FCAT scores deliver jolt | May 27
Drastic measures needed
The recent FCAT results show that some St. Petersburg elementary schools have about only 20 percent of students reading proficiently. This is unacceptable, and no amount of "teacher accountability" or training is going to substantially change this. Something drastic needs to be done. As a former school counselor, I would like to propose a solution.
Make the first two hours of the school day tutoring time, and bring in volunteers from the community (one hour of reading, a second hour of math). St. Petersburg has thousands of retired people who could come to schools and help. The schools may say this is too big a project to vet and monitor, but the school district administration building is full of people who are "curriculum specialists." Obviously, their curriculum isn't working.
Children need more time reading. Currently, with 18 to 22 students per teacher, individual reading time is limited to a few minutes per day per child. This is not enough to make children proficient, let alone strong readers. These children should also have at least an hour a day on a computer, where they are playing games that help them improve math and phonics skills. The entire school sharing one computer lab is antiquated.
Our schools are failing children. We need immediate restructuring and new approaches. Parents should be demonstrating in the streets until something is done.
Wendy Amato, St. Petersburg
TIA ceremony goes awry | June 3
Showboating over safety
Tampa airport authorities may want to spend more time adhering to airline and airport safety procedures and less time putting on public relations stunts. As a former airline pilot I'm aware that most major airlines have halted the water cannon pageantry in celebration of retiring airline pilots citing safety concerns. Airline safety in the United States is at a record high. Let's not regress from that trend in pursuit of photo ops!
Pat Hostler, Lutz
Scott hiding on Medicaid | May 20
Caught in the web
Much has been written on the lead-up to Gov. Rick Scott privatizing Medicaid. Most of it mentions the built-in federal mandate to safeguard continued care. In Pinellas County, as the plan rolled into effect on June 1, that is most definitely not the case.
Most articles mention long-term care for the elderly as if that's the only portion of Medicare/Medicaid being privatized. Medicaid is primarily used by young children. At All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and Sarasota, clerks have been working to re-register their patients in the new plans. All payments have been suspended until this tedious process is done — one by one. When payments are suspended, so is care unless the patient can pay for it. My own grandchildren are caught in this web and cannot get the therapy they were receiving and approved for already both by their own insurance and their secondary Medicaid plan. Treatment has stopped completely. They are not the only ones.
Who are the seven private insurance companies now responsible for the health of our children and elderly? That seems a mystery. Why isn't anyone paying attention to this huge social experiment on the less fortunate among us? And who is naive enough to think that these seven private, secret companies will not reap huge profits off the backs of our sick?
Arlene Pickard, St. Petersburg
Rules could increase power bills | June 3
Paying for a shared resource
The headline "Proposed emissions rules could increase power bills" is deceptive and totally misses the point of the new EPA regulations on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. It is true that, under these regulations, electric utilities relying on coal will have to find cleaner ways to produce electricity, and that will raise their costs. However, let's not forget that electric companies (and we, their customers) have been using the air as a free dumping ground for carbon emissions for decades. There is no market for "clean air," which is why this resource has been free, and companies such as TECO can keep costs down. If costs increase as a result of the regulations, it is simply because we are finally paying for a resource that we all share and value.
We know from recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and the Third National Climate Assessment (both written about in the Times) that the costs of doing nothing to slow down climate change are going to be much more than a few dollars added to one's utility bill each year. Those of us in Florida should be particularly concerned by warnings from the scientific community about increased sea level rise, water shortages and extreme heat events. The new EPA regulations will, in fact, barely make a dent in climate change, but at least it is a start — and one worth paying for.
Rebecca Harris Barancik, St. Petersburg
Scott to sign budget | June 2
Starving our schools
I am reminded of the phrase "Don't believe the hype" when it comes to the victory lap that Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Republicans are doing about education funding. They say that this year we are spending $18.9 billion on education and the most we had ever spent before is $18.75 billion (in 2007).
This tells only a fraction of the story.
Today we have 67,000 more students, and per-pupil spending has dropped.
Then factor in Senate Bill 736, which requires new pay scales based on next year's standardized tests, all the costs for Common Core and various unfunded mandates, and districts aren't just doing more with less, they are doing a lot more with a crippling amount of less. The only people who could possibly be happy about this budget are charter school operators and private schools that take vouchers. They have seen their piece of the pie grow while public schools are starved.
If you are okay with the governor and legislature starving our schools, then this is the group for you. If you think we should do better, then it's time you started demanding it.
Chris Guerrieri, Jacksonville