Don't spend more on school vouchers | Feb. 18, editorial
Don't shut the door to school options
As every parent and teacher knows, one size does not fit all. That's why the future of public education lies in customizing learning. Our friends at the Times think that Tax Credit Scholarships for low-income students don't belong in the mix, but I hope one day they will see the light.
Magnet schools, fundamental schools, voluntary prekindergarten, charter schools, Tax Credit Scholarships, online schools, McKay Scholarships and dual enrollment are all part of this future and, according to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, so are religious schools, provided attendance is "genuinely" voluntary. This 2002 decision is why the Florida Supreme Court ignored religion when it ruled the Opportunity Scholarships unconstitutional in 2006.
As the Times points out, when a child leaves her assigned school to attend a scholarship school her funding leaves also. But that's true of every departure, and the only way to prevent this is to abolish all forms of school choice and require that all children attend their assigned schools. Of course, we know this approach does not work for many children. Ultimately the public good is better served if we put meeting the needs of each child over protecting the market share of a school or school district.
The most effective way to improve public education is to empower educators to create diverse learning options and empower parents to match their children with the learning options that best meet their need. This does present a challenge for how to properly regulate and manage an increasingly diverse public education system. But just saying no to options for poor children strikes me as indefensible.
Doug Tuthill, president, Florida School Choice Fund, Tampa
Chase policy: game on | Feb. 18, story
New police policy is cause for concern
It is quite pathetic that a police officer would characterize the St. Petersburg Police Department's revised chase policy as "game on." This ill-advised change in policy and this officer's remark should give us all reason to be concerned. This is anything but a game. The residents of St. Petersburg would be hard pressed to find another policy revision within the last 10 years with the level of seriousness attached to this matter.
This is supposed to be a public safety tool, but in reality it is the safety of the public that is at risk. Sgt. Karl Lounge's remark gives the impression that he is eager to turn on the lights of his patrol car and start racing through the streets. He seems to be itching to catch the bad guys — the burglary suspects, auto thieves, smash-and-grab perpetrators, the auto burglars and the like.
The NAACP certainly supports our law enforcement officers. We want the criminal elements in our community to face the courts for their unlawful behaviors. However, we do not support this revised chase policy at all. We do not feel that our streets are conducive to anyone traveling 70, 80, 90 or more miles per hour with no regard for traffic lights, stop signs, speed bumps or other traffic devices. We definitely don't think it should happen because somebody broke into a car or a storefront window to steal an item.
The mayor and Officer Lounge should prepare themselves for the time when they will face an angry public and the family members of an innocent, yet severely injured or deceased relative due to this relaxed policy. We can only imagine what they might say, "Uh, we saw the guy break the window of a car and, uh, the game was on."
Ray Tampa, president, St. Petersburg NAACP
Police chases in St. Petersburg
Risking needless deaths
In the recent election for mayor, only Bill Foster and one other candidate advocated for increasing police chases through our city. I recommended to all my friends that they vote against these two candidates for that reason alone, because who wants to lose a mother, father, brother, sister or a child because the police want to chase a kid stealing a car?
The present policy was invoked years ago because of the needless loss of life from intersection accidents caused by these chases. With that knowledge and against the advice of police Chief Chuck Harmon, Mayor Bill Foster is going to reinstitute this policy in the next 30 to 60 days.
When these needless deaths occur, and they will, I can only hope that the mayor will have the decency not to publicly express sympathy for the families, as those deaths will rest solely on his shoulders. And hopefully the electorate will remember these needless deaths in the next election.
Larry D. Beltz, St. Petersburg
Filibuster is fouling the system | Feb. 18
Blame divided Democrats
The letter writer is giving Senate Republicans way too much credit for their ability to stop the passage of the proposed health care legislation, or any other legislation, via filibuster.
As the writer most likely knows, it takes 60 senatorial votes to break a filibuster attempt and until quite recently the Democratic Party has had a filibuster-proof majority. In fact the Senate's health care legislation has already passed the Senate.
The fact is that a unified Democrat-dominated Senate could have passed any legislation through the Senate without fear of a filibuster by the opposition, until the recent Massachusetts election of a Republican senator.
That the writer chooses to assign blame for paralysis in Washington to Republican senators under these circumstances is breathtakingly laughable.
To my understanding, the already-passed Senate legislation could be put before President Barack Obama as soon as that legislation passes muster with the House where the Democrats enjoy an overwhelming majority. The Republicans wouldn't have the ability to stop it. It is entirely up to the Democratic Congress; they control the future of this legislation, not the outnumbered Republicans.
Tom Waldbart, Wesley Chapel
Filibuster is fouling the system | Feb. 18
Our broken system
I agree with the writer of this letter but believe that the problem is more serious and deeper than just the filibuster. Our political system is broken, and this required the efforts of both political parties and several decades to accomplish.
Our political system is not concerned with what is best for the American people or our country but in how best to divide, alienate and maintain power. If our elected officials will not solve the problems they created then they do not deserve our respect or loyalty.
Things are only going to get worse and to help understand why I would like to recommend a book, China's Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society, written by John and Doris Naisbitt. If we do not wake up soon, then all of our present concerns and problems will pale compared to what we will be faced with in the not-too-distant future.
Dan Lemon, St. Petersburg
Swiftmud on the job
I'm an east Hillsborough County resident — home of beautiful strawberry fields, lovely orange groves, multiple sinkholes and many dry wells.
As an owner of one of those dry wells since Jan. 10, I have had many communications with the Southwest Florida Water Management District since I informed them of my plight. I want to publicly commend all of these people for the thoroughly professional manner and the up-to-date techniques they are using to find the cause of (and the way to correct) my well problems.
Often government agencies come under fire for slipshod, lackadaisical approaches to their jobs. This has not been my experience. They are working closely with my pump and well man to ensure I have a working well with clean, clear drinking water, as I did before Jan. 10.
The wait has been somewhat stressful, but I appreciate the problems they are encountering with so many of us without water. I'm sure the agency has been subject to a few tirades by upset residents, and I feel compelled to tell others of my experience thus far as I await a solution to my dry well.
Dorothy Lamb, Dover
Cold takes deadly toll on manatees | Feb, 17
Curious manatee math
According to this article, the state (you and me) spent more than $1 million to rescue 61 manatees. That's about $17,000 per manatee.
Elsewhere in the article it states that biologists were able to count a record number of manatees in Florida last month. So we have more manatees than ever and were spending $17,000 to save each one. It doesn't make sense to me.
Art Gonsalves, Clearwater
Council's silence on prayer is deafening Feb. 12
Just get to work
The issue of an opening prayer at Tampa City Council is easy to resolve.
Why have any opening prayers or silence? Council meetings can proceed without that controversy and attend to true council matters. Wouldn't that be simpler and inclusive for all?
Elvina L. Bergmann, St. Pete Beach