Florida needs to cut costs, cut crime | June 16, editorial
Address drug and alcohol abuse
Unfortunately, most assessments by major publications and editorials concerning the failings of the prison systems in Florida and beyond ignore the astounding combination of drugs, alcohol and the lack of mental health care facilities.
Depending on the source for the statistics, drugs and alcohol are a factor for as many as 85 percent of inmates before entering prison.
Since the 1960s, our public leaders have systematically closed mental health care institutions. Essentially, this country has traded mental health care beds for prison beds for far too many. The mass imprisonment of people affected by substance misuse has become part of America's culture.
It's shortsighted to discuss better aftercare for the released prisoner until this country begins a broader discussion on why prisons have replaced mental health care institutions and why we lack funding for preventive and educational resources prior to entrance into the prison system.
Larry Golbom, Largo
Baristas can get college for free | June 16
A good corporate example
Sometimes in this nihilistic world of ours, someone who has the power and influence makes a real crack in the wall of corporate greed.
Kudos to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for his contribution "to lifting all boats in the stream" by providing an educational opportunity for the company's employees. If more corporations followed this example, society as a whole would benefit.
Many corporations offer this opportunity, but the employee must remain with the company for a certain period of time. Schultz does not make this a requirement for these online courses that will be offered by the University of Arizona. Their baristas are free to leave and don't have strings attached to the agreement.
Florence Laureira, Hudson
Latest Florida rail roils and Citizens' voices will be heard on All Aboard Florida June 9, 16
Public or private?
Gov. Rick Scott flatly states that All Aboard Florida is 100 percent a private sector project. No state dollars will go to the privately held development organization.
The Times, on the other hand, reported earlier that the state will fund $214 million to construct the proposed passenger station at Orlando International Airport and $10 million to engineer "quiet zones" along the initial 195-mile route over existing track.
Additionally, All Aboard Florida will seek a $1.5 billion federal loan for the project — taxpayer support — while privately sinking only $1 billion of private money into the project.
Basic math establishes that private money will provide less than 40 percent of the project's initial estimated costs. Is Scott right, or is the Times? A PolitiFact check seems in order.
Earl Barrett, Clearwater
FCAT results give few answers | June 15
Trauma too often ignored
As a licensed mental health counselor, I believe that one of the difficulties in finding school improvement answers lies in not asking this question: What is stopping kids from learning? One answer is probably the trauma of adverse childhood experiences.
Demographically, the listed schools struggle with high poverty. Where there is high poverty, there are high levels of adverse childhood experiences and trauma. Criminal activity, violence, substance abuse and mental illness all take a toll on a child's ability to learn.
The human body is programmed to react to emergencies with a flood of cortisol and adrenaline. Emergencies do not allow time for reflection and thoughtful consideration. The thing is, if life is a permanent emergency, that same reaction interferes with higher learning. When schools try to handle difficult behavior with punishment, referrals and expulsion, they inadvertently retrigger the emergency reaction. And things get worse.
Across our country, school districts are recognizing that most challenged schools have to shift from a punishment to a problem-solving approach in handling difficult behavior and poor classroom performance.
And improvement, while slow, is happening. San Francisco's El Dorado Elementary used trauma-informed and restorative practices, and suspensions dropped 89 percent. Wellness centers, calming corners, buddy classrooms and, above all, trauma-informed staff — from the principal to the maintenance team — can transform a child's ability to learn.
Juliana Menke, St. Petersburg
Scott's links to oil driller attacked | June 15
Saving taxpayers' money
This article proves that you will shade the news to fit your views. Below the headline you state: "It's unclear whether the governor still owns" stock in the oil company Schlumberger.
Then in the article you report that Gov. Rick Scott put all his investments in a blind trust in 2011 to avoid any conflict-of-interest issues, which was the proper thing to do.
In your article "Scott, Crist get richer" on June 17, Scott states there is no indication that the blind trust now owns any Schlumberger stock. So where's the link?
The article further states that the governor takes no salary and gave nearly $1 million to charity since 2011. You didn't bother to state that he also personally pays for all of his jet travel.
Regardless of what you print, Scott does many good things for the taxpayers of Florida.
Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor
Private struggle in public domain June 16
Fund mental health care
Regarding the Bartow lawyer's claim of a microchip in her head, this is one more example of why (and how desperately) we need better mental health policies.
Why wouldn't a judge order her to get mental screening? How is she allowed to take people's money to represent them in court?
Many young people are also ignored or excused when they show signs of mental problems, and we see all the school shootings that have resulted.
Please, legislators, wake up and fund (yes, with dollars) the care needed for a better mental health policy.
Cynthia Hazlett, St. Petersburg