Student fitness linked to higher scores
Childhood obesity in Florida has tripled since 1980. One in three children is overweight or obese. Children who are obese have an 80 percent greater chance of remaining obese into their adult years.
Add to that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate that health care for the obese costs the United States an additional $147 billion annually, and you've got a recipe for physical and fiscal failure.
A 2008 Pinellas County schools study showed a direct relationship between a student's FCAT scores and the results of his or her FitnessGram, a series of six tests that determines overall health-related fitness as opposed to athletic ability. The higher the number of FitnessGram tests the students pass, the higher the academic testing score. The Pinellas results are not unique; study after study nationwide has revealed a direct connection between a regular PE program and learning ability, classroom behavior and test scores. Simply put, kids who are physically active perform better academically.
And yet the number of mandatory PE classes has dropped across the state since the mid 1990s, when Florida's education system began focusing on standardized test scores.
The remedies are relatively simple and low-cost, especially when compared to the expense of treating obesity. The Pinellas County School District will be joining with the American Heart Association during the coming legislative session to work for the passage of laws that will increase physical education in elementary and middle schools. Additionally, we will work for increased opportunities for children to play by forming joint-use agreements that will allow families extended use of school playgrounds and fields after school and on weekends.
I encourage all citizens to stand with the school district and the American Heart Association by encouraging your elected representatives to vote to provide quality PE classes and to champion joint-use agreements.
Peggy Johns, supervisor, pre-K-12 health education, Pinellas County schools
Cuts affect the vulnerable
It was pathetic watching President Barack Obama tell us how "we the little people" will have to expect cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
At the same time:
• The politicians who created the crisis won't have to endure cuts in their health care benefits or pensions.
• The housing crisis that has affected many of us was caused largely by government agencies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
• We pay a high cost for imported oil because of the lack of an energy policy to make us energy independent.
How long do "we the little people" have to put up with their (the politicians') incompetence?
John R. Vlasek, Riverview
Scott's plans are what the voters asked for Feb. 14
We're not a high-tax state
As a reminder to those who think Gov. Rick Scott has a mandate for his "more conservative vision," remember that 51.1 percent of those who went to the polls didn't vote for him.
And for those who think this state is overtaxed, Florida's tax burden ranked 45th out of 50 states in 2004, according to the Tax Foundation. Florida levies no state income tax. Florida's corporate tax structure consists of a flat rate of 5.5 percent on all corporate income, which ranks 40th highest among states that tax corporate income.
Wendy Copeland, Largo
Goodbye, great horned friend | Feb. 14
A human touch
As a nature lover and animal health provider, I found this front-page article particularly heartening. In a world where we seem surrounded by so many negative images and gloomy articles, it is refreshing to read a positive news story with a real human touch.
The story of JR the great horned owl opens the door for a life lesson about not attempting to raise or keep wildlife.
I am a volunteer for the Largo nature parks and was one of JR's caregivers. All of his caregivers are thrilled that JR is surviving, but it could have been a different outcome.
Young wild animals raised without contact with their own species fail to develop survival skills and fear of humans, virtually eliminating their chances of survival in the wild. If it was not for the original human contact that JR received as a fledging, he would have been free years ago.
If you find an animal that needs help, please do what is best for it and contact your local rehabilitation center. There is no substitute for professional care. A trained wildlife rehabilitator has the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure a wild animal has its second chance at life.
Dr. May-li Cuypers, DVM, Largo
Discounts hit insurers' solvency | Feb. 17, letter
Getting paid for a sinkhole house and selling it is not fraud. What the letter writer neglects to say is that a homeowner who pays for sinkhole coverage should be paid for the house. He or she then has the option of taking the money and repairing the house, and staying there; or taking the money, not repairing the home, and selling it to those who buy such houses for about 30 cents on the dollar.
The home can't be sold unless repaired according to the engineers' specifications. However, the state still gets its taxes based on the nonsinkhole value, because they won't re-evaluate it until the following year.
Robert Petroskky, Spring Hill
Hiding assets can cost debtors later | Feb. 16
Know the basics
Thank you for highlighting the dangers of inaccuracies in bankruptcy filings. I urge all who are thinking about filing bankruptcy to view a 36-minute video called Bankruptcy Basics, which is available through the Internet at our court's website. The video includes a segment on avoiding bankruptcy crimes and loss of the ability to discharge — meaning "wipe out" — debts. The website address is: www.flmb.uscourts.gov/bankruptcybasics/default.htm.
Catherine Peek McEwen, U.S. bankruptcy judge, Middle District of Florida, Tampa
Creativity can do wonders
President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the U.S. interstate highways built, not fully realizing at the time that the system would bring about enormous business growth. The soldier who came up with the idea of car rentals at airports did not have any guarantee that it would work. But it did, and today we benefit from that vision.
Once the rail system is built, there will be people with vision and creative faith who will find a way for train passengers to quickly have a car available, which could be entered with a member code, driven and perhaps left at designated lots when no longer needed. Computer billing avoids the hassle of actually renting a car, as we do now. There are many possibilities that would encourage riders who prefer a safe, fast, dependable and stress-free train journey to a wearisome, risky car trip on congested Interstate 4.
Gov. Rick Scott lacks both vision and faith in American creativity.
Alfred J. Lilienthal, Brandon
Public radio funding
Save in-depth reporting
Every time there is a call for reducing spending in Congress, one party is determined to cut support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
This organization helps pay for one of the few sources for relatively unbiased, in-depth news and investigative reports. More than half the population of the United States tunes in.
Reducing or eliminating public funding for public radio and television is an ill-conceived method of reducing the national debt.
Diana Rao, Tampa