02/09/18: Tesla Roadster Goes from Fla. To Space, State Education Funding Battle

Feb 9, 2018

Teacher unions are being targeted in the battle over public education in Florida. That’s among the stories you’ll hear in this week’s Roundup.

This image shows the Tesla Roadster launched into space Wednesday by Space X. It's "driven" by "Starman," a dummy in an astronaut suit.
Credit Space X / Via AP

You’ll also hear how to change evacuation plans when another big storm threatens the state. And launching a Tesla Roadster sports car into orbit -- could it ignite a new era of space travel from the Space Coast?

The Battle For Education Money

The House approved a massive education bill Thursday that drew fiery debate. The bill includes private school vouchers for students who are bullied or suffer other abuses in public schools. It also targets teachers unions - forcing them to disband if their membership falls below 50 percent teacher participation.

The House also passed a state budget that ties billions of dollars in public school funding to passage of the nearly 200 page education bill, known as House Bill 7055.

Democrats like Cutler Bay Representative Kionne McGhee blasted the plan on the House floor. “Am I to read that we are now holding hostage $8.3-billion in section 2 on page 20 for specific appropriations 92 unless we pay the ransom found within House bill 7055 or similar legislation?”

But, in a 66 to 43 vote, the House passed House Bill 7055, which contain dozens of policy changes for Florida’s K through 12 public school system.

WLRN education reporter Jessica Bakeman joined us with more.

Refining Evacuation Plans

Thousands of Florida residents and visitors hit Interstate 75 last September in an effort to get out of Hurricane Irma’s path. The major storm was a Category 4 as it bore down on the southern part of the peninsula.

Evacuees were slowed by traffic jams and gas stations out of fuel.

State transportation officials opened up the right shoulder of interstates to try to move traffic more quickly, but they didn’t change the flow of traffic - turning southbound lanes into northbound lanes - that would have created what’s called a “contraflow” on the largest roadways.

In October, state transportation leaders said road shoulders will continue to be the primary way to speed evacuations, rather than converting all traffic lanes to the same direction.

Florida Transportation Secretary Michael Dew told a state House Committee that too many safety risks are involved in making highways one-way for evacuees. The process is known as “contraflow.”

Instead, Dew said Florida will continue to use paved shoulders as extra lanes, a process used on northbound Interstate 75 between Wildwood and the Georgia state line and along westbound Interstate 4 from Orlando to Tampa as Irma approached.

Now the Florida Department of Transportation is out with two reports detailing ways to reduce gridlock and fuel shortages during hurricane evacuations.

We spoke with David Paulison about the issue. He was the Miami-Dade Fire Chief during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and took over as chief administrator of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Space X Launches Tesla Roadster Into Space From Florida

There was a lot  excitement earlier this week as SpaceX launched its first Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday from Cape Canaveral.

The test flight launched a mannequin named Starman and an electric sports car belonging to SpaceX founder Elon Musk toward Mars. The payload, a Tesla Roadster, made it into orbit with Musk suggesting on Twitter that his Tesla overshot its intended orbit and just might fly out past Mars.

The Falcon Heavy can haul more than 70 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit, making it America’s most powerful rocket since NASA's Saturn V (five). It also sports a low price tag, coming in at $90 million.

SpaceX spent half a billion dollars developing the rocket.  WMFE space reporter Brendan Byrne covered the launch and joined us from Orlando.