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Wednesday letters: Expanding school voucher program only makes a bad idea worse

Plan bumps up vouchers | Feb. 11, story

More vouchers make bad idea worse

There is absolutely no good reason to have vouchers for low-income students. To increase their value makes a bad idea expensively worse. Please educate your legislators.

Funding for this program comes from donations that corporations would otherwise pay into the state's general fund. This is a state that is begging to get relief from the mandates of the class size reduction amendment (passed by Florida voters). Is there extra money around to fund needless programs? Of course not.

Why is this voucher program not needed? Because we have free public schools. Are low-income children discriminated against in our schools? No. Certainly not on the basis of low income. Then how did such a program with no sensible rationale get started?

This is one of two remaining voucher programs initiated by former Gov. Jeb Bush. The original voucher plan, for children in so-called "failing schools," was declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. So should the others, but they have not been challenged. They have sympathy factors that have immunized them from attack.

The fact that about 70 percent of these voucher recipients are "minorities" demonstrates both sympathy and mythology factors. Unless the students were handicapped (which is covered by the third voucher program) what is the basis for the special sympathy?

The mythology is in the notion that private schools do a better job. Holding all factors equal, this has not been proved. Nor are financial comparisons correctly made. You do not save money.

Additionally, some 75 percent of the private schools are religious schools. This makes the public funding of them (by subsidized students) unconstitutional by state and federal constitutions.

Apparently, legislators are hoping you are not paying attention.

Don Chamberlin, Clearwater

Preserve public schools

It was Horace Mann who strove to establish an available and equal education for all, regardless of wealth. Preceding Mann was Thomas Jefferson, who is considered the "political father" of American public education. He said: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be."

True, private, usually church-founded, schools have played an important roll. I do not oppose private schools; I graduated from one. That is an option people have, but at their own expense.

Our politicians need to reflect back on Mann and Jefferson to get their guidelines. Even educators, who should know better, are pulling away from these principles with all of their special programs, fragmenting their resources.

Constitutionally, our state is required to provide a quality (example, fundamental schools) education for every child. Nothing more, nothing less: That is the law.

Henry L. "Harry" King, Clearwater

Crist backs rehab for inmates | Feb. 15, story

We should be making more room in prisons

It is encouraging to see the governor and other top Republican lawmakers supporting an inmate rehabilitation program, if only for budgetary reasons.

In addition to this effort, I'd suggest the prison population could well be reduced by culling out certain types of inmates. Those inmates who are near the end of their sentences, who were not convicted of violent crimes, who were not problem prisoners, who are over 50 years of age, and who have a record of visits from relatives, would be prime candidates for early release.

This would require a revised parole policy and a bit of work by the prison administration. But such an inmate, once identified, would not need a program to prepare him.

Donald Rourke, Tampa

Welcome back to the job, Gov. Crist | Feb. 13, Steve Bousquet column

Where's the substance?

Steve Bousquet's column about why Charlie Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate is still viable underscored why Crist has lost so much support: Everything is a matter of tactics, all without substance.

Crist apparently believes, as do professional political operatives, that substance is of little or no importance. The only reference to substance in Bousquet's column was the reference to Crist's pep talk to Workforce Florida. But repeating the word "jobs" as a mantra is not substantive. Neither is cheerleading.

Jeffrey Meyer, Clearwater

What gets you fired? Voting for consumers Feb. 14, Howard Troxler column

Serving the public

Many thanks to Howard Troxler for doing such a great job of making the public aware of how public counsel J.R. Kelly is being threatened with losing his job of working for the people of Florida because he denied the rate hike request of Florida's two biggest electric companies.

Public counsel Kelly is doing his job well.

Howard Troxler is doing his job very well.

It's too bad Senate President Atwater and those members of the Legislature who are angry at Kelly are not more intent on serving the interests of the people of Florida instead of the interests of their big campaign contributors.

Please keep up your great public service, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Troxler. Millions of us count on you.

Don Evans, Clearwater

What gets you fired? Voting for consumers Feb. 14, Howard Troxler column

Standards are needed

In this column, Howard Troxler notes that a Florida legislator speaks of establishing qualifications for members of Florida commissions.

That is good. Would that there were qualifications of intelligence, ethics and emotional stability — not only for commissions, but also to be eligible to run for the Florida Legislature.

That'll be the day.

Mortimer Brown, Lutz

My merit badge in martini mixology | Feb. 12, Daniel Ruth column

Unneeded admissions

Both as a former Scout and as the father of an Eagle Scout with three Palms, I was incensed at Daniel Ruth's use of editorial space in the St. Petersburg Times to share his seedy experiences in an organization that for 100 years has helped millions of young men worldwide.

I fail to see what purpose his revelations might advance except to cast negative aspersions on his fellow Scouts and their parents from those many years ago as well as the leaders of the troop he actually had the temerity to identify.

He admits to stealing, though he uses the word "pilfering," specific brands of cigarettes, in addition to scotch, gin, vodka and bourbon in a bragging way.

He appears proud of the fact that he and his fellow adolescents broke numerous laws, something most adults would be ashamed to admit except as an example to help young people. Rather, he is self-satisfied in his actions and fully places blame on the organization of Scouting.

If Ruth feels the need to make known his shortcomings there are better places to do so — including the confessional at the church he has maligned — but not the editorial pages of the Times.

Thomas I. Hayes, St. Petersburg

It was a dream car or college | Feb. 11, story

Valuing family

Thanks so much for the touching article about the Sterner family. It's not just about the car, although that was sure a great gift. The last paragraph of the article said volumes: "Other people invest in stock. We always invested in our children."

Having worked with youthful offenders, I've seen firsthand the other side of the equation. The importance of family makes all the difference in a child's life, and children become a positive force in society because of it. If you're as fortunate as Jerry Sterner, your kids will even want to see you have fun in your retirement.

Carolyn Shockey, Hudson

Wednesday letters: Expanding school voucher program only makes a bad idea worse 02/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 6:50pm]
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