Hugs for veterans; slugs for money-wasters

Time for another round of hugs and slugs.

We start with a big round of slugs for everyone involved in the NorthStar charter-school fiasco — one of the worst examples of education "reform" this state has ever seen.

Revelations in this mess include principal Kelly Young getting an exorbitant compensation package — plus a taxpayer-funded $519,000 golden parachute — all for running a school where kids lacked basic supplies and couldn't read at grade level.

Orange County Public Schools finally helped shut down this school — after NorthStar's board of directors fell down on the job. But the system faced an uphill battle, thanks to state rules that essentially tell local education officials to let charter schools do as they please.

That's not reform. It's a farce.

Just as farcical is the deafening silence from Gov. Rick Scott and legislators who keep pushing to give more money to charter schools — without also demanding accountability.

Can you imagine if a traditional school had wasted this much money or failed this many kids? These same supposed stalwarts of accountability would be tripping over themselves to pile on.

State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, is an exception. He's demanding answers and calling for reform. So a hug for him.

But generally, Florida politicians need to understand that simply throwing piles of public money at profiteers isn't reform … it's a recipe for disaster.

•On a happier note, hugs to Harvey and Carol Massey for their $250,000 donation to the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park — the special space that's going up near the new VA Medical Center to honor fallen soldiers.

Hugs also to retired business exec Jerry Pierce and the other veterans who are spearheading the fundraising effort for this memorial. Pierce and pals wanted to raise all $3 million through private contributions … and they're now more than halfway to their goal. (For more info on this neat endeavor, visit

•A slug to developer-led task force that's pushing for secrecy in the way Orange County handles growth plans. Talk of changes to a development-review committee — so that members would "no longer fall under the requirements of the Sunshine law" — is a bad idea. There are some good people on this committee. And they made some good recommendations. This ain't one of them.

•A hug to a reader, Greg, for giving me my new favorite word to describe to describe Florida's legislative branch — "The lobbyslature."

•A hug to the Orange County Library System for striking a deal to provide e-reader versions of 250 magazines to county — and spending only $17,500 to make it happen. That's not only progressive thinking; it's cost-conscious, too.

Reader choices. Among the dozens of hug-and-slug nominations readers sent in this week … Hugs for Jeff and Karen Revels for their establishment of the Conway Cares program to feed the needy in South Orlando … slugs for Florida's junior U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, for voting against the U.N. disabilities treaty — a declaration of equal rights for the disabled that was supported by George W. Bush, John McCain, Bob Dole and … and multiple slugs to 104.1 FM for not working out a way to keep Daniel Dennis on the air. (That was on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, Clear Channel laid off a bunch more people … which will presumably generate more slugs from readers.)

•A finally, hugs to Disney and Universal for working with Harbor House of Central Florida to provide smartphones — unclaimed ones that guests left behind — to victims of abuse. This creative idea is a real win-win … well, except for the folks who lost their phones.

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