Special-ed aides get little pay, training | Jan. 13
Give teachers, aides pay they deserve
It has taken two student deaths to focus on an issue overlooked in Florida education for years — that special-education aides, as well as many other "regular" paraprofessional personnel, are underpaid. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Funding for exceptional-student education in Florida has been slashed in many districts over the last 10 years under the limited wisdom of Republican leadership in Tallahassee.
ESE students require special supervision and curriculum, so extra training is paramount to prevent incidents. An ESE aide or teacher must also have a special sense of commitment to these children. When a professional is barely earning minimum wage, with less than adequate training, it is surprising that more incidents haven't occurred. Budget cuts have resulted in many ESE students not getting other required services as well. Politicians push vouchers, thinking that this will solve the problem, but it makes it worse. Full funding is essential for the success of ESE students in public education!
All Florida teacher salaries have stagnated over the past six years due to budget cuts, and it is time that they at least earn salary increases to offset inflation. The public surely must know that teachers and aides are underpaid, and they are responsible for the most important commodity: children! Give them the pay they deserve.
David Pike, Odessa
Disobedient juror earns more duty | Jan. 12
Upside of jury duty
People are already trying all sorts of methods (many creative but unsuccessful) to avoid jury duty. Now this judge is declaring that being called to jury duty is a punishment akin to going to jail! I understand why he felt it necessary to discipline this guy, who clearly disobeyed instructions, but this only makes the whole notion of jury duty even more heinous to everyone.
I served on a jury a couple of years ago; while it wasn't a barrel of laughs, it was interesting and educational and I certainly felt it a worthwhile use of my time.
Margaret May, Land O'Lakes
Years ago, while in the Army, I learned that while no one enjoys guard duty, it is never imposed as punishment. In fact, no duty should ever be imposed.
This was Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente's ethical error. Does Fuente think that if Vishnu P. Singh is selected to serve during his period of "punishment" he will be a more conscientious and dutiful juror? Punishment is more likely to breed resentment.
Alan Sewell, Zephyrhills
Wishing us well | Jan. 13
Chew on this, Tampa
I would like to add a wish to your list. Food draws people, and one need only drive down Beach Drive in St. Petersburg on any given Saturday to see the plethora of people eating in one restaurant or another. If somehow Tampa could figure a way to attract additional eateries on Tampa Street — perhaps closing off the area, as is done for the Gasparilla Art Show, every weekend — we could bring a lot more folks to downtown Tampa and turn it into something dynamic.
We already have the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children's Museum, the Photography Museum, Curtis Hixon Park and the river; add a few food street vendors on Ashley and next thing you know downtown will be bustling with excitement.
John Osterweil, Tampa
A fundamental school mismatch | Jan. 13 editorial
Truth about consequences
It would be great if we had more fundamental programs. As mentioned in this article, fundamental programs "have strict discipline codes and participation demands that can prove onerous to working parents." What was not mentioned is that if those two criteria are not met or maintained, that particular student has to leave the school. That is the crux of the issue.
Please understand that nonfundamental schools have strict disciplinary codes, too, and nonfundamental schools are not stopping parents from participating regularly in their child's education. The difference is that nonfundamental schools cannot enforce these criteria to the extent that the fundamental schools enforce them, if at all.
Alex O'Brien, Pinellas Park
Elevating UF | Jan. 13 Bernie Machen column
Boost UF, but know this
University of Florida president Bernie Machen is entirely correct in his discussion of the need and resolve to place UF among the elite universities in California, Virginia, Michigan, etc. Florida needs this successful action for all the reasons he mentioned.
One large problem is the noise that will arise from universities in Tallahassee, Tampa and other places. It is the sound of "me!" "me!" "me!" (I'm not a Gator).
Merv Altman, Tampa
A lot like smoking
After reading numerous articles about Scientology, I can honestly compare it to smoking. Thirty years ago, people smoked and we didn't understand the harm it caused. Today, with all of the information we have, if someone smokes, he knows the risks.
It is the same with Scientology. Enough time has passed and enough people have been hurt (financially, mentally or physically) that we should not be surprised by its effects. If you decide to become a member of the "church" of Scientology, don't ask for sympathy in the future.
Steven K. Lenardos, Tampa
Just what is black enough? | Jan. 14 Leonard Pitts column
Don't judge on skin color
Leonard Pitts puts forth a valid point: "Many of us have been taught that it is demeaning and delimiting when someone presumes to say who you are, how you will behave, what you think, what you like, and how intelligent you are, from the color of your skin."
When were the stereotypes for what people consider "black" installed? And what the heck is a "cornball" brother, according to ESPN analyst Rob Parker? Is he using a modern euphemism for an Uncle Tom? Our president is of mixed race. Is he a "cornball" brother?
This is the very reason racism is stubbornly clinging to the cliff's edge in America. People still see color. Come on, America. We are the melting pot of the world. It's time we start letting go of antiquated stereotypes, stop judging people on their race, and start focusing on the choices they make.
Dr. Martin Luther King wanted his children to live in a country where people are "judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." RG3 (Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III) seems like a pretty decent guy to me. I really don't care what color skin his girlfriend has.
John Andrew Warrener, Odessa