Schools aren't really failing | Sept. 29, Robyn Blumner column
School success and social class
Cherry-picking the putative aims and motivations of labeled enemies, cherry-picking sources, and cherry-picking data within sources cited may add up to a nice pie, but it does not amount to a useful diagnosis or prescription for the complex issues in our educational system.
Empirical evidence agrees that social class is a leading factor in educational performance. However, if one includes the pits with the cherries:
• Income is just one factor in social class (the reason college applications ask for parental education levels and do not ask about income).
• "There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country; surprisingly that gap is smaller in the U.S. than in similar postindustrial countries, and not much larger than in the very highest scoring countries," according to a 2013 study by Stanford and the Economic Policy Institute.
• According to the same study, "Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students in countries to which the United States is frequently, unfavorably compared — Canada, Finland, Korea, for example — has been falling rapidly."
Am I the only reader dissatisfied with Robyn Blumner's habit of creating arguments on every issue that always seem to end with heaven on Earth without the damned conservatives?
J.P. Byrne, Largo
Sensible tax funds reforms | Oct. 3, editorial
Taxes paid by consumers
In this editorial you state, "But this (excise tax on medical devices) is a sensible way to get a major player in the lucrative health care industry to help defray some of the costs of health care reform."
Apparently your editors do not understand who pays excise (and sales) taxes. These taxes are paid by the purchaser, not the manufacturer, therefore medical device manufacturers will not be paying this tax. The burden will fall on the users of medical devices, many of whom are poor and needy.
You should consider this fact when supporting increased excise and sales taxes.
Arthur Richard, St. Petersburg
Government care is here
A Newsmax article reports that Rep. Will Weatherford, the Republican speaker of the Florida House, claims that government-run health care does not work. What does he call Medicare, VA health care, military health care, etc.?
Maritta Rostron, Tampa
United to halt flood of misery | Oct. 2
A realistic alternative
One statistic that I did not see in the several articles concerning flood insurance: what percentage of homeowners affected by Biggert-Waters own their home mortgage-free? At a median price of $132,000, I suspect this may be a large percentage.
These folks have the choice of not purchasing flood insurance as part of their policy. Given that the risk of flooding is low and that the bulk of the damage from hurricanes is from wind, this seems a realistic alternative to accepting a 100 percent (or greater) increase in flood insurance premiums.
Ken Keller, Temple Terrace
Locals call for arrest in killing of gator Oct. 2
Hunt was a public service
In regards to the one-sided reporting and interviews of people wanting to punish the legal alligator hunter from Clearwater, they need to see some logic.
Alligator hunting is perfectly legal and permitted in this state for some very specific reasons. Hunting is a necessary tool to manage many species of wildlife, including alligators. For the record, there are thousands of permits issued to hunters in this state every year.
This 13-foot-long, 700-plus-pound alligator was a perfect specimen to be harvested due to its size and potential for seriously injuring or killing somebody. "Big Al," as the gator was affectionately was called by some, had already caused several complaints to be lodged by people living on the lake. It was not a pet. It was a wild animal that would be looked at much differently if someone's child or loved one was maimed or killed.
Florida (Pinellas County in particular) has a very healthy alligator population that needs controlling. Almost every lake or pond has several swimming around, and I have yet to play golf on one of the local courses without seeing some very large gators swimming around.
Adam Rothenberg, Palm Harbor
Walmart honoring others' BOGO deals Oct. 2
Since when does a retailer's marketing decision warrant a front-page story? Walmart's decision to "honor" BOGO deals is hardly world-shaking news. The story reads like a PR release.
There is much newsworthy material that could be written about this corporate giant, good and bad, but a decision to copy other stores in offering BOGO deals is not news. It is an everyday marketing decision cleverly disguised as news.
If I were Publix or Winn-Dixie, I'd demand equal space.
Sonia Fader, St. Petersburg
It's a good idea to use sanctions to force the Iranians to negotiate.
It's a great idea to use the threat of force (war) to get the Syrians to negotiate.
But it is unthinkable for the president to negotiate "with a gun to his head."
What am I missing?
Cordell L. Jeffrey, Gulfport