Editor's note: Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year.
Help us choose from the three nominations below for letter of the month for April 2013. The ballot is at the bottom of the page.
As girl heals, experts offer hope | April 13
Check for safety feature
A tragic accident to befall a small child brings to mind the safe operation of a riding mower.
My rider will not operate in reverse with the mowing deck engaged. Many times, I have stalled when reversing without disengaging the deck. An interlock prevents this occurrence. This is probably a required safety feature.
If you own a rider, you should verify that this feature is operable.
Charles Grubbs, Valrico (April 17)
Lawsuit targets teacher ratings | April 17
According to this article, teachers are being evaluated based on, among several factors, test scores of students they don't teach.
Senate President Don Gaetz was quoted as saying, "So the teachers' union filed a lawsuit saying they don't want to be evaluated based on student performance? I'm shocked. Shocked I say." The report went on to say that he was being facetious. I saw it as unprofessional and dismissive, hardly a tone conducive to civilized discourse on the issue. Therein lies the problem.
No reasonable person thinks it is valid to assess job performance on factors unrelated to their actual performance. Should a doctor's rating be based on the health outcomes of patients he or she never saw? Should Gaetz's constituents evaluate his performance based on that of Gov. Rick Scott or President Barack Obama? No, and the paper said that at least he agreed on that point.
If he does agree that teachers shouldn't be evaluated on students they never see, then he must concede that there are flaws in the present teacher evaluation system. So why the derision? His contempt, along with the rush-to-market push of a flawed evaluation system, serve as evidence of what many believe is a war on public education being engaged by Florida's Legislature.
Evaluate legislators on that.
Ari FitzGerald, Tampa (April 23)
Bill softens Citizens blow | April 26
Let's see if I've got this right: The Florida House of Representatives wants to increase homeowners' premiums for Citizens Property Insurance to one of two new highs. New customers would pay premiums that are "actuarially sound." Existing customers would see an increase over the 10 percent "glide path" annually.
Citizens Insurance has amassed billions in surpluses since the last major storm in 2005, according to your paper. The focus of the proposed rate increase is to persuade Citizens customers to seek coverage with private-sector property insurance companies - the same companies that support Florida lobbyists and make campaign contributions to worthy public servants like those who propose this legislation.
So what I get from this is that as a Citizens customer, the Republican-controlled House wants me to move to "Curly, Moe & Shemp Property Insurance and Auto Tire Vulcanizing Co.," whose reserves may or may not be able to withstand the impact of a major storm. Again the customer loses.
Joe King, New Port Richey (April 28)