Pinellas school budget cuts
Parents should protest in Tallahassee
As a retired high school administrator since 2006, I am baffled by the lack of community support of education. When I left in 2006, the Pinellas County School Board was facing an $18-million shortfall and they have subsequently endured more of the same large cuts each year thereafter. Because of the sagging economy, the budget cuts from Tallahassee keep coming.
I thought Article IX of the state Constitution required the Legislature to provide a "high quality" education for all students living within the state. Now I'm thinking that "quality" system is no longer there.
While I applaud the massive parental turnout at two recent School Board meetings where the closing of many elementary schools was on the table, their energy was misguided. The School Board, in my opinion, has little choice in what to continue to cut since not only is there a sales and property tax shortfall in the state but a significant enrollment drop as well.
The enrollment drop is not just because of the economy but also due to the outdated property tax system, the unnaturally inflated housing prices and the abhorrent property insurance rates in this state.
Those well-meaning parents pleading with the School Board would have better placed their massive and emotional efforts outside of the Capitol building while the legislators were holding their special session. The legislators refused to either come up with some temporary additional taxes for schools, health and other needs, or to begin eliminating the many existing sales tax exemptions.
The parents' concerted effort was not placed in the appropriate venue — it should have been in Tallahassee. They will have still another chance when the Legislature convenes for its regular session in March.
Ralph Sessa, Seminole
Budget deal hits schools | Jan. 12, story
Lawmakers are pushing our state backward
Congratulations to our elected representatives in Tallahassee for so courageously finding a "solution" to our state budget woes. By slashing the budget for education, they are ensuring that Florida will have the large pool of undereducated, low-wage workers needed by McDonald's, 7-Eleven and Wal-Mart stores throughout our great state.
Rather than make the difficult decisions needed to usher our maturing state economy into the future, they have taken us backward. Education should be the last thing slashed, not always the first!
Stuart Berger, Clearwater
Let's see: We have a $2.4-billion shortfall in the state budget. How about making up that amount on the backs of the poor, sick, young and the elderly?
How do our legislators sleep at night? I hope the misery of folks in this state haunts their dreams. We need to take education and health care out of the hands of the Legislature. We need to find ways to finance these unmet needs, even raise taxes. Yes, the "T" word.
Florida will have no reason to seek good-paying jobs or attract investment otherwise. What forward-thinking company would invest in such a backward state atmosphere?
Robert Wiley, Tampa
Middle school schedules in doubt | Jan. 13, story
Seek solution, not a lawsuit
This year, to make room for the state-mandated PE and remedial courses, the middle school schedule in Pinellas County changed from a six-period day to a seven-period day. This change was not ideal for students and was not ideal for teachers, but the decision was made and the new schedule was instituted at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.
To go back to a six-period day when the new semester starts next week would be a huge disruption for 22,000 middle school students. This would be especially hard on the eighth-grade students as it could affect their credits or placement for classes going into high school.
The Pinellas teachers union needs to put the needs of the students first and finish out the school year with the current seven-period schedule, which is in place. Rather than wasting time suing the school district, the union should spend the time working with the district on a solution that will benefit students and teachers and can be initiated at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.
Anna Gilman, Clearwater
Pinellas middle school schedule
As a Hillsborough County teacher who understands full well the negative impact of teaching six out of seven classes a day, I applaud the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and urge them to stand their ground against the same horrible mistake being forced on them. Despite what any superintendent or district administrator might try to claim, this idea is bad for students and teachers, and learning suffers.
This is my 20th year of teaching, and it is my worst. I have 20 percent more work to do, and 20 percent less time to do it in. When I only have an hour a day to plan lessons, grade papers for 150 students, call parents, meet with guidance counselors and read e-mails, something has to give. This is the reality: I call fewer parents about students with problems, I don't assign much writing because I don't have time to grade essays, and my lessons are not as creative as I'd like them to be. I know I speak for the majority of my colleagues.
I still love teaching and I do the best job I can in the time I have each day, including taking work home sometimes. But there is a limit to what we humans can do. I have always worked hard, as good teaching requires. But teaching six out of seven classes a day is too much. While I am more tired and closer to burnout because of it, it is the students who truly suffer. Parents and teachers need to fight this for their sake.
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor
GOP vote stays the course | Jan. 11, story
Heading off a cliff
Jim Greer, re-elected to another term as state Republican Party chairman, has it all wrong.
Minorities won't save the Republicans because no one but a fool wants to associate and be led by the party that marched off the financial cliff. Greer will have his hands full holding on to Republicans, much less attracting minorities whose natural sympathies are with the Democrats.
What does Greer or Gov. Charlie Crist have to offer besides more fife playing and drum beating and flag waving as they march onward to the precipice?
Empty suits in Tallahassee and Washington got us where we are, and it's not likely they have a clue where to go next or how to get there.
It's time to head for the showers.
James B. Johnson, Port Richey
GOP vote stays the course | Jan. 11, story
Where's the outrage?
House Speaker Ray Sansom is still a Florida disgrace. My fellow Republicans in the Legislature are giving him a wink and a nod on his scurrilous behavior of taking a six-figure "pay for play" job at the community college which benefits from his multimillion-dollar spending spree in Tallahassee.
And now the state Republican chairman and even Gov. Charlie Crist seem to want to give Sansom a pass for his great sin.
Re-elected Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer was quoted as saying, "The speaker has resolved the questions relating to this issue." After Greer was re-elected, Crist slobbered his praise on the party leader. And by the governor's own silence on Sansom, he's also slobbering support on the speaker.
Give us a break. Political tone-deafness is spreading among the GOP leadership like a bad virus.
Sansom violated the public trust for personal gain. And my fellow Republicans aren't outraged? What gives?
Republicans should go to MyFloridaHouse.gov and contact their GOP representatives. Tell them to turn up their political hearing aids and get rid of Ray Sansom. If they won't, then tell them that Florida voters will get rid of them.
Tim Shepherd, Palm Harbor