From noble profession to brutal one | Sept. 23, Bill Maxwell column
Recognize teachers' importance
The conditions Bill Maxwell describes facing teachers are very real — so real he can no longer advise students to enter the teaching profession. That is a sad turn of events for a profession that has shaped this nation. Whether it involved putting a robot on Mars, discovering a cure for polio or performing open-heart surgery on a newborn, millions of Americans are touched by teachers every day.
Yet, as Maxwell so eloquently notes, our teachers receive little respect and work in one of the most regulated professions in America — probably the world. When I accepted my first teaching position 50 years ago, I joined the revered ranks of doctors and ministers, professions that the community held in the highest regard. I was valued and was allowed to teach without the fear that a standardized test, with its innate error of measurement, would determine the quality of my performance. I was accountable to my students, their parents and their future teachers. The high stakes for me were not tests, but whether the children I was responsible for learned what they needed to learn.
My position is focused on recruitment and preparation of teachers. I and my fellow educators are up front with our students. We share with them what Maxwell notes in his column. They will need "a stiff spine, they will need to learn personal stress management, and the psychology of being a scapegoat." They will be informed that regardless of how varied their students are in their abilities and experiences that their teacher will be primarily judged by how their students perform on one "common measure" — excuse me — one standardized test.
Teachers truly do help shape the future of this community, this state and this nation. Let's recognize the importance of teachers again so that collectively, Maxwell and each of us can enthusiastically advise our best and our brightest to become teachers.
Bill Heller, dean, College of Education, USF St. Petersburg
Romney's latest howler
It was Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remarks that finally awoke the apathetic. Now his latest pearl: "We have medical coverage for the uninsured. They get taken in an ambulance and are treated by the ER."
Seriously? In a 2010 interview, he said "those who go to the ER and are uninsured make it a socialist program." Is this another Etch A Sketch moment? Next time you go to the ER, tell them Mitt sent you and don't pay. That is his affordable care for all.
Spencer Blank, Ocala
When it comes to the presidential election, people seem to commonly ask, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" Perhaps that is the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking if either of the two candidates can put forth a program that will allow all Americans to be better off four years from now than we are today.
Terry Ward, St. Petersburg
Taxes!! | Sept. 23
Gains siphoned to the top
This article needs to be set in the context of two crucial historical facts.
First is the problem of extreme inequality. Over the last three decades the share of national income of persons in the top 1 percent has doubled — rising from about 10 percent in the early '80s to 21 percent now. During the last 30 years, fully 80 percent of the gains in national economic growth went to the top 1 percent. Middle incomes have stagnated, and the poor got poorer.
Second, at the same time, the top economic elite have enjoyed the lion's share of the Bush-era tax cuts — which added over $3 trillion to our national debt. Tax revenue this year is 14.8 percent of GDP, the lowest since 1950 — compared to 20 percent in 2000. This anemic level of revenue is insufficient to sustain a crumbling infrastructure and has resulted in an even greater drag on the economy.
The bottom line is that those who have benefited the most from the benefits of our economic system should be willing to contribute proportionally the most to support it — especially when our national income is increasingly concentrated in the coffers of the richest Americans. Therefore, let the Bush tax cuts expire for the 1 percent.
Robert White, Valrico
Not all taxes are equal
To clarify, payroll taxes are dedicated to pay for Medicare, Social Security and unemployment. They pay for no federal law enforcement, no countercyclical help against recessions or bloated mortgage debt, no aid to education, and nothing to any other federal program.
It is misleading to lump them together with income taxes, which do pay for these other programs. My wife and I pay income taxes; we have a vital interest in the usefulness and efficiency of programs we fund.
How can the "contribute nothing" 47 percent be said to have any stake in the future of America? They're paying only toward programs from which they personally expect to receive more than they've paid in.
Rolf H. Parta, Bradenton
Programs for the poor
This piece regarding taxes is not very convincing. First of all, the "working poor" also are eligible for the earned income tax credit. Not only do they pay zero income tax, they actually get money back.
Yes, payroll taxes are taxes, but in fact they are "forced" savings for retirement and health care. Those who earn the most do in fact pay the most.
There is also the issue of food stamps and many other programs that the high earners pay for and do not participate in. When you are trying to make a political point you should factor in all the facts, not just those that support your position.
Dan Mason, Tampa
On the list and in the law's sights | Sept. 16
Repeal gang list law
The only solution regarding unjust branding of our youth as "gang members" is to repeal the law and get rid of the list without exception.
African-American children in Florida should not need to fear their government. The law alienates innocent youth. It is no substitute for law enforcement's responsibility to arrest and imprison criminals.
Lawmakers should be using tax dollars to put police officers back on the streets to do their job so no law-abiding African-American parents will have to spend hard-earned dollars, originally targeted for college and career opportunities, trying to get their innocent children's names off of a "gang members" list.
Sami Leigh Scott, Bradenton