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Our educational system is heading for a breakdown

As we learn more about the state of our public schools, we should be recoiling in horror. The Oct. 23 headlines tell us that there is a shortage of substitute teachers. Previous headlines advised us that there will to be a dramatic increase in the student population. Add this to the facts that we already teach an increasing number of students in temporary facilities, are increasing the number of pupils per classroom, are facing a growing shortage of full-time teachers and a diminishing budget (on a per-pupil basis), and we have the recipe for an institutional breakdown.

And that is just K-12! If a student succeeds in that environment, he or she can look forward to going to a university that increasingly relies on a poorly paid, temporary work force of adjuncts and graduate students to teach the bulk of the students during their first two years at the university, has an increasing student-to-faculty ratio, and is predicted to grow by 40-60 percent over the next 13 years with no plans to hire 40-60 percent more full-time professors. And if this wasn't enough bad news for one month, these same schools are already rated poorly enough to scare businesses away from relocating into the state despite its low taxes. Meanwhile, the politicians fiddle while the education system burns.

David Shafer, St. Pete Beach

National testing is needed

It is beyond my comprehension as to why any educator or politician, Democrat or Republican, would be opposed to national standardized testing in public schools, grades 1 through 4.

What better tool to ensure students are receiving at least an adequate education in reading, writing, math and government in order to be able to function in our society without becoming more statistics on the welfare rolls?

These tests would be a clear indicator of schools where students are not meeting national standards and where help is needed to correct the situation.

Standardized testing would also make it possible to place a transferred student (this is a constant in our mobile society) with minimal disruption of the classroom and the student's education.

I hope that Congress will not make national standardized testing for grades 1 through 4 "a political football" but rather a bipartisan issue, as it would be a great aid in providing for a better life for the underprivileged of our country.

Betty J. Perks, Port Richey

The voters must have a say

Re: Panel: Spend billions on schools, Oct. 21.

The Governor's Commission on Education should read about the Revolutionary War fought by 13 colonies against England, which wanted to raise taxes without representation. If school districts were given the power to raise taxes, as the commission recommended, then who will be next to raise taxes without voter approval? This movement should be stopped before it ever gets started. Floridians should contact their representatives in Tallahassee to register their discontent and disapproval. Do it now or we will be taxed by any entity that depends on taxes regardless of how the taxpayers feel.

I have always voted for school bonds when I lived in New York and, also, when I moved to Florida. The youths of today are our leaders of tomorrow and, certainly, they deserve everyone's support; however, raising taxes without voter approval is not the Democratic way.

Alfred DiServio, New Port Richey

Why is the school to blame?

Re: Empty school lunch fund leaves girl a bit hungry, Oct. 22.

Once again I read a story where the blame is being passed on to someone else. Please don't take this the wrong way, as I do understand how an 8-year-old could easily lose a dollar. That has happened to most of us. And I do agree that no child should go without lunch.

However, the focus of the story was on the fact that the school would only provide her with a vegetable plate. And even the principal said he "felt badly about it."

The fact is the girl was expected to pay for her lunch and she, not the school, lost her money. Having a lunch loan account sounds like a good idea, however they now know it's not foolproof. It's reasonable to understand the position of the school. It's true, they cannot afford to give away food. I give credit to the father for writing a $100 check to replenish the fund, however why should he become "infuriated"? Why put the blame on the school or the system?

Every day in the news we hear or read about someone blaming someone else for their problems. At times, that may be true, buy very often it's just an excuse. Taking responsibility for one's own actions seems to be a way of the past.

As for the current problem with the loan account, why not have each of the students pre-pay for their lunches on a weekly or monthly basis? This would avoid the chance of lost cash and avoid the humiliation of only going to your lunch table with just a "vegetable plate."

L. C. Foster, St Petersburg

Values need to be taught in schools

Re: Violence in our schools.

The problem is that moral values are no longer taught in the schools of Pinellas County. This is a responsibility of good parents to teach their children the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, but there are many children in Pinellas schools who are raised in godless homes where no moral instruction is given. This may explain the rise in violent crime by teenagers, such as murder and attempted murder.

"If it feels good, do it" is no longer a standard that can be tolerated in the schools of Pinellas County. Otherwise, things will not get better. They will get worse.

If every parent who has children attending Pinellas County schools would write to the Board of Education, asking them to renew the teaching of moral principles in Pinellas County schools, the safety of our children would be increased.

Roy Cadwell, Clearwater

Computers and schools

Too much emphasis has been placed on children using computers in schools. It is true that the computer can be a helpful tool, but they should not be depended on. It has almost become necessary for students of all ages to own a computer, and this is unfair to the families that cannot afford a computer at this time.

Computers are going to be the essential technology for the future, and children should learn about them and how to use them. This could possibly be done by means of a mandatory class throughout their schooling. Computers do make typing papers and doing research a great deal easier. They are very helpful, but should not be required for those types of subjects. On the other hand, there are some skills that do not require a computer and those such as writing, mathematics, etc. should be taught without a computer.

Children should never be made to feel inferior because their family income is not high enough to keep up with society's technology. Computers are going to be a necessity in the future, and when that time comes, they should be made available to all students whether their family has the money or not.

Kristen Hammer, Seminole

Children's needs are ignored

Re: Will their cries be heard?, Oct. 18.

Your editorial concerning the horrifying cases of child abuse in Florida seems to be the "one voice crying out in the wilderness."

Where are the voices of the respect-life groups and the Christian Coalition that are so vocal when it comes to protecting the unborn child and stressing family values? They are strangely silent when it comes to the welfare of all our children. Why are they so horrified by partial birth abortions but turn a deaf ear to the cries of abused children? While the fetus being aborted may well suffer a few moments of pain, those five children who died in Florida in September suffered from beatings, broken bones, cigarette burns, even sexual abuse for months or years.

Why is pressure not being brought on state legislators to increase funding for the Department of Children and Families so that agency can properly do its job? Instead, as your editorial pointed out, the legislature cut 33 investigator positions leaving unmanageable workloads. Some members find it so easy to blame teachers and child investigators for failing to do their jobs while not giving them the proper incentives to do so.

As one who has worked with underprivileged children for many years, I am appalled by the manner in which the state of Florida ignores their needs.

Mary Miller, Clearwater

Crack down on deadbeat parents

I believe something should be done to relieve our society of the responsibility bestowed upon us due to deadbeat parents.

The economic hardships on the single parent cause emotional distress on the family. The single parent is forced to undertake the responsibility of providing what would be a combined income to support the child, thereby losing quality time when the child is left with babysitters.

The responsibility laid on the single parent to produce all the income leads to the dependency on the government. The family is forced to rely on programs such as Medicaid, HUD, WIC and welfare to make ends meet.

Single parents are stereotyped as being irresponsible when, in fact, they are the people who carry more responsibility than most. Without a responsible single parent, orphanages and foster homes would be overpopulated, costing society even more expense.

I propose stricter enforcement of the laws that are already in effect for deadbeat parents. Without the enforcement of the laws, society and single parents lose.

Sherri Beth Fields, St. Petersburg

Remove the land mines now

Re: Banning the use of land mines.

The idea of banning the use of land mines of all types in future conflicts, as promoted by Princess Diana before her tragic death, is a great cause and should receive the full support of the world's leaders.

However, what many of the world's nations need immediately is a concerted effort by the United Nations in removing the millions of these killers now! Save the dialogue for later.

Bob Biggers, Clearwater

A welcome column

Re: The word can wound _ if we let it, by Clarence Page, Oct. 15.

How may I say in a million ways how wonderful and insightful this column is. I am not a parent myself; however, I am a proud aunt of three. Sometimes and all too often I see these precious children hurt time and time again over the abuse of word usage. Like Page and many others, I, too, cringe at the thought of this sorrowful moment.

I strongly feel that Page has set a wonderful example not only for his child, but for parents who are searching for the same answers. I hope to see more home-based articles like this one in the future. Thank you, Clarence Page.

JoAnn Smith, St. Petersburg

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Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by e-mail to letterssptimes.com or by fax to 893-8675.

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Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

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