Schools enter testing season | April 15
Fear and loathing of all the tests
All across Florida, third-graders and their parents and teachers are freaking out this week about the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Because the system was created to cut funding if there is poor performance on the test, and teachers live in fear for their jobs for the same reason, it's no wonder parents and teachers overtly or subliminally pass along fearful messages to these children as FCAT week approaches.
And then, to compound the problem, we see the Legislature playing games by manipulating the "scoring system" which magically creates more failing grades in the process.
For what purposes? To create the perception that our schools are "failing" and need to be privatized? To pull "triggers" on our public schools and divert millions more to charter schools to be run for profit without any empirical evidence that they are improving the quality of education?
It is long past time to pull the plug on the FCAT. It hasn't accomplished anything other than costing millions of dollars for grading the test and diminishing respect for our schools and our teachers.
We should be teaching children how to think and solve problems — not how to take one particular standardized test.
Gary Gibbons, Tampa
World seems upside down
I'm politically independent, college-educated and never miss an election. Try as I might, I simply cannot grasp the logic of some current events.
After dramatic cuts in education funding, certain to have a negative impact on the lives of thousands of people, the Florida Legislature approves a new university that it appears only one man fully supports.
Synthetic marijuana is legal and can kill you on the spot, whereas the real thing won't and is illegal.
A piece of string longer than 6 inches is banned from the Republican National Convention, but guns are allowed.
Florida has restrictive new voting laws that we're told are a necessity in order to combat voter fraud, so why have I never heard of a case of voter fraud under the former laws?
Lastly, have all the violent, heinous crimes in Pinellas County been solved? If not, why is the sheriff so focused on alleged grow houses and gambling establishments?
Julia Brazier, St. Petersburg
A vote Obama has to recoup | April 16
Ed Marke says he may vote for a Republican for the first time since Ronald Reagan because President Barack Obama has not done anything. Where has he been the past three years, sitting on his couch watching Fox News?
When Obama came to office, we were losing thousands of jobs monthly; now at least we are gaining. Mitt Romney wanted to let U.S. automakers go under; think of the depression that could have resulted if Obama had allowed that.
Obama signed a health care bill into law; you may not like everything in it, but it's much better than what we have now, and we can, as with all laws, make changes and improvements.
Then Zach Ritchie says he is going to vote Republican "out of protest." But not voting for your pocketbook will only hurt the poor and middle class.
Mary Ann Sheppard, Riverview
How far we've come
When I read the comment from Ed Marke, a 60-year-old Sears salesman, that President Barack Obama has accomplished "virtually nothing," I had to wonder why he hasn't purchased a TV from Sears to keep up with current affairs and world news.
Marke and the others profiled in your article need to remember that Obama inherited an economy that was in shambles and that was hemorrhaging jobs. He was able to pump life back into our automobile industry, and the stock market has rebounded by nearly 65 percent. He has also withdrawn our troops from Iraq and got Osama bin Laden.
Bob Lindskog, Palm Harbor
From Obama, smoke and mirrors again April 16, commentary
Numbers tell the story
Apparently, Charles Krauthammer and others of his ilk believe in continually repeating lies with the hope of obscuring the truth. He says that raising the capital gains tax reduces federal revenue and lowering it raises revenues.
The capital gains tax during President Bill Clinton's eight years averaged 23 percent, and the stock market as measured by the S&P 500 averaged an increase of 18 percent per year. That 23 percent capital gains tax and other taxes on the wealthy helped Clinton to hand George W. Bush a $127 billion surplus.
During Bush's eight years, tax breaks were given to the wealthy and the capital gains tax decreased to an average of 17 percent a year. The stock market average return during those eight years was minus 0.74 percent per year. The $127 billion surplus inherited from Clinton turned into a $455 billion deficit.
Despite this history, the Krauthammer types continue to falsely accuse others of using smoke and mirrors even though they are the ones with the smoke and mirrors trying to convince us that up is down and white is black.
Howard F. Harris Jr., Tampa
Debates over GOP budget presage fall campaigns | April 15
Programs' future at stake
Floridians 50 and older care a lot more about keeping Social Security and Medicare strong than they do about which party gains a political advantage from the debate.
And after a year of behind-the-scenes budgetary dealmaking in Washington, they are deeply concerned about the future of Medicare and Social Security. They are fearful over the prospect of politicians cutting their benefits in order to reduce the nation's debt.
Florida has the highest percentage of residents age 65-plus in America. More than 3 million get health care coverage through Medicare, and 3.7 million are receiving Social Security benefits. We need to take the conversations about our hard-earned benefits out from behind closed doors in Washington and into the community. We've earned the right to know what potential reforms have been put on the table.
I look forward to hearing which solvency options the candidates support and hope they take time on the campaign trail to truly listen to the voters. We've earned a say about the future of these vital programs and want a candidate who is going to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for current and future beneficiaries.
Michelle Cyr, associate state director for advocacy, AARP Florida, St. Petersburg