Give Florida's universities a needed raise | March 17, an open letter from Florida's university presidents
Try innovation instead of money
Students in Florida and other states get hit by obscenely high college costs just when they can least afford them and when they possess low job market value. Other developed nations subsidize students much more. Up to now Florida could pride itself on its relatively low tuition. Now presidents of the state universities want to up the tuition in 15 percent annual increments until it reaches the national average.
By contrast, Democrats are proposing to add a penny to the state sales tax for three years "with the revenue going to public education at all levels" (Republicans, Democrats offer plans for education, March 18). State Republicans for their part are pushing for legislation to raise high school graduation standards. That should help our university presidents trim expenses by eliminating the so-called "remedial courses" and then hire additional innovation-oriented faculty.
The presidents' letter uses the old style approach: "Give us more money and we'll do the rest." As a taxpayer with a severe 401( k) haircut, I would like to see more proactive, imaginative planning coupled with economizing. Would the presidents consider sharing superstar teachers via the Internet with other campuses? Could the institutions specialize and reduce duplication of similar departments in various campuses? Very little has been heard about elimination of unpopular or unneeded (in the employment world) departments despite increasing anecdotal reports that some college majors are finding it more lucrative to return to being waiters.
Adult education is a growth industry. The increasingly rapid changes in the service and information sectors dictate that more workers will need more frequent retraining during their working lives. As adults, these workers can be expected to have more savings or work for employers who will subsidize their retraining. Hence, our presidents could reconsider and limit their 15 percent annual tuition hikes to adult education and leave the first-time students' tuitions alone.
Roland Paegle, Tierra Verde
Republicans, Democrats offer plans for education | March 18
Lawmakers should seek to boost graduation rate
The Republicans' education plan is to increase the graduation requirements of our high schools. This would create a competitive work force by providing a "high-quality education." This would not create an additional cost, according to the sponsor, because these core subjects like math and science are already offered. The Democrats' plan would add a penny to our sales tax for three years, with the revenue going to public education at all levels.
The article does not address the number of students staying in school until they graduate. Increasing the graduation requirements without also addressing the reasons for the high dropout rates will only increase the dropout rates.
Every student deserves to graduate from high school, and that cannot be accomplished until a different plan is provided for students not intending to follow the typical college program. For those students, the high school curriculum should be geared either to a program leading to employment immediately after high school or to entrance into a vocational educational school.
Also, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test required to graduate should be geared to this curriculum and not the college-bound curriculum. To not change the test for those who are not college bound will only continue the high dropout rates we are now experiencing.
The proposal by the Democrats to add a penny sales tax dedicated to all levels of public education is a good idea as long as the Legislature doesn't merely replace appropriations now directed toward public education with the new penny.
I think that a one- or two-cent tax increase for schools should be used to remove school funding from our property taxes, with the possible exception of local voted millage for county school construction and repairs beyond ordinary maintenance.
Paul C. Blatt, Dunedin
The people are watching
As a recent graduate of the University of South Florida, I am appalled by the letter Florida's universities' presidents wrote, citing only two trends to blame for the lack of quality education here in Florida: low tuition and major budget cuts.
Just this month, USF president Judy Genshaft approved bonuses for four high-level USF officials.
If these truly are penny-pinching times for Florida's universities, and if these presidents want Floridians to believe in and support their call for action, then each president better start making decisions that match their words.
Because if they are still under the illusion that they can get away with giving bonuses to officials who are already receiving high salaries and the public won't notice, the students won't notice, and the faculty won't notice, they are wrong.
Kristyn Caragher, Tampa
Rein in drugmakers
After watching a couple of hours of TV and reading a magazine on a lazy Sunday, I found myself not relaxed, but angry. Every other commercial was touting a prescription drug and every other page of my Better Homes and Gardens was a multipage ad placed there by prescription drug companies.
We as a country cannot provide necessary medicines to those who need it most because they cannot afford it. Why? Because the spending of these independent drugmakers is not regulated.
I find the tactics of spending billions of dollars on advertising unethical, and where are the ethics in a 60-second commercial that has many Americans thinking "I think I need that medication" after vague symptoms are described? They then run to their doctor's office to describe their newfound symptoms.
I am not completely for socialized medicine in this country, but I would be all for our government stepping in and regulating our prescription drug problem. That does not mean adding more taxes to pay for those who cannot afford it. It means adding standards, ethics and morals into the greedy, cold-hearted pharmaceutical industry.
Tamara Ham, Safety Harbor
Abortion scan bill is revived in House and Florida GOP losing ground in voters March 19
A party out of touch
The bill forcing pregnant women to look at an ultrasound before an abortion is the exact reason the GOP is losing ground in Florida.
We have so many problems in this state, most of which have to do with money or lack thereof, and all the House can do is go back to the '80s in its rhetoric and bill presentation.
I'm not particularly an abortion advocate, but now is not the time to bring that old chestnut back. Tell these misguided representatives what really matters to you: fairer property taxes, removing sales tax exclusions, and finding ways to bring more revenue in to run the state.
This is a wonderful place to live, and what they have proposed so far — runaway development, a $1 sales tax on cigarettes (which taxes the poor) and other ideas — is not cutting it.
Kay Kelly, Clearwater
Family's plea meets legislative roadblocks March 19, story
Your recent coverage of "Rachel's Law" legislation raises some serious concerns about police conduct and the deference given to this group of public employees. The primary focus of most police departments is to "protect and serve" the public. Yet we now have groups of police lobbying for their wishes over the rights and protection of the very persons they are hired to defend.
There is something very perverse in this situation. The police in the Rachel Hoffman affair used the same threats and intimidation techniques that street thugs and drug pushers use to control their victims and employees. They skirted the law with a wink and nod from their superiors and prosecutors who are more interested in statistics than the responsible performance of their jobs.
No police officer has the right to assume his interests are more important than the life of a person who by the police's own admission was not even charged with a crime. This cavalier attitude that somehow police are above the citizens they are hired to protect has far-reaching and damaging consequences.
Peter Altmeyer, Palm Harbor