Common Core State Standards
Higher standards are key
With attacks on the Common Core State Standards for education coming from both sides of the aisle, what are parents to think? I've heard that Common Core is President Barack Obama's agenda to indoctrinate our children. I've heard it's an unconstitutional federal takeover. I've even heard that it's a scheme to perform experiments nationwide on our next generation. After doing some research, I learned that none of those concerns holds water. The fact is, our kids need higher standards for education. Let's look at a couple of disconcerting facts from the perspective of a parent with two children attending a public charter school.
I found out that 40 percent of Florida's class of 2013 who took the college entrance exam were graded "not college ready" for any portion of the test, which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. As a parent, this has huge financial implications. If my children are part of these statistics, that means that I pay for remedial classes in college, something I simply cannot afford. As a taxpayer, I expect my child's diploma to mean that he or she actually succeeded in high school and can move right into college courses. Higher standards will mean the next generation is prepared for college or the workforce.
The United States has more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs vacant because there are not enough qualified people to fill them. Even though studies show much progress in Florida, such as the 21 percent increase in high school graduation rates between 1999 and 2010, we are not where we need to be. We must raise the bar; our children will meet those expectations once we work together and stop fighting one another.
While many of the concerns about Common Core are rooted in valid concerns about protecting our children's privacy and our state's freedom, the drama is misdirected when it comes to these new standards. One of the conservative sites I follow put out a top 10 list of reasons to oppose Common Core. It was not based on fact. So, as a conservative parent and supporter of Common Core, the question I raise to those who oppose it: Then what? What are your ideas to close the learning gap and make our state's and our nation's high school diplomas have real value? Show me how you plan to help students be college- and career-ready instead of attacking what state leaders adopted to help our students achieve success.
Wendy Howard, Trinity
Citizens may get a third smaller Aug. 31
Danger of going bust
Citizens wants to dump 400,000 policies to small, underfunded, inexperienced insurance companies who have a business plan to go broke when the first major storm appears. Why in the world can't the folks we send to Tallahassee find a way to bring the major carriers who have the money and the experience back to Florida?
We Floridians are going to end up paying when these small takeout companies go broke, so why not work with companies such as Allstate, Nationwide and State Farm to get them back in Florida writing new policies? It's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when" a storm hits.
Jim Cornwell, Tampa
With few allies, U.S. presses on Aug. 31
Taking a moral stand
I have not always agreed with President Barack Obama's policies, domestic or foreign, but I did vote for him twice because I believed that he was an unusual politician, a moral man, who would do what was right whether it was popular or not.
The "crimes against humanity" perpetrated by Bashar Assad in Syria need a moral response. If we are to remain a moral compass for the world, we must do what is right and not what is expedient. I don't care about threats from Syria, Iran or Russia, and I certainly don't care about the cowardly response from Britain.
Great presidents have stood up to evil before. I am not a war hawk. In fact, I'm a peacenik. But I support Obama as he stands for what is morally right instead of what is convenient and politically more popular.
Robert Clifford, Tarpon Springs
Strike not worth it
The administration's threat of an overt act of war against Syria defies simple logic as well as moral calculus. We rattle our saber now that 1,400 people are dead after a chemical attack. Why? Because the president painted an imaginary red line without thinking through the possible consequences.
He has painted himself into a corner, and us along with him. The logic and calculus problems are that we've waited to threaten action only after 1,400 died from chemicals. What about the tens of thousands dead from bombs and bullets? What is the moral distinction? None. If 1,400 newly dead are worth our going to war, why not the first 1,400?
The action we appear to be preparing won't help anything. "Sending a signal" is one of the least effective objectives of war. Placing our military and our regional allies at risk to send a signal isn't worth it. Backing a rebellion tainted by al-Qaida is idiotic.
Jim Clees, St. Petersburg
Scott jabs at Crist, taxes | Aug. 31
Gov. Rick Scott bashes the president and former Gov. Charlie Crist while he takes full credit for Florida's barely improving economy. Corporate tax cuts while decimating state services to ordinary citizens is Scott's and the Republican Legislature's only mantra for attracting jobs.
A lead article in the Aug. 29 issue of Rolling Stone examined Gov. Jerry Brown's record in California, another megastate that Scott has targeted for corporate relocations. Brown and a supermajority Democratic legislature have presided over a recovery from the Great Recession but using vastly different means. The $27 billion California state budget deficit in 2011 has become a $4.6 billion surplus expected for 2014. A tax surcharge for incomes over $1 million combined with some budget "tough love" all contributed to this budget turnaround.
Far from fighting the federal Environmental Protection Agency, California has a huge water aqueduct infrastructure project underway and leads the nation in alternative energy with many tax concessions to "green" businesses.
California gladly accepted the federal billions for Medicaid expansion and worked cooperatively to set up insurance exchanges that are ready to roll with lower average premiums. They expect to cover 95 percent of California's 37 million population. Meantime, almost 25 percent of Florida's adult population is without health insurance and our beautiful environment is rapidly being degraded.
Tony Branch, Madeira Beach