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Some things are beyond control of the School Board

Re: A "good will gesture," editorial, April 26.

Your editorial castigating the Pinellas County School Board for seeking an end to court-ordered busing is seriously flawed. You say that the board "has revealed it was never serious about improving the quality of education for minority students." But you are blaming the board members for "results" when they should be properly held responsible for "opportunity." Opportunity and results are two different things.

Your editorial further asks, "Why are blacks disproportionately tracked into remedial courses?" And, "Why are blacks disproportionately disciplined?"

Your columnist Bill Maxwell wrote on this subject several weeks ago and illumined the problem with succinct clarity.

For several years it has been my delightful privilege to read stories every week to four first grade classes at one public elementary school and to three similar classes at another public elementary school. As an outsider, I see bright, eager faces, both black and white, being taught by loving, dedicated teachers. I detect absolutely no difference in the opportunity to learn as given by these teachers to all their children. So now, as they go through the years to adulthood, why are so many, as you say, "disproportionately tracked into remedial courses"?

It seems to me that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to lay the blame clearly at the home doorstep. Many black students get little academic encouragement in a home environment where the parent herself may have had a marginal education. This is coupled with perhaps poor or inadequate diet, lack of good lighting and a quiet study area plus a blaring TV. Now add to this busing to a distant school where the parent has little opportunity to meet her child's teacher and you have a first-rate formula for "remedial courses," and you should be glad the county provides them.

"Why are blacks disproportionately disciplined?" you query. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to reason through some facts: Over 50 percent of our prison population is black while black people constitute 12 percent of our population. So the per capita ratio is at least four times that of whites. Is it reasonable that the 19-year-old robber started off at a much earlier age in school by fighting, playing hooky, "hanging out" with his failing peers and taunting those successful blacks for "acting white"? Often the next stage is throwing bottles and rocks at the police.

Editors, do listen to Bill Maxwell's analysis of the causes. Do belabor the School Board for any documented failure to provide equal opportunity but don't excoriate the board for a causative environment over which they have little control. This inflames the public unjustly.

John Christy Clement, Tierra Verde

Busing has failed

Re: Busing vote could be a shortcut to trouble,

April 29.

Howard Troxler's column on busing would make me believe that he was born only yesterday or that is the state of his mentality. Troxler makes as much sense on busing as Jesse Helmes does on his boycott of Cuba.

It doesn't work! We have been there! It stinks and the only people carrying the load are the poor people who don't have a voice in government. The last genuine voice of the people was Hubert H. Humphrey on the Senate floor when he warned us all that busing was not the answer.

Troxler seems to have a high regard for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and diversity. I would suggest that he discuss breaking up the all-black colleges in the South. I think he would see a few raised eyebrows. You see, Howard, it all depends on where you are coming from. If you live in the northern half of Pinellas County, busing is not a real problem.

Richard S. Lee, Largo

System isn't good for black children

Re: Magnet schools may attract new challenges, April 20.

As a young parent of two children, I am highly upset about my kids being transported out of the city for an education. I live approximately two city blocks away from the nearest school, which is under construction, and the idea of obtaining a permit for this school is ridiculous! (We live near Lakewood Elementary, but my child is transported to Pinellas Park.)

I will never understand the reasoning for the zoning and definitely can't explain it to my impressionable children, one of whom is extremely eager to ride his bike to school. What happened to neighborhood schools that educate kids from that neighborhood? I know that a permit is available, based on a hardship, but my opinion of "hardship" may be viewed differently by another.

As for the magnet schools, I have submitted applications for the past four years. I find it disturbing that a small percentage of black children are accepted because the magnet school is located in south St. Petersburg. As the newspaper stated, a higher percentage of black children are accepted to magnet schools in "white" areas. This seems unfair because regardless of where the school is located, the percentage of white children in it is always higher.

I thought that the lottery system was a random selection of the applications received, not a matter of a child's skin color. It seems that the only place for my child, of color, is on "the list." I hate to feel so negatively about this system, but it does not seem to benefit children who may need to get back to the basics.

Tammie N. Albritton, St. Petersburg

Don't distort teacher pay

Recently, the Times printed information saying that the "average" pay for teachers in the state was about $35,000 per year. My wife is an elementary school teacher in Pinellas County with eight years of experience. She makes less than $28,000 per year. She called the county system's administration office to inquire about the apparent contradiction and was told that the state "average" is influenced by a large number of teachers statewide nearing 30 years of service, and this is how the high "average" can be reported to the public.

Entry-level classroom teachers in Pinellas County will earn slightly over $25,000 per year. The public shouldn't believe that classroom teachers earn the previously reported amount without explaining how that figure was derived. The public may benefit from understanding that professional educators have great demands placed upon them and they are compensated with earnings that would simply be unacceptable for other professions that have similar qualifications and demands.

Michael Burke, Crystal Beach

Put merit in these scholarships

Re: Study up on Bright Futures, editorial, April 24.

Let me get this straight: Not only are you able to gain entrance to a college or university (other than a community college) with a 970 aggregate SAT score, but you are also eligible for a Bright Futures "Merit" Scholarship? Obviously the term "merit" has gained additional meaning of late and has virtually nothing in common with "merit" as used in the phrase "National Merit scholar."

Given that an SAT of 970 is close to mid-range (and may still be below the recentered median score), maybe we should redefine these as "mediocrity" scholarships! New York State offers Regents Scholarships based upon an exam; it is my recollection that in a "normal'" New York secondary school, maybe three to 12 students would earn such a scholarship _ now that is merit. Perhaps rescaling the score for these Bright Futures scholarships to, say, 1,300 (or even 1,200) would not only save money (apparently an issue!), but it would ensure that "merit" is a consideration. After all, we are not discussing athletic "scholarships," are we?

Stephen Grabe, Brandon

Hold violent children accountable

Re: Children who threaten violence.

I certainly am not alone in thinking kids are way too violent today. One need only read the paper to confirm this. Solutions to curb this violence, though, are difficult to come by.

Parents and schools have had their ability to discipline children stripped away by lawyers and well meaning "do good" social workers. Forty years ago parents did not have to worry about going to jail for doing what occasionaly is required of parents. And oddly enough, our greatest fears back then did not include kids with guns killing adults and other kids, kids on drugs, kids blatantly laughing at authority figures knowing full well when they reach 18 years of age their records would be cleared of all heinous crimes _ including murder.

Everywhere they go they get told about their "rights," but no one tells them about responsibility and accountability for their actions. Maybe it's time we start making them accountable in order to control some of this atrocious behavior. Given the fact that we will never be allowed to travel back 40 years in time, the only solution available today is to quit pandering to these violent little hoodlums and put them away for life or try them as adults and let God grant their souls the mercy they refused to show their victims.

Vilmar Tavares, Spring Hill

We ought to encourage tolerance

Re: Watch out: Little brother is listening, by Nat Hentoff, April 27.

Once again Hentoff extrapolates a governmental program into a Brave New World scenario, assuming it will negate the First Amendment. He decries the message of Janet Reno's Internet Kid's Page of the Justice Department: "Kids like you have to deal with the prejudice of their family members.. . . When someone makes jokes about people, or labels people because of where they come from, the color of their skin, their religion or gender, it's both a hurtful and hateful act."

Hentoff's contention is the government is now acting as the speech police. He goes on to paint a picture of the government setting up files of incidents received from kids telling on their parents for making bigoted comments or for events where discrimination is witnessed. His solution seems to be to let the kids decide for themselves. Eventually they will all understand and turn out fine.

First, I would rather have a government program teaching tolerance than bigotry or anti-Semitism, racism or anti-Catholicism.

Secondly, are we to dismiss teachers, the clergy and some politicians and agencies whose responsibilities are to set values that include living together peacefully in a multicultural society?

Third, the books and authors in the past whose writings contained anti-isms and are considered great writers should still be allowed to be read by all with the knowledge that some attitudes, values and opinions change with the greater understanding of a changing society.

Sy Ginsburg, Hudson

Savoring the beauty

Plaudits for the April 25 editorial The colors of the season.

Amid all the tragedy and misfortune in the A section alone, reading this editorial was akin to switching on a bright light in pitch darkness. The first sentence, "The plants that bloom in spring give us gifts we probably aren't even aware of," was a day-brightener for those who read this uplifting article.

Yes _ look, smell and enjoy while we can. These splendid beauties grace us once every year only too briefly.

Bill Dunihue, St. Petersburg

Share your opinions

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.

They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number. Please include a handwritten signature when possible.

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