The Pinellas County School Board has continually and systematically:
• Misused results of FCAT tests to reward/punish teachers, principals, area superintendents and the superintendent.
• Provided no leadership on effective long-term curricula, constantly changing to the latest educational fad.
• Provided no leadership on the real problem, dropout prevention.
• Built a bloated administrative staff, housed in a lavish taxpayer-financed facility.
• Not established and stood by real academic, disciplinary and social standards.
• Not established and enforced a strong policy on cheating or the improper use of the Internet for research.
• And had to fight encroachment by nonpublic school entities, which are also trying to transfer badly needed public funds to private religious-based institutions.
Parents are far from blame-free. They have:
• Not supported teachers and administrators on disciplinary actions taken against their "angel" children.
• And not provided good examples and reasonable counsel.
Many, not all, students:
• Will do only what is asked of them. Teachers must provide examples of formats, questions to ask, and real-world applications to guide students' thinking.
• And prefer to spend four hours on the Internet in search of an answer rather than spend one hour critically evaluating an article. Teachers must provide fresh examples where Internet research has not been published.
Business involvement on the Pinellas Education Foundation does not qualify to replace elected School Board members. The board is the problem and the solution. Let's keep the responsibility where it legally belongs.
Bruce Hadburg, Safety Harbor
Accountability for all
It looks like "another round" with Jeb Bush wanting to use public funds toward the private-school sector, a.k.a. school vouchers.
As a public school teacher for 31 years, I find that many students transferring from private/religious schools to our public schools are below grade level expectations as measured by our district's standards. Most people are of the opinion that private school teachers make much more money and their students are much better educated. The fact is that private school teachers make much less money and we do not know that their students are much better educated, because "voucher students" are not required to take the FCAT to measure academic gains from year to year.
Bush spearheaded the development of "his FCAT" to keep track of how public schools are doing. Why, then, would he not expect private schools receiving public funding to adhere to the same accountability measures as our public school students?
Leigh Taylor, St. Petersburg
New insurance fix merits closer look | June 17, editorial
Spread out insurance risk
A number of letters have commented on a proposal by some businessmen for a state wind storm fund that would replace private wind storm insurance. I'd like to remind readers that was Jim Davis' plan when he ran for governor. So these guys don't have anything new.
Public insurance pools can have many advantages, especially spreading risk equally throughout the state. The problem, as we have seen, is extracting the savings from the insurance companies as they invent one excuse after another to keep rates high.
And our Legislature is not likely to consider further replacing private markets with public structures. Many of them have campaigned against the government and in favor of privatizing everything. The Legislature is worried Citizens will be too successful and is working hard to shut it down.
The Florida Consumer Action Network continues to press for strong regulation of insurers and education of consumers. FCAN believes the private market could one day deliver insurance efficiently in Florida, but a federal "backstop" may be needed. This would spread risk even more efficiently than the Davis plan.
Our friends in Iowa will be completely federally insured for recent floods through a combination of federal flood insurance, FEMA grants and federal crop insurance. If only Florida were so favored.
Bill Newton, executive director, FCAN, Tampa
225 missions in airlift 'just another job' June 24, story
True American heroes
We need to hear more about our true national heroes, past and present, like Charles Hundley. Thank you for telling us his story about serving America and others. Tears welled up in my eyes when I read about him.
I remember learning about the Berlin Airlift in history classes. It made me proud to be an American. I wonder if my grandchildren will learn about today's heroes, who freed more than 50-million people from the clutches of Islamic fascism.
It is sad that today's students don't learn about what Americans have done around the world to serve others. This article and Mr. Hundley's story should be required reading in our public schools.
Tim Shepherd, Palm Harbor
Electric car technology
John McCain's proposed $300-million prize for whoever can develop a better automobile battery is too late. There are already four lithium battery makers that can do this now; they just need orders for electric vehicles for them to go from preproduction to full production.
What's really needed are good electric vehicle designs. Since Detroit won't build them because they have few parts to make money from, we need to mandate 50 mpg fleet averages within five years. This can be done by building electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
The tech is here; we just need to do it.
Jerry Dycus, Riverview
Beaches and oil blobs
Anyone who has not experienced the consequences of offshore oil drilling first-hand, take note. When I lived in Manhattan Beach, Calif., we had to keep a mason jar filled with gasoline by the back door; everyone had some type of container. It was not possible to go to the beach without getting tar on your feet; it was everywhere in the sand, in small blobs and big blobs.
In order not to track it all over the house you had to clean your feet before entering. It didn't matter which beach you went to, San Clemente, Laguna, Hermosa — we all suffered from the offshore lines at Long Beach.
How is this possible, I was asked: The lines are sealed. Well, your car is sealed too. Walk around a parking lot and see how many cars have dripped oil. I doubt you will find one spot without some type of residue. Please don't allow drilling; it will ruin our beaches for tourism and for us too.
Pat Scanlon, St. Petersburg