Thursday, June 21, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Friday's letters: S&P has not lowered standards

Slipping back into bad financial habits | Aug. 9, editorial

S&P has not lowered standards

S&P has not lowered its standards to attract business, as a New York Times article claimed. On the contrary, last year S&P actually increased the amount of credit support required to achieve a AAA rating on commercial mortgage-backed securities.

Since S&P implemented its new methodology, there are no bonds to which it has assigned a AAA rating and another agency assigned a lower rating to the same bond. In fact, based on the dollar value of the transactions cited by the New York Times, 97 percent of the commercial mortgage-backed securities that S&P has rated since changing its methodology were rated the same as or lower than other rating agencies.

Concerning the issue of how credit rating analysis is funded, S&P and the vast majority of credit rating agencies have employed the issuer-pays model since the 1970s, when the Penn Central Railroad bankruptcy demonstrated the need for greater transparency in credit ratings.

The SEC, which regulates credit rating agencies, pointed out that the issuer-pay model has many benefits. It is unique in its transparency compared with the alternatives. It enables ratings to be publicly available and free of charge to all market participants and fosters more efficient debt markets and coverage of emerging companies.

S&P has made many changes since the financial crisis in order to strengthen its independence from issuers, monitor global credit risks and improve its methodologies. Based on what S&P learned, it changed the way it rates almost every type of security that was affected by the financial crisis, making it more difficult for securities to achieve high ratings.

Public disclosure of our ratings to a broad audience of market participants means our opinions are subjected to market scrutiny every day from every corner of the capital markets.

Paul Coughlin, executive managing director, global analytics and operations, Standard & Poor's, New York

Teachers cash in on failing kids | Aug. 11

Mend, don't end, tutoring

As the former assistant secretary of education for civil rights and an advocate of federal tutoring programs with Tutor Our Children, I am concerned by the alleged conflicts of interest brought to light in the Times article on educators running government-funded tutoring companies.

Through a provision included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act called Supplemental Education Services, or SES, states are eligible to offer subsidized tutoring to low-income and minority students who are not receiving the individual attention and instruction they need in the classroom.

For so many children, federally funded tutoring services are nothing short of an educational lifeline in an otherwise failed education system. Equally as important, free tutoring is a statutory parental empowerment right for the families of Title I children who are trapped in failing schools. These are exactly the students who need the sort of personalized academic attention tutoring provides in order to close the achievement gap.

Because ethics concerns have been brought to light in Florida, it is imperative that the SES system is reformed not just on a state-by-state basis, but nationally so students can continue to receive the critical instruction they need while bad actors are prevented from exploiting the program for private gain.

As the national debate continues in Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it is imperative that SES and free tutoring services are restored and that the program is included, with reforms, in the bill that ultimately reaches the president's desk.

Stephanie Monroe, Washington, D.C.

War on poverty' not sustainable Aug. 12, letter

Assistance in many forms

I would like to take issue with the letter writer who questions the logic of assisting the poor, calling them "captives of government" and "nonproducers" and citing U.S. Census data that show 49.1 percent of American households are receiving some form of government assistance.

What types of assistance are we talking about? Our national poverty rate hovers at approximately 16 percent, so we are really just talking about food stamps and Medicaid? We are also talking about Medicare and Social Security. Are we suggesting that the elderly who have paid taxes their whole working lives suffer from "a sense of entitlement"? Does this same percentage include retired military and veterans of war receiving disability pensions and VA services? I'd hardly include those as "gimmes."

What about the full-time working poor who still need help making it — so that the rest of us can get low prices at big-box stores? Considering that CEO compensation hit an all-time high last year, while many American households are considered low-income, I think we as a society need to be careful about the language we use — government assistance, handouts, takers, nonproducers, etc.

What we don't want to see as decent caring Americans is "the haves" turning the "war on poverty" into a war on the poor.

Tamara Craddock, Brandon

Russia's antigay law hazy | Aug. 13

Church-state trouble

Under Vladimir Putin's leadership in Russia, the Orthodox Church has assumed an increasingly important role. The new antigay and blasphemy initiatives may be the first of many religious dogmas to be forced on the Russian people.

Is Putin using the church, as Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s, to consolidate power and become the new czar? As Napoleon said when he reinstated the Catholic Church as the official state religion in France, "Religion is great stuff for controlling the common people." This is a glaring example of why separation of church and state is so important.

Frank Prahl, St. Petersburg


Thursday’s letters: On immigration there has to be a better way

‘Zero tolerance’ ignites outrage | June 20Find better way on immigrationOver the years I’ve voted for candidates from both parties. My observation of the Trump administration’s policy on immigration is not about politics. It has to do with having...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Wednesday’s letters: Charters and traditional public schools each have their place

Public school as public good | Letter, June 17Both kinds of schools can workAs a mother and grandmother of children raised in both traditional public and charter schools in Pinellas County (and a 25-year supporting-services employee for public sc...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18

Tuesday’s letters: Keep programs that fight AIDS

For author Biden, it’s a father’s gift | June 6Keep programs that fight AIDSAfter former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to St. Petersburg, I noticed an article that he co-wrote with former Sen. Bill Frist. It reminded everyone about the ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Is anyone watching the money?Hernando County’s budget shortfall is ever changing going from $6 million to $11.5 million to $14 million to what is assumed a final number of $12.6 million. Who knows the budget shortfall could change again.Who’s watchi...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18

Re: County OKs solar zones | June 8Plea ignored at solar plant hearingThe Pasco County Commission on June 5 voted to identify a utility-sized solar electric plant as a "special exception" use on agricultural-zoned land in Pasco County. What thi...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18

Monday’s letters: Skip those plastic bags and save the environment

To save our seas, overcome congressional apathy | Column, June 16Do your part and skip plastic bagsEvery day we read about the shame of our landfills and oceans filling up with plastic bags, yet most people don’t care. My wife and I always carry ...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18

White House defends splitting up families as ‘biblical’ | June 15The suffering of the childrenI am a mother and attorney with more than 20 years of practice living in Tampa. For the past three years, I worked as a magistrate in a Unified Family C...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Saturday’s letters: Community-based care requires community involvement

Fix foster care, and do it quickly | Editorial, June 15Involve the community itselfWhile the detailed article about the scathing state review of Hillsborough County’s foster care problems touched on leadership, a critical point was not addressed....
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Friday’s letters: Freight trains are infrastructure that works in Tampa Bay

Railroads are infrastructure that worksFreight trains carry the loadCentral Florida is our state’s fastest-growing region. We’re on track to outpace South Florida’s growth 2-to-1 over the next several years. Great news for our local economy, but it n...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Thursday’s letters: Charter schools aren’t the enemy

Don’t plug your ears when schools ask for tax | May 20, columnCharter schools aren’t the enemyAs an educator, I am astounded when I hear claims from school board members that charter schools take away funding from the local public school system. ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/14/18