Letters to the Editor

Vouchers have no place in a Florida that shortchanges schools

When private and public meet in class | Jan. 25, Perspective story

Florida can't afford vouchers

Doug Tuthill makes a compelling argument for public-private educational partnerships in this opinion piece. However, with all due respect to my friend and colleague, his arguments for tuition tax credits or the use of tax dollars for private education — at least in the state of Florida — are flawed.

In a state that adequately funds education, one that provides for programs that work for students, salaries that attract the best teachers, and facilities and technology that enhance every student's educational experience, this public-private conversation could and probably should take place.

But such partnerships are at best premature in a state like ours in which the Legislature has abandoned its constitutional responsibility to our schools. In an environment where education must fight for every dollar because an inadequate tax structure produces year after year of budget deficits and funding cuts, there is little chance of creating a climate of cooperation with private educational entities that siphon off more money that public education doesn't have to share.

Ideas like Doug's, though intriguing and thought-provoking, are ill-timed and only distract us from the real problem facing education in Florida — adequate funding. It is ironic that in the name of fiscal responsibility our state leaders have become fiscally irresponsible to our educational needs. Until those needs are met, there is little chance that the public education anathema for vouchers will end any time soon.

Rob McMahon, Safety Harbor

When private and public meet in class Jan. 25

A plan to sell out public education

Let's think. The tax base is shrinking. Now is the time, Doug Tuthill says, to give big business tax credits for spending dollars to establish more schools while we close public schools.

When public schools are thus eradicated due to lack of funding, we fall dependent on "businesses" to educate our children in schools without any public standards. He calls it "customizing public education." I call it the ultimate sell-out of the American dream! Who will build the "freedom schools" then?

"Private" is not the right description of a voucher-built school. Real private schools don't rob the state tax base for their tuition. "Charter" schools must meet public standards and be overseen by publicly elected boards.

"Taxation without representation" schools are what Tuthill wants. Time for another Boston Tea Party?

Beatrice Griswold, St. Petersburg

Florida needs an income tax | Jan. 25, letter

Boost the sales tax

I believe the writer who replied to the Jan. 18 story GOP lawmakers utter heresy: taxes and said that Florida needs an income tax is completely wrong. The only people who would pay an income tax are those who are declaring their income and already paying tax on it.

What is needed is an increased sales tax. Think about it: Sales tax is paid in direct proportion to the amount of money a person spends. Those who don't spend much don't pay much. It is the only tax paid on unreported income. This includes all the money generated through the underground economy. Millions of dollars in income are unreported. Some of the sources of this unreported income are day laborers, yard workers, teenagers in part-time jobs, domestic workers and housekeepers. No income tax is paid on this income, yet a sales tax would tax it when it was spent.

A sales tax would also foster saving in that if you saved the money and invested it instead of spending it, you would not have to pay a sales tax on it.

Sales taxes hit everyone in direct proportion to the amount of money they spend.

Earl Tyer, Trilby

Florida needs an income tax | Jan. 25, letter

Spending must be curbed

I read with dismay this call for a state income tax. Do people not understand that state spending is what has gotten Florida into its current economic mess? Enabling even more spending from a new state income tax revenue stream, without any new budget controls, is like telling a fat person that everything will be okay if they will just buy and eat even more doughnuts from yet another vendor.

Florida needs a budgeting process that links and limits spending to a formula involving inflation and population growth. Ideally, it would also require the Legislature to bank 5 percent of the state's total revenues each year (plus any excess tax collected over and above budget) to build up a regulated reserve.

Imagine where we would be today if such a system had been in place during the last four years of exploding state revenues. This is the constructive kind of change we need in our state Constitution — and in the mind-set of some Floridians.

Vincent Shook, St. Petersburg

Florida needs an income tax | Jan. 25, letter

It's unconstitutional

What most of the new arrivals to Florida do not realize is that the Florida Constitution does not allow a state income tax, therefore the Legislature cannot institute one. To get a state income tax would require a change to the Constitution, which would require a referendum.

I doubt that 60 percent of the population would vote in favor of a tax, but if enough people feel strongly about this, some group should try to get a referendum on the 2010 ballot.

Kenneth Leiser, Seminole

Honest services fraud | Jan. 25

There needs to be a law?

Toward the end of this Perspective article, there was a statement that said: "Efforts to put an honest services fraud clause in to state law have so far been unsuccessful …"

What? If I understand this correctly, it seems that we need a law to presume that a public official owes the public a duty of honest services. Otherwise what? They are allowed to give us dishonest services? And if that's not outrageous enough, the legislators we've elected have resisted approving this measure.

Imagine having a job where you don't have to be honest unless there's a law saying that you have to be. What has happened to our society?

As optimistic as I am that President Obama is going to be able to dramatically improve many aspects of the things that have gone wrong in our country, I'm not sure how he's going to change this mentality. Please, someone, tell me that I'm missing something here.

Marge Grauso, New Port Richey

A one-sided story | Jan. 28, letter

Reporting both sides

I found the letter about one-sided reporting favoring Gaza to be ironic. The whole situation in extremely one-sided. One side (Israel) has missiles, Apache helicopters, tanks and other weapons. This side has killed 1,400 people, a third of them children. During the onslaught, 14 Israelis were killed (four of them by friendly fire).

It is definitely a one-sided situation and it has been for the last 60 years. I was born the same year Israel was created, and I have never understood why it is all right for a group of people from afar to come to an area and take land and homes from the people who have lived there for hundreds of years.

A lot of Americans are thankful that the media, and the St. Petersburg Times, are finally reporting both sides of this story — including the Palestinian side. Please continue with more stories telling the facts about the Middle East.

Melva Underbakke, Temple Terrace

Super Bowl

Why all the fuss?

Perhaps I am missing something, but I do not understand the hype concerning the Super Bowl in Tampa. Our home team is out of it, and has been for a while. Locals find it impossible to get seats for the game, and will watch in the comfort of their homes like viewers around the country.

Unless you own a restaurant or hotel in the area around the stadium, there will be no benefit to you at all. But the local media are covering this the way they did when the Rays were in the World Series.

I just don't get it. It is just two out-of-town teams playing a televised game. For the average viewer, the game could just as well be played in Cleveland.

Harold Mitnick, Palm Harbor

Vouchers have no place in a Florida that shortchanges schools 01/31/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 2:20am]

    

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