New priority: schools | Dec. 8
Schools need long-term thinking
This article unwittingly shows a major problem with Florida's school systems today: They are directed mostly by politicians with short-range goals.
Gov. Rick Scott's goal this year may be schools, but in other years his major goals will be other "hot topics."
K-12 schools should be run with multiyear goals and funding, and that's virtually impossible in today's political climate with an elected commissioner of education. Higher education is affected by this same shortsightedness, with the disbandment of the Board of Regents under Gov. Jeb Bush.
Until we put education back into the hands of long-term, highly respected appointees with the power to enact and maintain long-term goals, Florida will always have a second-class school system.
Andy Reeves, St. Petersburg
Antiterror bill spurs left, right backlash Dec. 8
Road to totalitarianism
I find the National Defense Authorization Act a prime example of how the road to a totalitarian state is often paved by voters who assume the Draconian laws they tolerate will never apply to them.
For example, people who brag about being "law-abiding" seem unable to understand their status might change if the laws suddenly changed. Moreover, the enemy-of-the-state concept inherent in legislation akin to the National Defense Authorization Act might pose an interesting question for elderly voters: "In the event of a national emergency, would you support legislation diverting most Medicare funds to aid in the fight against terrorists?"
And as for Florida's junior senator, he has yet to convince me his vision for America stems for the same liberty and equality envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.
Beverley J. Combs, St. Petersburg
Teddy Roosevelt's era was far different Dec. 10, letter
Roosevelt fought big money
Let me quote Teddy Roosevelt precisely on economic inequality: "We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents a benefit to the community. …
"The really big fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes … graduated tax on big fortunes properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate."
Now does this square more with the policy of President Barack Obama or that of the House and Senate Republicans? Obama was right on target, lest corporate power return us to those days of sweatshops and 12-hour workdays. It was Teddy Roosevelt who feared that big money and corporations would corrupt and unfairly control the process of government.
Paul Lupone, Spring Hill
He favored the workers
A reader writes that Theodore Roosevelt "would have abhorred the thought of long-term payments to the chronically unemployed" and "did not define fairness in terms of economic equality." Wrong.
Roosevelt admonished the courts to favor the interests and rights of the working class over those of corporations; he labored endlessly to institute a national health care plan; and he was a champion of the poor and unemployed. He took on the big corporations, referring to their overpaid CEOs as "the criminal rich." It was Roosevelt who passed workmen's compensation insurance, a progressive income tax on the wealthy, and a graduated inheritance tax.
After his presidency he founded the Progressive Party, which called for "vigorous government intervention to protect the people from the selfish interests of corporations."
Not define fairness in terms of economic equality? That was the very cornerstone of Roosevelt's presidency.
Robert Sterling, St. Petersburg
Passing FCAT is getting tougher | Dec. 9
Why are state officials raising benchmark scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test?
You have to read to the bottom of the article to get to the bottom of this change. The higher cut scores could "open the door for more students to take advantage of vouchers." There you have it.
This explains why Jeb Bush, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson and other voucher and charter school proponents are pushing this change. The higher cut scores, along with a more challenging FCAT 2.0, are not about rising "to the challenge" as Robinson claims, but rather about funneling more and more of Florida's children to private sectarian or for-profit voucher schools with no accountability, as well as to charter schools, which are often operated by for-profit companies.
Floridians need to understand that FCAT cut scores are being manipulated for cynical political purposes and greed. How long will we tolerate this use of our children as political pawns? How many young lives must be damaged and diminished by this phony system before we finally say "no"?
John L. Perry, Tampa
Do away with the test
Instead of raising the scores for passing the FCAT, we should just do away with it, period. But since that won't happen I think Gerard Robinson, the Florida Board of Education, and every teacher should take the FCAT and see how many pass. Oh, and just a little pressure: No paycheck until you do pass.
We have a granddaughter who never passed the FCAT. She graduated using her SAT scores. However, she graduated from St. Petersburg College magna cum laude and is on the dean's list at USF.
I have seen first-hand the stress, tears, frustration and helplessness the FCAT causes. School is difficult enough. I know students must be tested, but there has to be a better way.
Robert Koons, St. Petersburg
Beyond Tampa Bay: MF Global | Dec. 9
In a congressional hearing, there was a sign in front of the former CEO of defunct MF Global Inc. that stated, "Honorable Jon Corzine." He testified that he doesn't know what happened to an estimated $1.2 billion that went missing, and that he never intended to break rules requiring the failed securities firm to safeguard client funds. What's so "honorable" about this man?
Cliff Barnett, Oldsmar