Senate Bill 6
The dangers of one-party rule
After all the hoopla, protests, angry letters and threats of striking, it is important to ask: What lessons can be learned from the fiasco of Senate Bill 6?
After all the heated arguments, it is easy to lose sight of the original purpose of the bill, which was to reward good teachers with incentive pay.
Ironically, most teachers are actually in favor of incentive pay. Sounds shocking to hear after all the fuss, doesn't it?
Teachers objected to this bill because they saw it as a threat to their livelihoods. They saw it as a symbol of the great disrespect lawmakers harbor for educators. They were angered by the arrogance of the lawmakers who refused to listen to educational experts.
Perhaps this legislative session will serve as a reminder of the dangers of allowing one political party to dominate the government; they stop listening to the people and start voting according to ideology.
If the lawmakers had taken the time to visit schools, they would have realized that some incentive programs already exist. For example, consider the Advanced Placement program. Students in the program take rigorous, college-level classes and take a content-based exam at the end of the year. If they pass, they earn college credit for the course. It's a nice little incentive for the students to do well.
The teachers are also given a nice incentive. They earn around $50 per student who passes. It is a modest bonus for the teachers, but they are not fired or stripped of pay, or publicly humiliated when students do not pass.
It seems reasonable that a positive system such as this, which offers both students and teachers rewards for high performance (but lacks the threats) could be easily implemented in every class, and would be supported by both teachers and parents.
Lawmakers still have the opportunity to make a positive impact on education, and to develop the programs that will reward good teachers with higher pay.
Bryan Thomas McCabe, Pinellas Park
He vetoes it | April 16, story
Sen. John Thrasher said he did not think Senate Bill 6 would be resurrected this spring since "major legislation like this sometimes takes years to pass. This is not done overnight." This is interesting when, in fact, he did try to cram this down our collective throats overnight and without considering any input from constituents who overwhelmingly opposed it.
He not only ignored the cries of the people but also put the kibosh on any amendments to change the bill for the better. Perhaps he needs to take a lesson in political reform from Charlie Crist instead of Jeb Bush.
Kip Mitchell, St. Petersburg
A stand for real reform | April 16, editorial
In the aftermath of the health care debacle, I wonder if even a single Times editorial writer appreciated the irony of your criticisms of the Republicans, as expressed in your opening paragraph, regarding an educational reform bill that "would have revolutionized" the system had Gov. Charlie Crist not "courageously stood up" and vetoed it.
You rail that even though the bill "embraced reasonable concepts (it) was fatally flawed in the way it implemented them" and thus should not have been "rammed through the … Legislature" without its opponents having been invited "to help work out the details." Mind-boggling hypocrisy — but hardly surprising.
Gary P. Posner, M.D., Tampa
McCollum advocates breaks for business April 16, story
Twenty-eight years ago Ronald Reagan promised that by lowering taxes the increase in business would more than cover the lost revenue. It was called voodoo economics by George H.W. Bush. Reagan won and implemented his supply-side economics. Since then it has been proven that supply-side economics does not work, as shown by the huge deficits.
So what does Bill McCollum advocate? More supply-side economics. If it didn't work in the last 28 years, what makes him think it will work now?
Christopher Radulich, Apollo Beach
A 'poison pill' to nullify citizen petitions April 15, Howard Troxler column
Informed voters needed
"But this! This is a 'poison pill' amendment designed to fool voters into sabotaging their own petitions, " writes Howard Troxler.
Following the recent articles in the St. Petersburg Times, capped with Howard Troxler's excellent column on Thursday, it appears that this Legislature is working for someone other than the voters of the state of Florida. Has working for the good of the Republican Party of Florida and its patrons trumped their obligation to work for the good of the citizens and voters?
Requiring the approval of 60 percent of voters to pass a ballot initiative was quite a victory for the Legislature. To feel so threatened by an initiative to want to put a "poison pill" on the same ballot, is simply unconscionable.
Voters of Florida: Pay attention to what your state senator and representative are doing in Tallahassee. The scandals of this year and many of the bills they have put forward are not what you should expect from a state Legislature that is paying attention to your best interests or "doing the business of the people." Pay attention and vote out those legislators who have violated the trust you granted them in the last election. You deserve better representation and there is still time to get better candidates on the ballot before November.
Do not think there is nothing you can do. The ballot is still the mightiest weapon when wielded by an informed voter. Be an informed voter.
Wanda Schwerer, Belleair Beach
Heed the warning
Thank you, Howard Troxler, for trying to warn Floridians that Tallahassee's Republican leadership is attempting to "fool voters into sabotaging" the Fair District amendments they worked so hard to get on the ballot.
Once again Sen. Mike Haridopolos and his cronies are thumbing their noses at everyone — Democrat, Republican and independent alike — who wants to stop the rigging of election districts to benefit self-serving incumbents.
This is one more reason why we should throw the bums out at the earliest opportunity.
Kathleen Jamison, Largo
Kyrgyz uprising indicts U.S. stand | April 9, commentary
The art of diplomacy
Professor Eugene Huskey argues persuasively on one aspect of U.S. foreign policy toward this unstable country. In doing so he also points out Kyrgyzstan's importance to the war effort in Afghanistan. Yet he wonders why the United States has not balanced its policy better by maintaining high-level contacts with the political opposition.
A fair question, perhaps. But consider our policy approach to countries like Egypt, China, Pakistan, etc., and his argument might be neatly applied to those countries as well. Do we balance these similarly even at the peril of other U.S. objectives? The learned professor well knows that relations with other countries are always complex. The art of diplomacy calls for continually aligning priorities and making difficult choices in the cause of achieving vital U.S. goals. He may be assured that these policy goals contain both short- and long-term strategies.
It is unfortunate that he did not ask for a briefing from the U.S. Embassy to a gain better perspective of the U.S. objectives in the region. My guess is that we will seek cooperation, not competition, both within and outside of Kyrgystan to build strong working relationships with whomever is in power.
Wayne Logsdon, minister-counselor (retired), U.S. Department of State, Hernando