Union opposes school progress
Last week, the president of the Florida Education Association issued a public letter to local education associations across the state, urging them to not support the Florida Department of Education's efforts to participate in the federal Race to the Top program and continue reforming Florida's schools by rewarding excellent classroom teachers.
Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.
After all, the FEA has long been in the business of resisting innovative education reforms in favor of protecting the status quo. Instead of supporting a program that will give Florida's teachers — their members — real financial rewards for excellence in the classroom, the FEA has chosen to play politics and fight to sustain a failing system that rewards teachers only for longevity, not for performance and results.
As Florida looks at a bleak economic forecast, the FEA is urging local union groups to sabotage the state's efforts to bring in a potential additional $700 million in funding for our teachers and our schools. It's irresponsible for the FEA to jeopardize Florida's ability to participate in the continued efforts to reform education and improve teacher quality and instruction in low-performing schools.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that Florida's students have made great learning gains in recent years, outpacing national progress in many areas. Florida now ranks in the top 10 states in the country in writing proficiency, with Hispanic students ranking second among their counterparts and African-American students ranking fourth. Although we still have a long way to go, that's real progress.
As a Republican, I'm pleased that President Barack Obama has made education reform a top priority by implementing nationally many of the same reforms that Florida Republicans have been advocating for years. Obama and House Republicans understand that rewarding excellence in the classroom is a cornerstone of meaningful reform for America's schools. If the FEA would put rewarding the teachers doing the best job and improving the level of teaching in our children's classrooms ahead of their own parochial seniority and tenure issues, they would admit the same thing.
Florida Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, District 61
Can't feel the pain
of wealthy cardiologists
This is in response to the ad paid for by local cardiologists asking people to contact their representatives to urge them to oppose minor cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
According to AlliedPhysicians.com, the earnings for cardiologists in years one and two averages from $258,000 to $290,000 per year. That rises to peak career earnings of $599,000 to $811,000.
Half of working Americans scrape by on $40,000 or less (often much less) per year. Twenty percent are underemployed or unemployed, and most of us have seen our earnings fall in this recession.
Times are tough, but somehow I just can't feel the pain of these cardiologists and I especially resent their implied threat to withhold services.
I will be contacting my senators and congressman in support of these cuts.
Wayne Stevens, Sarasota
No car, no cell, 1 cleaver | Dec. 20
Hang up and live life
Three cheers for writing about those of us who decide not to use cell phones.
At the end of our lives, we will be the ones savoring the memories of having had additional time without "commercial interuption."
Robert Stolz, Clearwater
Those were the days
Enough is enough! I can't take it anymore with Facebook. The site was useful to find friends and family you have lost contact with, but it has gone too far.
Here are a few examples of what you can read on Facebook: Going to the bathroom. Went shopping today. Traffic was horrible. I woke up at 6 a.m. but I am going to take a nap. It is warm out today.
Nobody has communication skills anymore — it is either it is computers or text messaging.
I wish I could turn the clock back just 25 years. Those were the days: no cell phones, no computers with all these ridiculous sites. Today when kids have time off from school, they don't go outside, or stay home and read a book. They stay on the computer. What is wrong with this society?
I miss the days when you hung out outside with your friends and talked all night about sports or girls or movies. We talked about everything. We played sports in the street — hockey, stickball, Wiffle ball. I never see kids playing anymore.
Steve Pappas, Spring Hill
Decade isn't over yet
If the first decade of the 1st century started on 1-1-01 and ended 12-31-10, then the first decade of the 21st century started 1-1-2001 and will end 12-31-2010.
I mention this kernel of trivia because people or "happenings" are already being discussed as the "whatever" of the decade. It was premature to designate Tiger Woods athlete of the decade when it is only nine years old. Tiger could also be pronounced the most disappointing person of the decade a year from now.
John Stafford, Largo
Join a book club to open your mind | Dec. 20, Blumner column
The joys of book clubs
In Robyn Blumner's article beseeching readers to join a reading group, she outlines a set of rules for making a book club work. I do not think that these rules make for the most promising reading group successes.
I am in two reading groups: one that has been meeting for over 15 years, and another that has met fewer than six times. If either of these groups had to abide by Robyn's Rules, it is likely that neither one would exist now. Maybe these rules work for people who need more structure in their lives, but for our participants, the last thing they need is another onerous responsibility.
Our members are moms who work outside the home, and those who don't, single women with demanding careers, and in one case, a grandmother of six grandchildren who volunteers twice a week. The last thing any of these women need is another calendar item that can't flex with their needs.
The only rule we have is that you come as often as possible — with, or without, food or wine; with, or without, having read the book. The best thing we have done is keep a notebook of all the books we have read with ratings by each group member and a comment or two beside each name. Usually, the member who has not read the book (if there is one) keeps the ledger.
This has worked beautifully for both groups so far, and even when members don't read a book, if they come to the meeting anyway, often they are moved enough by the discussion to read the book afterward.
Sheree Wood, Tampa
Deciding 'quality years'
Your Dec. 20 headline, Lie of the year, referring to death panels, could itself be called the lie of the year. Suppose we have 10,000 people in need of liver transplants and only 5,000 available livers. How would we judge who should get one and who not?
In European medical care systems, the inspiration for progressives, there is a concept called "estimating remaining quality years." If a panel of people makes the judgment that you have, say, six good years left, you get one. If you likely have less than that, you don't. They don't call themselves "death panels," of course, but that's basically how they decide who's eligible for a given procedure.
But how else would we do it? Appoint a liver czar? Have the 10,000 fight over them? Wait for 5,000 to volunteer to go without? Give them to the 5,000 highest bidders?
It seems inevitable that there is no realistic alternative to death panels under the health care bills being proposed. The reference to end-of-life counseling tacitly acknowledges that reality.
John Gove, Sun City Center
Secrets under the sand
It was announced that archaeologists had hoisted a nine-ton pylon from Cleopatra's temple from the depths of the Mediterranean Ocean. This relic existed over 21 centuries ago.
If this feat is possible, who is to say that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction will not one day also be discovered? Saddam was many dastardly things, but he was not a fool. Let us not forget that there's a lot of sand in Iraq and the WMD inspections were perfunctory at best.
Although these WMDs may not be discovered during our lifetime, they may one day be found.
Edward C. Prange, Tampa