist, or should Crist be committed?

Make no mistake, Crist once was a real threat. Then Republicans showed him the door following the Jim Greer fiasco, and after his multiple flip-flops on lifelong conservative positions, not to mention the infamous hug.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Sunday, April 7, 2013

A moose is an animal with horns on the front of its head and a hunting-lodge wall on its back. So goes an old laugh line.

These days, Charlie Crist is the moose of Florida politics. He appears to be a threat for sure, though he is not threatening at all once you turn on the lights and see the hunting-lodge wall on his back.

Make no mistake, Crist once was a real threat. Then Republicans showed him the door following the Jim Greer fiasco, and after his multiple flip-flops on lifelong conservative positions, not to mention the infamous hug.

Today, Crist and his smiling face, with his perfectly coiffed silver hair, glows on billboards for ubiquitous trial lawyer John Morgan. Crist now works for Morgan’s law firm. His mug frequently replaces Morgan’s on TV, allowing Crist to maintain a high profile as he pitches being Continue reading “Committed to Crist, or should Crist be committed?”

A taxing identity problem

According to the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s office (which issues driver’s licenses), another common problem is among people with multiple marriages who have to show name changes, marriage certificates and divorce decrees. People who were born in something other than a hospital — usually in a rural area — who never had a birth certificate face a different challenge, as does the occasional person whose records were destroyed from anomalies such as when a courthouse housing their records burns down.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Tuesday, February 16, 2013

Last week I took my girls to the public library to check out some books, and they asked whether they could get their own library card. The librarian said they could but that their cards would be tied to my card for fines. She also said we would need to produce a birth certificate, Social Security card, report card or some similar type of “official item” with their names on it to prove their identity.

I asked her why something official is needed, and she explained that people were getting cards for kids who did not exist, and not returning items. She said this was occurring before the library started tying youth accounts to an adult’s. So why, with the accounts tied together, do I still need to provide a document with the kids’ name on it? She said she agrees it is unnecessary now but that she does not make the rules.

As countless motorists know, if you are renewing a driver’s license, you need tons of documentation to prove your identity. Stories persist of Continue reading “A taxing identity problem”

Florida forgives, and you get the bill

The state of Florida recently “forgave” $142.2 million in taxes, fines and overpaid benefits for the third year in a row. The previous two years, the state wrote off $110.5 million and $109 million. I wasn’t ever really good at math, but I can add 142, plus 110, plus 109 and realize that’s more than $350 million the state failed to collect.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Saturday, December 28, 2012

The state of Florida recently “forgave” $142.2 million in taxes, fines and overpaid benefits for the third year in a row. The previous two years, the state wrote off $110.5 million and $109 million. I wasn’t ever really good at math, but I can add 142, plus 110, plus 109 and realize that’s more than $350 million the state failed to collect.

What I lack in math skills, I make up for in knowing how government works. It works like this: Every time the state fails to collect money it is owed, somebody else has to make up the difference.

That’s you and me, folks. It works out to be about 19 bucks a person for every resident of the state — that is, if the state could collect it.

To make matters worse, Continue reading “Florida forgives, and you get the bill”

All our kids (should) want for Christmas is $86 trillion

They’re getting ready to punt again, with President Obama and Speaker Boehner working on a compromise that would include tax increases, spending cuts and an extension of the debt ceiling. Although the tax increases and spending cuts are a good start, they’re a mere drop in the bucket. A $400 billion unspecified cut in entitlement spending here and a $440 billion tax increase there (both over a period of 10 years), won’t do anything other than symbolize the need to do something. Those mediocre attempts to rectify an $86 trillion debt would be like throwing a gallon of water on a five-alarm fire of a completely engulfed building that stretches for several city blocks.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Saturday, December 22, 2012

Photo: My kids. Caption: The next generation is getting screwed.
Photo: My kids. Caption: The next generation is getting screwed.

If the 1960s are most remembered for the Kennedy and King assassinations and the fight for racial equality, and the ’70s for Watergate, Vietnam protests and the gas crisis, the ’80s for the fall of the Berlin Wall and Ronald Reagan’s optimism, the ’90s for the tech boom and Bill Clinton’s intern, the 2000s for the September 11th tragedy and the election of the first black president, the decade of 2010 will be defined by the bankruptcy of America.

You could write tomes explaining how this happened and who is to blame, but that won’t solve the problem. The fact is, America is broke, and it’s only a matter of time before we face the upheaval seen in Greece (in 2011, only Greece, Italy and Japan had higher debt as a percentage of GDP than the United States). The only reason we aren’t there yet is due to our politicians’ proclivity for punting.

They’re getting ready to punt again, with President Obama and Speaker Boehner working on a compromise that would include Continue reading “All our kids (should) want for Christmas is $86 trillion”

Romney’s ticket won’t include baggage, er, Rubio

Despite having enough baggage to make him look like a suitcase manufacturer, Marco Rubio remains the favorite of pundits trying to figure out whom Mitt Romney will pick to be his running mate.

By Chris Ingram

The Tampa Tribune

Published Sunday, June 3, 2012

Despite having enough baggage to make him look like a suitcase manufacturer, Marco Rubio remains the favorite of pundits trying to figure out whom Mitt Romney will pick to be his running mate.

Before explaining why I don’t think Rubio will be on the ticket, it is important to understand the dynamics of this campaign and Romney in particular.

The 2012 race for the White House is different from 2008 in many ways. Foremost, people know who Barack Obama is. “Hope and change” was an effective, poll-tested slogan that has proven to mean little if you’re an Obama supporter; and if you’re an Obama critic, it means you keep hoping, and the only change you have is in your pocket.

Obama has proven that Continue reading “Romney’s ticket won’t include baggage, er, Rubio”

Buffett Rules!

Buffett rules are good for America. They bring harmony, sharing and fairness to Americans. I don’t understand all the haters of the Buffett rule. Perhaps the lawmakers overreached (again) and wrote a bill laced with some poison pill pork projects that had to be voted down. Perhaps I could take a stab at some legalese that will establish a Buffett Law that is sure to satisfy Congress and the rest of Americans.

An irreverent view of the “Buffett Rules”

By Shamus McConomy

Buffett rules are good for America. They bring harmony, sharing and fairness to Americans.  I don’t understand all the haters of the Buffett rule. Perhaps the lawmakers overreached (again) and wrote a bill laced with some poison pill pork projects that had to be voted down. Perhaps I could take a stab at some legalese that will establish a Buffett Law that is sure to satisfy Congress and the rest of Americans.

Continue reading “Buffett Rules!”