When officials fail, kids suffer
The interaction between the District School Board of Pasco County and the Board of County Commissioners, two entities whose purpose is to serve the citizens of Pasco County, is a case study in government dysfunction.
On the school side, we have an administration that failed to adequately study the impact fee issue via communication with the School Board attorney, the School Board and relevant experts in the field prior to cutting a closed-door deal with a couple of developers/builders who presumably represent the building community. We also have a School Board that allowed the poor communication with its administration to exist.
On the county side, we have commissioners, who accept significant numbers of campaign checks from builders, developers, and the construction industry, "taking a shot in the dark" to stimulate the local economy to the detriment of children. Worst of all, the commission, by all accounts, allowed a land attorney and a developer to run a public meeting.
It is also my belief that we now have School Board members, and possibly union representatives, whipping up angst and hostility toward the County Commission that should rightfully and strategically remain focused on the School Board, district administration and the Florida Legislature. This is a mere distraction from the insidious and prolonged lack of commitment from the Florida Legislature and state government.
Educators should not expose their ignorance by falling for this ploy. Stay focused on the source of our children's pain, which is the dollars being allocated by the state for public education. If you are mad about education funding, you should descend upon the Capitol and not waste your energy on the commission.
Most of all, I fear that this calamity will jeopardize the continuation of the Penny for Pasco. How exactly will the county commissioners advocate jointly for the Penny for Pasco when they are clearly sending a message that the School Board doesn't need the capital dollars generated by impact fees? As the School Board's architect (with help of good friends) of the original Penny for Pasco plan, under these circumstances, I would find it hard to encourage a voting public to support both the school system and county government in a sales tax increase.
I would suggest the commission consider some alternatives. I am not opposed to an experiment or a "shot in the dark." I don't necessarily blame builders and developers for their position. But, I do blame the commission for not recognizing that the people their actions may harm are the most are voiceless: children. Here are a few ideas:
At the end of 22 months, the commission must make certain that the impact fee is reinstated as all parties are now saying. Meanwhile, the School Board must commission a new study to be completed prior to the end of the 22-month period.
Both must assemble a committee of rational individuals to jointly evaluate and vet the findings of the study. Both also must remain committed to concurrency.
Neither the commission nor the School Board can give up. Our children's voices must be heard. It is incumbent upon the School Board and County Commission to find a win-win position. There is too much at stake to just vote and move on. Please find that common ground.
Ray Gadd, Land O'Lakes
Teachers deserve better treatment
I am a retired teacher of students with special needs. I started teaching in 1956 and my first annual salary was $4,200. There was no representation or negotiating unit for teaches. We were good enough to teach children, but not good enough to participate in determining our destiny. School Boards could hire and fire with no regard for individual rights.
Time passes, teachers gained strength and numbers and things began to change. Unions were given the right to organize and represent the teaching profession.
I could never understand how the general population could trust us with their children and deny us the rights given to coal miners, seamstresses and factory workers. People have short memories. If we had been living in the early 1990s, we would have sweat shops, underage workers and no governance of workplace conditions.
Now, we are living in an age where the value of teaching is under attack. Teachers are portrayed as lazy, unqualified people who earn too much and work too little. We seem to blame the most vulnerable in our society for the bad decisions of politicians, bankers and the very wealthy. When budgets fall short, our elected officials look to recoup their shortfalls of the backs of senior citizens, the disabled, children and teachers. Why don't they look to those who put us in this position?
No teacher ever ordered an invasion of another country. No teacher authorized unsecured loans. No teacher told the government to support other countries before taking care of our own in need of support.
I'm beginning to question whether our elected officials should be judged as they want to judge teachers. Would their job be threatened if a bill of theirs wasn't passed? They might not get re-elected if their performance is judged substandard by their constituents. But elected officials would never tolerate what teachers are expected to tolerate.
The government can blame teachers and condemn the free education to which each child is entitled. They can keep distracting the public from the greed and benefits they grant themselves. But sooner or later, the public will have had enough and we will see a national wave of people who refuse to take it any more.
Janet Carroll, New Port Richey