Jessica Bakeman

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.

Jessica first moved to the Sunshine State in 2015 to help launch POLITICO Florida as part of the company’s national expansion. She is the immediate past president of the Capitol Press Club of Florida, a nonprofit organization that raises money for college scholarships benefiting journalism students.

Jessica was an original member of POLITICO New York’s Albany bureau. Also in the Empire State, Jessica covered politics for The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. As part of Gannett’s three-person Albany bureau, she won the New York Publishers Association award for distinguished state government coverage in 2013 and 2014. Jessica twice chaired a planning committee for the Albany press corps’ annual political satire show, the oldest of its kind in the country.

She started her career at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. There she won the Louisiana/Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors’ 2013 first place award for continuing coverage of former Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision to pardon more than 200 felons as he left office.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and English literature from SUNY Plattsburgh, a public liberal arts college in northeastern New York. She (proudly) hails from Rochester, N.Y.

The FBI plans to hire more staff and implement technology upgrades to its public tipline after mishandling two warnings that confessed Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz might shoot up a school.

As the nation's eyes were on Broward County, Florida, for a flawed, week long election recount, a state commission a few miles away was investigating the county government's role in the Feb. 14 massacre at a Parkland high school. It found that failed leadership, inconsistent or unenforced policies, and misinformation contributed to the 17 deaths.

The former school cop who hid rather than confronting the gunman during the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland high school isn't the only one who's been ducking requests to appear before a state investigative commission.

It took medics 40 minutes after the shooting began at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 before medics could reach 10 victims on the third floor of building 12. Only four of them survived.

Members of a state commission tasked with investigating the shooting disagreed over whether more lives could have been saved if medics had advanced to the third floor more quickly.

Two Broward County leaders who have been criticized for their handling of the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland high school displayed a stark contrast in attitude as they were questioned on Thursday by a state investigative commission that includes parents of slain students.

The disgraced former police officer assigned to protect Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School defied a subpoena and failed to show up to a meeting of a state investigative panel that's examining the Feb. 14 massacre that left 17 people dead inside the school.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott accused the elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties of "rampant fraud" and announced Thursday his campaign has sued them over how they've handled counting votes since the election, as new ballots continuing to pour in have narrowed his lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

After voting for himself to be Florida’s first black governor, Andrew Gillum was asked to comment on the historic nature of his run.

“We’ll worry about history later," Gillum said Tuesday morning after casting his ballot at a Catholic church in Tallahassee. "But today, we’re working to win."

Gillum held his infant son over one hip, and he and his wife, R. Jai Gillum, each held a hand of one of their twins. He seemed calm, comfortable, confident.

Thirteen hours later, he conceded the race.

The men who are vying to be Florida's next governor cast votes for themselves Tuesday morning, with Republican Ron DeSantis near Jacksonville and Democrat Andrew Gillum in Tallahassee.

DeSantis, who represented a northwest Florida district in Congress before resigning his seat to focus on his gubernatorial campaign, went to the polls in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife Casey early Tuesday morning.

Activist Emma González, who became famous after giving an impassioned speech in Fort Lauderdale days after the shooting at her Parkland high school in February, stood on the steps of Florida's old state Capitol building on Monday and urged people to vote.

"Gun violence is on the ballot," González said. "Our lives are in the hands of the people that we elect. Vote in every election like it's your last, because it very well could be."

More than 10,000 people have voted early at college campuses in Miami-Dade, taking advantage of three polling places established by county leaders at the last minute under pressure from students and civil rights groups.

Students in hundreds of Miami-Dade schools spent two days without internet.

A construction crew cut a fiber optic cable that feeds Miami-Dade County Public Schools' main data center on Wednesday morning, crashing internet access for 300 sites, including a majority of schools and some administrative offices.

Voters are facing a long ballot this general election – 105 different questions across the region.

 

City of Miami voters will be deciding on a few land-related deals. There’s the fate of David Beckham’s soccer stadium – whether to build the stadium on Miami’s only municipal golf course near the airport.

Visitors to a haunted house in Delray Beach last weekend were greeted by a mermaid living in a trash heap and pictures of a polluted ocean projected onto the wall.

The next room was even more bleak. The polar ice caps had melted, and everyone in coastal areas drowned.

Further into the house, a girl left bloody handprints as she banged on a window from the outside, and a boy lay on a gurney, spinning an electric drill and mumbling about applesauce. They were both driven mad by a new epidemic gripping the post-apocalyptic world.

  

Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis sparred over each other’s personal integrity as well as issues like health care and immigration in a heated debate on Wednesday that underscored the fierce divide between the two gubernatorial candidates with less than two weeks before Election Day.

State Sen. Lauren Book will be training 50 Miami-Dade elementary school counselors in recognizing and preventing child sexual abuse in Doral on Friday.

Book — a Democrat who represents much of Broward County and is a former kindergarten teacher — created the curriculum with her foundation, Lauren’s Kids. The lesson plans are designed to teach children how to identify sexual abuse and ask for help if they need it, and it's now being used in 65,000 classrooms around the world, including here in South Florida.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis told voters at a Jewish deli in Aventura on Tuesday he'd be a champion for Israel if elected governor.

Young people in Florida have registered to vote in big numbers heading into the midterm elections. In South Florida, teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s are organizing phone banks, canvassing tours and social media campaigns in support of both candidates for governor.

Here's a portrait of the young voters in our communities who are excited about Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis.

'LIKE' GILLUM? TELL YOUR (FACEBOOK) FRIENDS 

They're into board games, science and Andrew Gillum.

A cheering crowd greeted county officials and the president of Miami Dade College as early voting began on the school's north campus Monday.

The pep rally-like scene was especially celebratory because, only weeks ago, there were no plans for voting on college campuses here at all.

Two South Florida counties — Broward and Monroe — asked Primary Election voters to approve property tax increases to support public schools. Both questions passed.

Now it's time for round two: Both Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have similar questions on the General Election ballot; early voting began on Oct. 22.

Here are the details on each referendum:

Where is it on my ballot?

Referendum No. 362.

South Florida school districts are planning their budgets for the next four years without a key piece of information: who will be the next governor.

The superintendents of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach county schools say the outcome of the competitive race could change their calculations about future tax increases and spending.

Miami is competing with New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles for teachers, superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Tuesday while trying to build support for a property tax increase.

The superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools appealed to voters for their support of a property-tax increase to pay teachers and police officers on Tuesday, calling the Nov. 6 ballot question a "moral imperative" and stressing "there are no other options."

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho — along with union, business and community leaders — made a formal pitch for ballot question No. 362 during a news conference Tuesday morning at Madie Ives K-8 Center, near Aventura.

Car shoppers can now donate a portion of the sales tax they would have paid on vehicle purchases to support scholarships for students who've been bullied.

One of Florida's newest vouchers — called the Hope Scholarship — aims to help public school students who report being victims of bullying or harrassment attend a private school instead. The program was one of outgoing Republican House speaker Richard Corcoran's top priorities during the 2018 legislative session.

End Common Core. Pay new teachers $50,000 a year.

These education platforms are likely to be politically effective for the major party gubernatorial candidates — Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, respectively. But actually implementing them would be more complicated than voters might glean from candidates' stump speeches.

Florida International University will now host an early voting site, Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez announced Wednesday after facing pressure from civil rights groups.

Broward County state Sen. Lauren Book was floated as a potential running mate for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum — but she says she wouldn’t have accepted the offer if it had materialized.

Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who snagged the Democratic nomination for governor in an upset victory on Aug. 28, ultimately chose one of his primary opponents for the lieutenant governor spot on his ticket. Book said she thinks Orlando entrepreneur Chris King is a “wonderful, wonderful choice” and said she’s on “Team Gillum” heading into November.

The president of the University of Miami is hoping to significantly increase the institution’s endowment — and its national and international stature — ahead of its centennial celebration in 2025.

President Julio Frenk calls the private university’s newly adopted strategic plan a “roadmap to our new century.”

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to become a university not just of Miami, not just of this country, but also of the world,” Frenk said during a state of the university speech on Monday night.

Local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters and several other groups are calling on Miami-Dade County to offer early voting on college campuses here.

The groups argue college students often lack transportation to get to the polls, and many have classes or work obligations on Election Day. So they could be disenfranchised without access to early voting on their campuses.

State lawmakers are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the state's long-term financial outlook. Also notable is what's not on the agenda.

Gov. Rick Scott recently asked legislative leaders to give school districts another shot at money some of them rejected because they didn't want to arm school staff. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission — chaired by House and Senate leaders — won't consider his proposal.

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