Voucher claims due for testing | Dec. 14, editorial
Voucher students tested for gains
Florida's public education system is so rich with learning options that last year 1.3 million students chose something other than their assigned neighborhood school. So the debate about how best to hold these diverse programs accountable for student progress is important.
Unfortunately, the manner in which the Times questioned testing for one of those programs — a Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students — was incomplete and misleading. While it is true scholarship students are not required to take the FCAT, that doesn't mean the test most of them take annually, the Stanford Achievement, is irrelevant. This test is considered the gold standard in national exams, and has now been administered for six years with two consistent findings: 1) The students choosing the scholarship were the lowest performers in their district schools; and 2) They are achieving the same test gains in reading and math as students of all incomes nationally.
The expansion of options such as magnet programs, charter schools, virtual schools and scholarships for low-income children strengthens public education. These options all undergo rigorous academic evaluation, and the new national Common Core standards will hopefully make comparative evaluations even easier for parents and the public.
Doug Tuthill, president, Step Up for Students, St. Petersburg
We've paid for safety net | Dec. 14, letters
Benefits can be canceled
We have been bamboozled, mainly by Democrats, with the attractive lie that Social Security is a paid-for insurance program run by the federal government and that we are assured (entitled to) our benefits. Untrue. In the 1960 case of Fleming vs. Nestor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers have no legally binding contractual rights to their Social Security benefits, and that those benefits can be canceled at any time.
Charles Palmer, Lutz
Anti-union law breaks hearts and backs Dec. 14, commentary
Keeping wages low
Dean Bakapoulos' article points to the fallacy that right-to-work legislation provides freedom to workers when the opposite is true. It is beyond serious debate that the GOP's anti-union laws playing out in several states are meant to suppress or destroy unions. Why? Because this depresses wages and benefits to increase the bottom line, not to mention muffling the unions' political voice.
Those critical of unions have never needed one. Those who support them must stay constantly involved to counter such potentially destructive political agendas.
Wayne Logsdon, Hernando
Rice decides to back down | Dec. 14
Public servant smeared
The Republicans can congratulate themselves on another successful Swiftboat smear operation. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte have discredited an innocent and worthwhile American servant. Susan Rice has impeccable credentials for the office of secretary of state and has given exemplary service to the country.
The really horrible intelligence failure was the one that sent us to Iraq, resulting in the deaths of 4,000 Americans and countless many more Iraqis. I didn't hear a squawk from the good senators then.
Lorraine Madison, St. Petersburg
Connecticut school killings
Guns don't make us safer
I am not satisfied with the failure of the White House and Congress to enact meaningful gun control in our country. Living in a state where 1 million of my neighbors carry concealed weapons does not make me proud.
We have many times the number of guns per citizen than other major nations. If more guns or concealed carry permits would make us safer, we would be the safest nation in the world. Instead, thousands of our citizens die every year due to gun violence.
Operating a car or an airplane requires rigorous testing, licensing and insurance. Owning a gun should require no less.
Steven Zeledon Sr., Ridge Manor
Three key changes
We need to take three critical steps to end this carnage.
First, ban semiautomatic weapons and weapons designed only to kill other people, and limit how much ammunition a person can purchase. Second, do a better job of identifying individuals who may be prone to violence and keep weapons out of their hands. Third, work at changing the violence-prone culture in this county. We immerse our children in violence through video games, movies and television. That has to change.
Sharon Moehle, Dunedin
Guns too easily available
The day after the horrendous massacre in a Connecticut elementary school, the Times ran an editorial with suggestions on how to stem gun violence. One proposal was to have Congress close the federal loophole that allows the purchase of handguns at gun shows without the required background checks. In the same edition, the newspaper ran 29 separate classified ads offering handguns for sale — no three-day waiting period, ID or background check needed.
Vince Cocks, St. Petersburg
Treat mental illness
The Newtown, Conn., shootings bring to the front two issues. One we won't have easy solutions for: gun ownership and gun control. But for the other issue — mental health disease and its treatment — we do have solutions. We have never done mental health programs well, but in 1980s we decided to drastically reduce funding for treatment programs or not to do support them at all.
Mental health disease is devastating. But just the same as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, it can be treated. Until we decide that mental health disease is well worth treating, we will continue to suffer preventable consequences.
Rick France, Tampa
Teachers should be armed
In light of a seeming epidemic of violence at schools, it would be wise to arm teachers with guns with instruction on how to use them. If that were the case, a criminal could be stopped before killing innocent children.
Lets face it, criminals will always have access to guns. It is the good people who need to have them in order to protect themselves, their families and especially our schoolchildren.
Shirley Volkert, Spring Hill