Not whether to test, but how | July 21, column
For-profit hucksters and myths
As the 2011 Palm Beach County Teacher of the Year, I was pleased to see the Jeb Bush column regarding high-stakes testing — not because it's supportive of Florida's public schools but because it shows that corporate education reformers are on the defensive.
The public, especially parents and teachers, have finally figured out that Bush and his buddies see dollar signs rather than students when they look at the public schools in Florida. No one is buying the myths these for-profit hucksters push — that students in other countries outperform U.S. students, that a single test can determine a student's proficiency, that the challenges facing schools are caused by uncaring teachers, unions and parents, and that a school day dominated by test prep is good for kids.
My instructional techniques — which led to my teaching award — were done in secret because they didn't fit into the drill-and-kill test prep regimen Florida teachers are forced to follow. A year ago I decided I had enough, and I moved abroad to teach in an international school where I am free from the reach of corporate reformers. Sure, we have tests and standards, but we use them in appropriate, research-based ways that support academic, social and emotional success.
Bush and his ilk continue to spew the same tired, offensive lines ("teachers put the adults first," "teachers are finally making children a priority"), but they ring hollow. The real offense is that they got away with this scam for so long.
Jeff Fessler, Bamako, Mali
Truth, lies & the Lens | July 21, editorial
Let's talk payment
The least discussed element of replacing the old Pier is the plan to pay for it. Tax increment financing was originally devised in the 1950s as a novel solution for cities to improve blighted areas. TIFs borrow against projected future increases in property tax revenues to pay off the TIF bonds. However, while those bonds are being paid off, the 50 to 95 percent of tax revenue from those districts bound over for bond repayment does not go toward the regular maintenance of roads, sewer and water systems or police, fire, etc. So the rest of the city pays for all of these utilities in TIF districts.
The theory is that once the TIF bonds are repaid (20 years? 50 years?), the increase in taxes generated by the TIF zone will go into general revenues and benefit the entire city. Also in theory, the formerly blighted area will be improved and generating much higher tax revenues. But the success rate of TIF theory has proven to be less than stellar around the country.
For some public infrastructure projects, TIF financing can work as intended, but bear in mind the long-term debt for all property owners.With my property taxes in mind, I will be voting to stop the Lens and would only support a basic fishing pier to replace it.
Kimberly Trombley, St. Petersburg
Lens is good bait
A Pier is to a city as bait is to fishing.
Have you ever seen a tide that just changed; when it stops, then moves the other way? It is hard to see. It just happened here in St. Petersburg. You don't need to lure fish downtown with entertainment and air conditioning anymore. New fish are coming downtown. It's not just tourist fish, it's young fish, smart fish, the kind of fish that make more fish. These fish won't bite on the old style bait.
Yes, the proposed new bait (the Lens) looks and smells different than the old (the inverted pyramid). It is supposed to. More fish will come, more choices, more jobs.
The Lens is good bait, St. Pete. Be a good fisherman and recognize the changing tide.
Neil Irwin, St. Petersburg
Keep inverted pyramid
Keep the iconic inverted pyramid and rehab it to a state-of-the-art facility. Most agree the pyramid is eye-catching and identifies with St. Pete. Now you've got a closed facility and a design argument. Was the Pier closed early because it was unsafe, or because the voices of change wanted us to get used to not visiting it? Can we have a vote on keeping the pyramid?
Fred Coughlin, Safety Harbor
Maverick McCain is back | July 21
Compromise is key
A statement in this article about "the crop of new conservatives such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who are less interested in compromise or Senate decorum" troubled me greatly.
This country is a republic, where the citizens elect other citizens to represent them in legislatures to debate the issues and reach compromises that most benefit all. If we are electing representatives who have little interest in compromise, what hope is there for solutions to the problems we face now, not to mention those on the horizon we know nothing about?
John Ways, South Pasadena
What loose gun laws did | July 21, column
Maybe what people wanted
Griffin Dix surmises that the gun industry had a three-phase strategy to herd the people, like sheep, to line up at gun dealers' counters and purchase handguns. A 40-year, detailed plan started with persuading Americans to buy handguns for home defense, followed by passage of right-to-carry laws. When people were still "reluctant to carry," supposedly the gun industry manipulated the people even further by forcing multiple governments at almost every level to pass "stand your ground" laws. To support his conclusions he uses various statistics and studies.
I would like to offer an alternative to his opinion. It is possible that the gun manufacturers and various legislatures were responding to the will of free-thinking people who understand that self-defense is a basic part of any living being's desire to survive.
Terry R. Arnold, St. Petersburg
From work, life | July 21
Wow! What an inspirational, moving article about an amazing 99-year-old angel! This man is incredible. With all the gloom and doom it was refreshing to read about Newton Murray!
John Paul Smith, Tampa
What an inspiring story about Newton Murray, who works at Bama Sea Products. His work ethic, personality and determination should an inspiration to young people today, who seem to be lacking his virtues. Reading of his life brought tears to my eyes.
Anyone who knows this man should feel honored.
Jeannine Gallagher, Clearwater