A Times investigation: No cash left behind Feb. 10-11
Dedicated tutors provide students quality service
In response to your series on Supplemental Education Services, I join thousands of members of the Tutor Our Children coalition in condemning abuses in the SES program. As with any program, there have been bad actors, and TOC strongly believes they should be held accountable. However, it is unfair to paint, with the same brush, the many conscientious providers who strive to provide quality tutoring support to children struggling in low-performing schools. TOC is at the forefront of efforts to critically evaluate and enhance this program, including supporting federal legislation designed to expand access to tutoring while requiring rigorous certification, reporting and accountability for tutoring providers.
TOC was founded by tutoring services providers. We are proud of our efforts to give a voice to parents and students who support this program but are forgotten in the debate over education reform.
There is ample research documenting the efficacy of SES tutoring. A study by the U.S. Education Department found the vast majority of participants in SES are from underrepresented minority backgrounds and that SES participation and achievement gains were statistically significant in both mathematics and reading.
The Hillsborough County School District was one of five measured in the study where students benefitted significantly from SES tutoring. A 2012 Florida Inspector General report also found that "significant learning gains were realized" as a result of SES, and that the program "is beneficial and effective in enhancing the academic achievement of students."
SES tutoring provides vital academic support to children of families who otherwise lack the means to pay for this basic assistance. Imposing rigorous standards on SES programs while ensuring our most vulnerable children have continued access is the right thing to do.
Stephanie Monroe, Tutor Our Children, Baltimore
Scott's correct priorities
Gov. Rick Scott recently released his budget for fiscal year 2013-14, and his emphasis is rightly placed on education and jobs. This is where our state's focus must be to continue building a skilled workforce and growing jobs.
One of many proposals of note is the governor's recommendation to double the annual funding for Florida's Quick Response Training Grant program, from $6 million to $12 million. This grant program directly helps expanding Florida businesses like Pinellas County-based Power Design Inc. The company expects to hire and train 134 people with the help of a QRT grant awarded in 2012. This performance-based, partial reimbursement program heightens productivity, enhances employees' skills and increases workers' wages upon completion. Recent data show employees' wages, on average, increased by nearly 30 percent after receiving QRT-supported training.
As chairman of the Workforce Florida board of directors, I applaud Scott for putting Florida's families first in his proposed state budget.
Dwayne E. Ingram, chairman, Workforce Florida Inc., Odessa
It's not limited to Greer | Feb. 12
Keep after this scandal
Adam C. Smith has done an outstanding job on the coverage of the Jim Greer case. He has made the point that Greer was not in this alone and covered the relationships to former Gov. Charlie Crist and others fairly. His comments on the relationship between Greer and the current administration were right on.
I would hope that Smith and this paper now move forward and address these issues in the other parties in our state and perhaps become a force to change this problem. I am sure all parties have this problem and we need, as noted by Smith, major changes in the law and the enforcement of these laws.
Sadly, this problem is at the national level as well as the local level.
Rich Prestera, Treasure Island
Truth is still out there
The Republican Party pulled a coup by having Jim Greer plead guilty, sparing a trial. A trial would have embarrassed not only the Florida GOP but the national party as well, and its "poster boy" Marco Rubio.
Contrary to GOP attorney Steve Dobson's statement, now we will never know the truth. There were too many powerful politicians involved. As citizens and voters we should have all the facts of the case.
If the GOP wants to claim its innocence in this case, Greer should receive the maximum punishment and not a slap on the wrist for taking one for the party.
Joseph Rohrbacher, Spring Hill
Dynamic podium presence
My wife and I have been attending symphonies in Tampa since 1959. I have been out of state for seven months and returned to read that Stefan Sanderling is now conductor emeritus and artistic adviser, and that the orchestra is having a series of guest conductors so board members can chose a new music director and conductor.
Although Sanderling may be an excellent music director, I always thought his stage presence was rather mediocre and he lacked animation and vitality on the podium.
Having attended the Feb. 8 pops concert, I was extremely impressed with guest conductor Victor Vanacore. His stage presence was exhilarating. He was personable, effervescent and exuberant. The audience loved him. If the board could pry him away from the smog in Los Angeles it would be a feather in their caps. I believe that such an esteemed conductor of his status would definitely increase ticket sales.
Edward C. Prange, Tampa
Who's at the Trop? Feb. 10
Flesh out the figures
Only 800 season ticket fans from St. Petersburg? Why not include the total number from Pinellas County? That would be a relevant figure for the discussion. It would also be important to know how many of us in the county have partial season ticket packages. Admittedly the number quoted is low and in need of improvement, but these other numbers are important as well.
We have been partial season ticket holders from Pinellas for more than a dozen years. When the kids were at home they also had tickets. Now that they're gone, we still have tickets for ourselves.
A year ago we attended a Sunday evening concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. We were stuck in a traffic jam that was literally 2 miles long trying to get to the Forum, and that was on a Sunday. Frankly, if the stadium were in Tampa, the Rays would see us no more than a couple of times a season. We are not interested in sitting in weekday rush-hour traffic in Tampa.
John Fischer, Palm Harbor
President urges: Let's get it done Feb. 13
No help for jobless
Young black men in America's inner cities already have unemployment rates nearing 50 percent, and so to "help" them President Barack Obama wants to raise the minimum wage.
Coupled with having to pay for Obamacare, this will give employers more reason than ever to refuse to hire, and those with the poorest job prospects will face even harder times.
Rolf Parta, Bradenton