Bill improves system to reward teachers | Feb. 28, letter
Testing bill won't ensure success
Sen. Stephen Wise's letter claims that SB 736 would not change any due process rights for "currently employed teachers." How can he make such a claim? The bill requires all teachers to be evaluated as highly effective, effective, needs improvement, or ineffective. These ratings would be based on student test scores, effectively putting teachers at the mercy of their students' goodwill.
Ineffective teachers and those needing improvement would be fired. Everyone would like to have an effective teacher in every classroom, but basing an evaluation on a single test isn't the way to do it. The bill also puts all newly hired teachers on annual contract for the rest of their careers. The bill states that effective or highly effective teachers may be rehired in increments of one year. When teachers tried to persuade the writers of the bill to change "may" to "shall," legislators refused. Obviously, the intent of the bill isn't to retain good teachers. What is its intent? It would ensure a constant turnover of new and inexperienced (cheap) teachers.
The bill will also hurt our economy. SB 736 requires more tests be created. These tests will cost millions of dollars, which will be paid to consultants who will then spend that money out of state. In addition, banks will not give mortgages to teachers who don't know if they'll have jobs next year, so the housing industry will lose potential customers.
This is a bad bill and certainly will not ensure student success.
Donna Depinet-Dasher, Spring Hill
St. Pete Beach should vote 'Yes' for its future March 7, editorial
Voters should turn down
developers' land grab
Contrary to Monday's editorial, St. Pete Beach voters should vote no on the proposed repeal of voters' rights in today's election. The current development plan, drafted and promoted by the city's hotel owners, is a patent land grab. Hotels finagled others' property rights for themselves, thereby potentially building a mile of 146-foot towers.
A Circuit Court judge ruled the plan invalid, saying the city and the hoteliers "misled the voters by failing to tell them about increased height which goes to the core of the plan." The response by the City Commission is today's election, in which voters are being asked to give up the rights they fought hard to attain. Why? The only conclusion is that the commissioners know voters wouldn't approve the hoteliers' plan.
The Times had one thing correct. The referenda process was the result of voter backlash against elected officials who refused all pleas for responsible development. Responsible growth is balancing of the needs of residents with the desires of business. The commissioners refused all offers for compromise from the citizens, even refusing to discuss the offers in public.
The Times believes growth management is best done by elected officials, but commissioners don't even know what's in the plan, deferring to their lawyer. When officials don't take their responsibility seriously, citizens must. Had voters not acted, St. Pete Beach would be filled with half-finished concrete hulks like Clearwater Beach. Voters should have the right to veto a plan that imposes taxes to benefit developers. Voting no is the only way taxpayers keep a seat at the table.
Kenneth L. Weiss, Treasure Island
Florida pension fund
You have to hand it to Gov. Rick Scott. He sure knows how to stir up the electorate and divert attention to cover up his intentions. Instead of stating that the state pension fund is considered fiscally sound and that there is enough set aside for state workers, he manipulates the issue by pitting the private sector against the public sector.
By suggesting that public sector workers have been given undeserved compensation at taxpayer expense, our attention is misdirected. The question should be, Why unfairly put the burden of the state budget shortfall on just one group of workers?
When state employees are hired they have a contract with the state that they will accept lower wages in exchange for a retirement pension. The state sets aside the wages into an investment to be returned to the worker over their retirement years.
As long as the state has made conservative and diversified investments, this system is supposed to be self-supporting. If the money is not there, the state employees have been cheated. On the other hand, if the money is there, the state employees are being manipulated to cover the budget shortfall.
Let's not be fooled by the governor poisoning the well against state workers. Let's hold him accountable to explain why he is singling out state workers to cover the deficit.
Dr. Richard France, Tampa
The protesters in Madison, Wis., represent the true grassroots of America's middle class and working class. They are fighting against an overreaching corporate America that is attempting to turn our country into a plutocracy.
Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, was catapulted into office by the billionaires David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, the nation's largest privately held corporation. Using the tea party as a front, they are attempting to further extend tax breaks for billionaires and large corporations while slashing environmental and public safety regulations.
In January, the Koch brothers sponsored a conference in Palm Springs for their newly elected candidates. It was probably there that they planned their attacks on working- and middle-class Americans by slashing public programs and busting public sector unions in the guise of budget cutting.
Gov. Walker is insisting that the unions give up their collective bargaining rights even though they have agreed to accept his proposed financial cuts. The protesters know the truth. This is the beginning of a nationwide attempt to break the backs of public sector unions and cripple the last bastion of fundraising for the Democratic Party.
This is what corporate greed and a takeover of this country by the ultrarich looks like. It is time for the real grass roots of working-class and middle-class Americans to join with Wisconsinites to say "enough."
Labor unions are not the enemy. They have a hundred-year history of giving all of us reasonable wages, hours, health care, pensions and safe working conditions. They may be the only true voice left for the middle class and working class in this country. They deserve our strong support.
James Frazier, Bradenton