America's heart of stone | May 29
Distorted view of conservatives
Neal Gabler portrays the divide in America as one between compassionate liberals and stone-hearted conservatives.
He fails to say how it is compassionate to give away other people's money. He fails to explain how people in government are more compassionate than the people whose money they distribute to political constituents in exchange for votes.
He also fails to recognize that conservatives are statistically more generous than liberals when it comes to donating to private charities, and that private charities spend far less money on bureaucratic overhead than do government-run programs.
Finally, Gabler fails to understand that the traditional liberal philosophy promoted by the likes of John F. Kennedy was far more like modern conservatism than like the present-day version of socialism, which has attached the label of "liberal" to itself.
Modern liberalism has fostered a generation whose first impulse, when faced with a problem, is to demand a government solution, and to demand that other people pay for it.
Modern conservatism is urging the government to allow people the freedom to solve problems better than the government ever could.
Gabler's view is not analytical, but provincial.
Robert Arvay, Tampa
High cost of low teacher salaries | May 29
Trust and support teachers, and pay them appropriately
I want to thank Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari for their insightful piece on teacher salaries.
I am a Pinellas County teacher. I view my profession as a calling. I plan lessons carefully, analyze test data, collaborate with my colleagues, and confer with the parents of my students. I go to school early; my days are 8 1/2 hours as opposed to the required 7 1/2. I bring work home nightly (on average, an hour of work per night) and on weekends (on average, two hours of work).
This amounts to roughly 278 hours of work per month. After 12 years of teaching, my monthly take-home pay is $2,250. Divide that by the number of hours I dedicate to my job monthly and my hourly rate is $8.09.
Next year it will be even less, thanks to Gov. Rick Scott's demand that public employees contribute 3 percent of their pay to their pensions. Even though I love being a teacher, I honestly don't know how much longer I can support my family of three on this meager income.
Eggers and Calegari are spot-on when they suggest looking at the approach taken by Finland, Singapore and South Korea: trust the teachers, support the teachers with training and materials, and pay teachers appropriately for their dedication.
In answer to the question, "How do we pay for this?" I ask in response: "How can we justify not paying for this when the future of our society is at stake?"
Jana Bailey, St. Petersburg
Put retirees to work
In addressing the salary dilemma posed in this article, it occurs to me that Eggers and Calegari, and most of the other educational gurus, have not considered an enormous source of quality and affordable expertise that could be enlisted in the effort to regain educational quality: retirees.
In the foreseeable future there will be increasing numbers of highly talented and knowledgeable people leaving nonteaching private and public sector careers. Many of these people want to continue to work, either by necessity or to remain active. These people bring academic, practical and social experience that could be conveyed to high school students.
Most retired individuals have fewer financial obligations than younger teachers who are in the family-building phase. They would be much less affected by the "inadequate" salaries currently offered, whether on a full-time or a part-time basis. For many of the retirees, questions of tenure, health care, retirement plans, raises, etc., would be less of a concern.
With a short, focused training program to prepare the retired professionals for educational and classroom requirements, they could compensate for the growing inadequacies in school systems.
There could be a two-tiered scale where younger teachers would be paid more, allowing new graduates to inject fresh ideas and vigor into the systems.
Michael Schwartz, Dunedin
Making Florida safe for the righteous June 2, Howard Troxler column
Updating address isn't hard
I'm tired of the drum beating about provisional ballots for those who move and do not update their address.
What is so hard about an address update? They do it with the post office. They do it with their employers. They do it with their drivers' licenses. No one has a problem with any of these requirements, and they all get done expeditiously. Why? Because in many cases their livelihood depends on these documents being correct.
It's all about personal responsibility. If you do not live up to your responsibilities, live with the consequences. If you do not care about your right to vote, don't bother following the rules. But do not whine and complain about it when you have to file a provisional ballot because you did not feel it was worth your time and effort to follow a simple rule.
Richard Kohls, Pinellas Park
New low in society | May 16, letter
To get help, one should give
Requiring the jobless to perform community service would be beneficial on several levels and might motivate some to look harder for employment. When you are receiving unemployment checks, the government, in effect, is your employer, and your employer has a right to demand services for the money you receive.
I also support requiring people receiving jobless benefits to undergo random drug tests and make the passing of those tests a requisite for continued benefits. After all, a person so stoned that he or she can barely make it to the mailbox to see if the check has arrived has little chance of finding a job.
The unemployment benefit is intended as a helping hand, but recipients also have the responsibility to diligently look for a job, and if your drug habit prevents you from joining the ranks of working Americans, the rest of us shouldn't have to pay for it. This policy is no different than what millions of us face every day at our jobs: random drug tests to ensure safety and productivity.
Jeff Reckson, St. Petersburg