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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida on Jeb and Hispanics; Alcee Hastings and Bears

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Jeb Bush is being touted in some quarters as the answer to the Republican Party's looming demographic problems. As their base in the white community shrinks in proportion to other ethnic groups, Bush's secret weapon could be his own  household: he has a Mexican wife and a son who identifies himself as Hispanic. Plus, Jeb speaks Spanish - fluently.

So two weeks ago, Bush told the Detroit Economic Club that "Florida’s Hispanic kids are the best of any Hispanic group of Hispanic students in the United States -- in fact, two grade levels ahead of the average in the United States,"  

Here's what PolitiFact Florida has to say about that:

A spokeswoman for Bush told PolitiFact that Bush was referring to fourth grade reading scores from The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Many educational experts consider the annual NAEP, dubbed "the nation’s report card," to be the best state-by-state measure of education systems. Sponsored by the U.S. Education Department, the exam is given to a sample of fourth, eighth and 12th grade students every two years in reading and math. For 2013, the NAEP showed that Florida’s Hispanic fourth-graders ranked the first state in the nation for highest average reading score. (The Education Department considers Florida’s score statistically tied with a handful of other states.) So Bush chose a statistic that puts Florida’s Hispanic students in the most favorable light. While Bush can point to the NAEP reading results for fourth graders and argue Florida’s students are "the best," that title doesn’t hold up on all NAEP measurements. For example, Florida’s Hispanic fourth graders were fourth among states for math, and eighth graders ranked lower in both reading and math. Is there a valid reason for Bush to zero in on fourth-grade reading? "Reading scores in fourth grade are widely considered to be an important metric because early literacy has been linked to subsequent educational outcomes," said Sterling C. Lloyd, senior research associate at Education Week Research Center. "For instance, according to research studies, students who are struggling to read in third grade are at greater risk of dropping out of high school. It’s thought of as an early warning sign predicting risk of dropping out." But it’s helpful to consider NAEP scores in other grades and subjects, as well as high school graduation rates, to "provide a more comprehensive view of educational results than a single metric," Lloyd said. For example, with respect to eighth grade NAEP reading, Florida’s scores for Hispanic students were 12th nationally (out of 46 states and D.C.). For eighth grade math, Florida ranked 20th. Another expert took issue with the definition of "Hispanic." Richard Rothstein, an education research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, previously told us that it’s a meaningless category for educational purposes. "Florida’s ‘Hispanics’ are not comparable to ‘Hispanics’ in other states because Florida’s include a larger proportion of middle-class Cubans, and a smaller proportion of lower-class Mexicans. Without knowing anything else, you would expect middle-class Cubans to perform at a higher level than lower-class Mexicans, because of the literacy levels at home, if for no other reason."

Next up, we have a South Florida congressman, Alcee Hastings, who seems to talk alot about Texas - even more than Governor Scott when it comes to jobs. So Hastings recently told CNN he "wouldn't live in Texas for all the tea in China."

In an interview with CNN, Hastings also let loose that there's a Texas law "that you can't shoot bears out of the second floor of a window."

PolitiFact Florida says to that:

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We spotted  the bear comment in CNN’s Feb. 5, 2015, news story; it came from the network’s telephone interview of Hastings.
Whoa (or whatever it is Floridians holler when they’re riding their gators). We left messages with Hastings’ office and didn’t hear back. Next, we rang up Mike Cox, Austin-based spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who offered his own whoa. In Texas, Cox said, "you can’t shoot bears," from any location. "You can’t shoot them from the second floor, you can’t shoot them from the first floor, you can’t shoot them from the 23rd floor. You flat can’t shoot them." There’s this in a TPWD bear guide for hunters: "It is a violation of law to kill a black bear in Texas, with penalties of up to $10,000, added civil restitution fines, jail time and loss of all hunting privileges." Another snippet in the leaflet: "The black bear is a protected and rare species in the state of Texas." And we saw this on another department web page about Texas hunting regulations: "Black bears are protected and cannot be hunted or killed." Separately to our inquiry, Jon English, an attorney for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said the second-floor window claim reminded him of another myth about Texas barring hunters from firing at buffalo from the second story of a hotel. Similarly, a librarian at the Legislative Reference Library in the Texas Capitol replied by email that its researchers didn’t find evidence of a law restricting bear-shooting from the second story. We identified one instance in which a person may shoot a bear in Texas. Under the state’s penal code, it’s a defense to prosecution for a person to shoot a dangerous wild animal, including a bear, in a public place if they have reasonable fear of bodily injury.

They gave it a Pants on Fire.