Scott touts tourism records | May 16
State parks merit budget support
Gov. Rick Scott raves about the increase in tourism in Florida over the past few months. What he doesn't tell you is that his budgets have cut funding to state parks to the bone. Our state parks are prime destinations and contribute one-quarter of the glowing totals of visitors that he touts.
In fiscal year 2013, state parks had an economic impact of over $1.1 billion on local economies throughout Florida. Some $76 million was contributed to the state's general revenues in the form of state sales taxes. And more than 18,500 jobs were created in local economies as a result of state park operations.
In many rural counties, the state park is one of the most important attractions drawing visitors and supporting small businesses. Locally, Honeymoon Island State Park had more than 1 million visitors last year and had an economic impact of $48 million to the Tampa Bay area.
It's disconcerting when we see actions like reducing funding to maintain the health of our natural springs, many of which are attractions at state parks. Visitors must wonder about some of the crumbling infrastructure at many of our parks. It's a tragedy that salaries for park staffs are barely above minimum wage. Hats off to them for their dedication and cheerful attention to the public despite the low morale in this political climate.
Florida's state parks are the lifeblood of Florida tourism. They have been underfunded and ignored. They are Florida's natural gems, and they deserve better.
Ray Dabkowski, Dunedin
Focus on testing yields poor result May 17, editorial
One of the jobs I had before retiring was as field representative for the achievement tests branch of Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, at the time one of the major publishers of achievement tests. I helped school districts understand what achievement tests could and could not do for them.
Among the things they cannot do:
1) Determine whether an individual student is progressing adequately in school or not. It truly takes individualized, not group, testing for that;
2) Determine the adequacy of individual teachers.
Giving students tests does not educate them. It does not even motivate them. The bright students know they will perform well and don't worry. Slower students would be better served by spending all that testing time being presented with information in some new format that might communicate better to them.
We're turning out a whole generation of students who know how to learn but who don't particularly want to. That is not a good outcome.
Susan Setley, St. Petersburg
Avila killer was part of fiscal scandal May 15
Domestic violence scourge
A week later, I continue to be puzzled by the media's relentless focus on possible financial malfeasance in the Avila murders-suicide. Everyone seems somehow unwilling to explore the most basic "reason" for the murders: power and control, the root of all domestic violence.
Darrin Campbell placed a gun at the heads of his wife and two children and shot them in cold blood. Regardless of any other "causes," that's domestic violence. And every day in our country, domestic violence homicides happen to at least three women — and sometimes their children, too. That's the conversation we should be having.
Mindy Murphy, Tampa
Rift between Jolly, Beverly Young grows May 18
Let Jolly be Jolly
Beverly Young seems to think that she has been elected to represent Pinellas County; she has not. She is trying to carry on her late husband's work, but she does not control David Jolly and he is right to distance himself from her.
As our member of Congress, Jolly is responsible to all of us, not to one woman who is acting like she is the kingmaker with special personal access for her projects, however worthwhile they may be. Young needs to understand that Jolly is not a clone of her husband and must find his own path.
Michele Elliott, St. Petersburg
The look of things to come at St. Pete High May 18
I was a student at St. Petersburg High School when a student was thrown out for having long hair. I was a teacher at the school when a student was thrown out for having purple hair. Both of those were the fault of Pinellas County for imposing absurd rules on students.
Now a student can be thrown out for wearing a nice dress or a dress shirt. For the first time in 50 years, I am ashamed of St. Petersburg High School.
Our students are constantly told, "Do this; don't do that." Usually that's a good thing, as such rules pertain to their health or safety. They are afforded little freedom to try out "looks" or attitudes that will help them define themselves as adults. Good teachers help students explore such options. But administrators often are more interested in control than growth.
We read that public schools are in trouble. But public schools are not being defeated; they are losing by their own actions. The misguided administration of St. Petersburg High is an example of why people are losing faith in public schools.
John Allcorn, Palm Harbor
Rubio: End Bright Futures review | May 17
Sen. Marco Rubio, who claims he is "ready to be president," can find no "legal basis" for the federal government to review the Bright Futures scholarship program. Perhaps he can enhance his readiness by rereading the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg
Leaders, not personalties | May 16, letter
Beginning of an era
The letter writer wants to know when being president became about being a pretty face and talking points and not about proven experience and true leadership. I'll tell her exactly when it started: Nov. 4, 2008.
John Waitman, Palm Harbor