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Lawmakers seem like poor players in a tragedy

I hope the Florida legislators are wearing their clown suits on the last day of the session. The only problem is that nothing they have done is funny, rather it is tragic.

We read every day about the terrible shortage of textbooks in our schools and the amount of money the teachers pay out of their own pockets for day to day expenses. Then we read that the Legislature has millions of dollars it is wild about spending in the form of an asinine $50 refund to property owners with homestead exemption, and the latest is a $100 refund (if the Senate has their way) to people purchasing certain kinds of clothing during certain months. But there is no mention of money for schools or for increasing the amount given to teachers.

Obviously there has been no serious thought given to these absurd proposals, which could cause tremendous inequities to consumers who would not be able to purchase items at the time of the big rebate.

Gov. Lawton Chiles is the only person here who is trying to provide for the children of this state who need help, but the clowns have opted to tie his hands by adding all of their pork and pet projects to his bills, so if he vetoes them he is indeed vetoing his own bills that so desperately need to be passed.

I think these people in Tallahassee should be ashamed of themselves for their unconscionable behavior, and I sincerely hope the Times will print the names of all of our local legislators who have participated in this travesty that is being passed off as good government, so we will know who not to vote for in November.

June Einboden, St. Petersburg

Skip the vote-getting gimmicks

In Thursday's paper I noted the photograph of Sens. John Dyer, Ron Silver, and Locke Burt along with staff director Jay Kassack. The four appear to be enjoying a joke. I presume the joke must be about the homeowner rebate, which I think is about the biggest laugh in Florida and the nation as a whole.

With our Florida educational system in a deplorable state and close to the bottom of the list in a recent national grading of schools, I consider this rebate action as complete idiocy.

This Senate has the effrontery to use this patronizing, vote-getting gimmick, in an attempt to get the citizens' vote (your vote).

At the next election, just say no.

The education of Florida's children is far more important than throwing us a crumb with their "let 'em eat cake" attitude. We pay them. Let's start telling them how we want things done.

I offer this suggestion: Lower the state sales tax 0.5 percent and do away with the idiotic outmoded tax on assets and inventory. Introduce a fair, equitable state income tax. Surely we have astute and capable businessmen and businesswomen in this state who can run the show instead of a bunch of politicking hacks attempting to mess with our heads.

Gladys Totty, New Port Richey

Maybe we should vote for the lobbyists

Whenever I read anything about pending or passed bills in the Florida Legislature, I keep seeing the message that "lobbyists" have influenced, written, pressured, etc. this or that.

What I want to know is: Who is running this state _ the elected officials or the lobbyists?

Maybe we should vote for the lobbyists and just let them appoint legislators who will enact laws according to their wishes.

K.L. McLeod, Jr., St. Petersburg

The people are ill-served

There are four articles in Thursday's paper that make me wonder whom our state legislators are working for.

The first one involves the $96.2-million "budget slice." The others are Senate okays homeowner rebate, sales tax break; Senate backs local phone rate study; and Opponents of Rodman Dam are defeated.

Are our legislators living in a "sick building" where their brains are scrambled and they are unable to reason? Take $3-million of the "rebate money" and take the damn dam down! If taxpayers have already spent $900,000 on a study that resulted in a vote to take it down in 1993, then do it! Bass fishing is obviously not in the best interests of the ecology or the people of the state of Florida.

Giving homeowners back $50 when they are being charged billions of dollars for the Hurricane Catastrophe fund is another stupid idea. Just pool the money into the fund so that we can stop paying that extra charge a little earlier!

And then there's the idiotic phone issue again! If we are already paying the lowest rates in the country, peripheral services such as call waiting are a drop in the bucket at $4 a month. Can't these guys use a calculator? The only thing I can calculate is an increase in tax revenues for Florida.

My message to the Legislature: "Stop stuffing money in your pockets and into the pockets of the special interests and get back to the business at hand _ taking care of the people!"

Decisions made by our Legislature must be a source of a lot of jokes in this country. And the people of Florida, unfortunately, are the butt of them.

Sharon Friedman, St. Petersburg

Think about education

Re: Tax break bounty to be in millions, April 29.

I am both amused and appalled to learn that the state has so much extra cash and yet these wise lawmakers don't know what to do with it. I've got a novel idea: How about spending it on education? My children have already successfully gone through the public school system, but I am more than willing to donate my $50 (proposed) refund to make sure a child has his/her own textbooks to take home.

Beverly G. Isaacs, Seminole

Vouchers would hurt public schools

Re: Parents ought to have a choice, letter from Florida House Speaker Daniel Webster, April 17.

Webster contends that his plan to use taxpayer funds to support private and religious schools in the state of Florida is the answer to our state's education dilemma. Nothing could be further from the truth! The notion that putting our tax money into private and parochial schools, and taking it away from our public schools, will somehow create healthier and happier children in kindergarten is a dangerous deception. It will, if carried out as Webster proposes, be the first step toward the destruction of our public school system _ which is a goal he obviously seeks.

What we need is a strong, well-financed public school system that will provide our children with sound basics in the skills they need to succeed in today's world. Making subsidies available to the approximately 10 percent of Florida's students who attend private schools _ in the form of vouchers or "scholarships" or whatever name it may be _ will open the door to educational institutions sponsored by all manner of philosophical groups bent on indoctrinating our children. Public schools are the best examples that we have of our young citizens learning to get along with each other, in a pluralistic and tolerant environment, to help our democracy survive.

Webster compares vouchers for private schools to those provided for social welfare needs, but he fails to note that none of those needs deal with religious indoctrination or the violation of our state constitution's very explicit prohibition of any allocation of funds to religious institutions or for any religious purposes. Webster's bill would take more than $1-billion from public education in our state _ money we desperately need to address the current needs of overcrowding and aging public schools.

Rev. Henry Green, president, Tampa Bay Chapter,

Americans United for Separation of Church and State,

St. Petersburg

Don't divert school funds

As a member of the American Association of University Women, I urge you to oppose any attempts to weaken America's public education system by redirecting already scarce funds away from public schools. Public schools are the backbone to our society.

AAUW has long fought against diversion of public funds to private or religious elementary and secondary schools for the following reasons: private and religious schools can reject students based on the school's own admissions criteria, which do not have to conform to federal non-discrimination laws; private and religious schools are not under meaningful public control by popularly elected officials; and using federal funds for religious education violates the establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (separation of church and state). Make no mistake about it, this is just the beginning of vouchers. This is just an attempt to get the foot in the door.

AAUW believes that the proper remedy for failing school systems is to improve public schools, rather than diverting public funds into private and religious institutions.

Margaret Hyde, state director, public policy, American

Association of University Women, Clearwater

An unfair comparison

Re: Vouchers have a role in solving school problems, letter, April 29.

The letter writer feels that vouchers would solve part of the problems public school education experiences. He says, "Private schools produce better academic results and have fewer behavioral problems."

The socioeconomic mix of private schools is completely different from the populations attending public schools. The parents who choose to spend the big bucks for private schools, are interested in the educational process and are willing to invest in that process and take a more active part in it. I am not saying that the parents of children in public schools do not care about their children's education, but more of their energies go into providing the basic essentials of life for their families. If vouchers were ever approved, even less money would be available for public education.

I'm sure the voucher system will not provide enough money for those individuals struggling to make ends meet. It would only subsidize the funds of those individuals who are upper middle class, who might have enough money even without the vouchers if they stretched their finances a little more. Or it would make it easier for people whose children are now attending private schools.

Marilyn Ginsburg, Hudson

Don't impede search for excellence

Re: Voucher bill ignores the Constitution.

Martin Dyckman's April 21 column does not make it clear whether there is any difference between educating today's youth and supporting our public school system. If our Constitution makes our public school system more important than the constituency it is supposed to serve, then clearly something needs to be changed.

Some schools in our public school system are excellent and some are at the other end of the spectrum. The same is true of private schools. School vouchers can give individuals (parents and children) the freedom to choose excellence wherever they may find it. Does Dyckman argue that our Constitution prohibits the search for excellence? Can citizens in a democracy be trusted to make that choice? Or should only the wealthy, who can afford to pay tuition to an excellent private (parochial) school, be given that choice?

Nelson R. Eldred, Tampa

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