House panel okays $6M for girl

Published March 28, 2007


For seven years, the family of Minouche Noel has petitioned the state for $8.5-million as a result of her paralysis caused by negligence at a state-run health clinic.

A Broward County jury approved the money eight years ago. But under state law her family's lawyers and lobbyists must maneuver a claims bill through the Legislature, a long, often frustrating process.

The House Health Care Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill giving $6-million to Noel and her family. By law, family lawyers are entitled to 25 percent of the total.

Prospects for passage appear brighter this year because legislative leaders have reopened the claims bill process and Gov. Charlie Crist insisted on $5-million in damages to the family of the late Martin Lee Anderson, who died of injuries at a state-run boot camp last year.

Noel is now an 18-year-old Brevard Community College student. Lawmakers were given photos of Noel showing her deeply bruised, calloused knuckles because she must crawl on the floor. Her wheelchair is too wide to fit through the doorway of her home.

Anderson lawyer on FAMU board

The newest member of the Florida A&M board of trustees is one of the two lawyers who represents the family of Martin Lee Anderson, the Panama City teen killed in that juvenile boot camp.

Daryl D. Parks, 38, was appointed to the board Tuesday by Gov. Charlie Crist, who said in a statement that Parks "is an energetic and hard-working person who cares a great deal about the future" of FAMU.

Parks graduated from FAMU and the Florida State University College of Law. He replaces Jesse Tyson for a term that runs through Jan. 6, 2011, assuming his appointment is confirmed by the state Senate next month.

Class size law again under attack

Another year, another attempt to relax the class size amendment.

This time the push comes from Rep. David Simmons, son of two former public school teachers. Simmons, a Central Florida Republican, chairs the House education committee that approved language Tuesday morning for a proposed constitutional amendment that would add wiggle room to the class size requirements approved by voters in 2002.

The class size caps of 18, 22 and 25 for various grade levels would no longer be strict "maximums." Districts would comply as long as their "average district class sizes" do not exceed the caps, and even then individual classes could have up to five additional students.

Simmons' committee also endorsed proposed legislation to use the estimated $370-million in construction savings that would result from the change to increase salaries for school personnel, from teachers to custodians, who could get a raise of about $2,000 each.

"This is not a repeal of the amendment; this is a fix," Simmons said, calling the current class size rules "an insane waste of money."

Next stop: the House Schools and Learning Council. But the House may be as far as this gets.

Sen. Don Gaetz, who chairs the Senate's K-12 committee, conceded there likely isn't enough support for the measure in the Senate, where the six Republicans who broke ranks to vote down a similar proposal last year are still in office.

It would take a three-fourths vote of both chambers to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.

"The practical side of me says this faces tough sledding," said Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County school superintendent.