Tutoring a mandated moneymaker | Feb. 10
Fraud potential built into system
This article fails to illuminate the source of the problem. The tutoring described is mandated under the Supplemental Educational Services provision of the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB requires that each school receiving funding be rated on "adequate yearly progress." This compares the proficiency of the school's overall population and each of eight designated subgroups, including disabled and those with limited English proficiency, against predefined escalating targets in reading and mathematics.
If any the 30-plus targets are not met, or if less than 95 percent of the students within each subgroup are tested, the entire school is deemed "failing." These are not just schools with "low test scores." By the time the U.S. Education Department began granting waivers, over 60 percent of the nation's schools were labeled failing. Schools that fail twice are required to offer students transportation to a "nonfailing" school, if they can find one. Schools that fail three times — and there are many A-rated schools in that group — are required to offer supplemental educational services to their students.
The potential for fraud is built into the structure of the program. First, all poor students are eligible regardless of academic need. Large numbers of above-average students avail themselves of the program. Although the tutoring stipend is fixed at around $1,500, the amount of service is negotiated. Parents can sign up for any amount of tutoring and the provider still gets the full amount if that's what is contracted. It should come as no surprise that providers are giving incentives for parents to "sign on the dotted line."
NCLB transformed the Elementary Secondary Education Act, a law designed to help disadvantaged students, into an abomination designed to transfer public funds to the private sector. NCLB is a national embarrassment that Congress is too dysfunctional to repeal and replace.
Steven Urdegar, Plantation
Tutoring a mandated moneymaker | Feb. 10
Stop the madness
We can't afford to pay our teachers a decent wage, yet we pay criminals and other unqualified people twice the average teacher hourly rate to tutor our struggling children. Parent volunteers have to undergo a background check to help in their children's schools, yet the state pays felons to work with our most vulnerable children. State legislators quietly vote to keep the money flowing. When will the madness stop?
Charles Wall, Oldsmar
System out of control
Kudos to Michael Laforgia for a great bit of investigative journalism is his expose on the state's mandated tutoring program. This is just another example of a completely corrupt and out of control government program our "elected" representatives saw fit to leave in place.
Not one of them could possibly have been unaware of the fraud going on, yet with a little help from some well-funded lobbyists they had no trouble rubber-stamping another go around.
Until we limit the influence of PAC and special interest money at the state and federal level, we can look forward to funding many more sham programs like this to the tune of millions of dollars (state) and billions (federal).
John Sackett, St. Petersburg
Tutoring a mandated moneymaker and Lobbyists see dollar signs in contracts | Feb. 10
Bad government's high cost
These articles show that legislators and administrators for the state and school districts are allowing lobbyists and criminals to rip off the taxpayers. It looks like Florida is a cheap imitation of the Louisiana of Huey Long, the Missouri of Pendergast, the New York of Tammany Hall, and the Chicago of Daley. It is not so much a problem of big government as bad government. Maybe it's a bit of both.
John B. Mooney, Hudson
Rubio adopts skeptical stance on global warning science | Feb. 11
Sen. Marco Rubio's climate denier statements make it hard to tell whether he is auditioning for a Sarah Palin award or reaching back to the tea party to remind them he is still one of the gang.
What mysterious information is he withholding in stating that there is still debate on the climate change origins? Hold his feet to the fire, probe his remarks, and you will find a hollow core of a man.
Chuck Hawkins, Safety Harbor
Money grubbing raised to a high art | Feb. 12, Daniel Ruth column
Up to their necks in muck
Daniel Ruth's column comes on the heels of articles detailing $50 million spent by Florida legislators on unproven tutoring programs, all at the behest of lobbyists. One can only guess at how much muck would have been uncovered had the Jim Greer trial gone forth — much of it related to Gov. Rick Scott's and the legislators' rush to privatize anything they can get their hands on.
We need to remember that the civil service — workers on the public payroll to provide public services — originally arose specifically in response to this type of abuse. Businesses and individuals with deep pockets got contracts and jobs; the average citizen could only stand by and pay the bill.
A major goal of voters in 2014 should be to replace any legislator — or governor — not committed to ending this robbery.
Stephen E. Phillips, St. Petersburg
Florida House Bill 53
Publish testing data
I am writing to urge support for Florida House Bill 53. It requires school districts to establish and approve testing and reporting schedules for district-mandated assessments and publish schedules on their websites.
A failure to assess students in an organized manner will delay identifying at-risk students and result in improper allocation of education funds. Research has demonstrated that early detection is critical. Timely assessments help place the students in the most advantageous educational programs.
The success of our students depends on thorough assessments designed to test their aptitude and abilities. Too many students are set up to fail because they are not properly screened. Many challenged students fall through the cracks or get shuffled along in the system because of a lack of funding for testing and insufficient resources for remediation and alternative programs.
Standardized testing done routinely will help get solid numbers that may be used to get additional federal funding for students who desperately need more help.
Hector Davila, Brandon