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State community colleges get a boost from Bush

Re: Millions possible for small colleges, Jan. 16.

So often in our society, public officials lay out their fundamental beliefs and priorities during the campaign only to sacrifice them when the time arrives to spend the taxes paid by hard-working Floridians. Gov. Jeb Bush is proving once again that he is who he says he is by proposing a historic 7.6 percent increase for community colleges.

Florida's community colleges have been challenged to increase the number of adults and high school graduates accessing higher education and they have responded with record enrollment increases all across the state. The governor has stated that he believes in providing opportunities to fulfill the American dream for all Floridians, regardless of race or income. Florida's community colleges serve a more diverse student population in ethnicity and income than any other higher education institution in the state. The governor's support for the community college system is indeed support for the people they serve.

Gov. Bush has also played a key role in efforts to diversify Florida's economy and recruit high-wage clean industry. This budget increase is more than just money. It's a clear recognition of Florida's community college system as a key economic driver in this state. Community colleges have created and expanded critical work force education programs in their communities. They turn out capable employees for business and industry and a large segment of the university junior population. For years, they have offered a tremendous "return on investment" for Florida's tax dollar.

Sen. Ken Pruitt, in his statewide tour of community colleges, noted his own recognition of the need to "stop the bleeding" in regard to community college operational costs and legislative funding. Gov. Bush has my sincere gratitude for rewarding success in education and, like the many emergency medical technicians and nurses that community colleges educate across the state, stopping the bleeding and advancing the future.

Carol K. Platt, chair-elect, Florida Association

of Community College Trustees, District Board of Trustees,

Polk Community College, Winter HavenTaking us to the bottom

I read about the governor's new budget for this coming year, and at first I was kind of impressed with his improved funding for all levels of education and other programs. But when you read between the smoky lines you can see that it is always easier to add money in one year, when you took away money in previous years, and then call it a massive increase.

What disturbed me was that typical Republican sound bite that this is a "family" budget wherein the state has to learn to live within its means just like typical families do when money is tight. This comparison of a family budget to the state budget is ridiculous when the state's family is growing by thousands of new residents each year!

Keep on cutting, Mr. Governor, until Florida is ranked 50th in the nation in everything! Mississippi won't have to worry about its rankings, as Florida will overtake it in no time! It's time to kick the Bushes out of office before it's too late!

Jim Steinle, Clearwater

Why can't we help the children?

Florida has 100,000 eligible children waiting for child health insurance. Think about the many sick children unable to get medical care because the Legislature capped Florida KidCare in July. Is our state so impoverished financially and spiritually that we cannot meet this vital need of the children that we claim to cherish?

The waiting list has grown to a remarkable number in just six months, but pleas from parents and advocates to remedy the problem are met with inadequate responses. The poorest response comes from our governor, Jeb Bush, who states that despite a rebate from Medicaid that could fund Florida's portion of these health care slots now, we might not have the money next year.

Oh, Henny Penny, the sky will fall if we help meet the medical needs of children.

Tuesday Gov. Bush announced $131-million in proposed tax cuts, mainly for the ultrawealthy. The tax cuts will virtually guarantee there will be no available funds next year to pay for the expansion of Florida KidCare, fulfilling the governor's prophecy of future inadequate funds.

Cutting state revenue to satisfy the rich while leaving 100,000 children of working class families waiting for medical care is not good enough for Florida. Our children and their families deserve better.

Mary Figg, Lutz

Our priorities are wrong

Every time we turn on the news or read our papers, we hear more about cuts for the poor _ cutting medical aid to kids, (even in state budget) assisted living homes for mentally handicapped closing, and now buses are being cut for Head Start.

When Head Start first started, I was on a county committee instrumental in getting it started in a rural Illinois town. It was unbelievable how most of the children had never seen a book or crayons or a banana or an orange. Buses for Head Start should be a priority. Cut something else.

What has happened to America's sense of compassion that has been part of our heritage? Our priorities are wrong; the only concept seems to be making money and getting ahead. Please, let's continue to help the poor, the unemployed, the families barely getting along on minimum wage, the ill, the elderly. Might we register our frustrations on such budget cuts that directly affect these people?

Maybe we should remember to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Marian Ekin, Clearwater

Say no to Israel, yes to peace

Re: America's silence as Israel builds its wall speaks volumes to the Arab world, Jan. 20.

Thomas Friedman opens by saying, "American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is insane." This is one of the most honest and finest articles on the subject I have read. I agree with it completely.

We cannot be an honest broker for peace in the region and keep a blind eye to all Israeli actions against the Palestinian cause for statehood and dignity. All this comes while we yearly supply huge sums of American dollars and aid.

I hope that some day, a U.S. government will have the political courage, and common sense, to say no to Israel, and yes to peace.

Bill Kelley, Spring Hill

Difficult compromises needed

Re: America's silence as Israel builds its wall speaks volumes to the Arab world.

Thomas Friedman's recent article contains a number of good ideas.

First, President Bush has lost credibility in the Arab world by doing little or nothing to stop Israel's wall and West Bank settlements. Israel's policies are generating harsh criticism in much of the world, especially in the Arab world. Thus the United States is losing the support needed for peace in the Middle East. Our policies are also undermining our goals In Iraq.

Second, since U.S. support is essential to Israel, we need to use our position to convince the Israelis that their policies are leading them down the road to disaster. Former Sen. George Mitchell has often stated that there cannot be a military solution to this problem. Unfortunately, the government of Israel seems to disagree.

Since a negotiated settlement is the only answer to peace in the Middle East, that means the extremist factions in Israel and Palestine will have to make difficult compromises. Extreme Palestinian factions will have to stop bombing civilians and Israel will have to tear down its wall and remove its settlements. The United States could broker peace, but our present policies defeat this goal.

William Sessions, Dunedin

Murder is the real motive

Re: Young mom's suicide mission kills 4, Jan. 15.

The personal epitaph the "young mom" left for the world should eliminate any doubt as to what Palestinian terrorism is about: "It always was my wish to turn my body into deadly shrapnel against the Zionists and to knock on the doors of heaven with the skulls of Zionists." Not a word about the cause of the Palestinian people, or the "occupied territories" or the settlements.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind: These murders are not about territories or politics or boundaries _ they are about killing Jews, as many as possible, regardless of the consequences to the Palestinian people.

Jenny Alexander, Largo

Terrorism built the wall

Re: Anger rises with the wall at edge of Jerusalem, Jan. 13.

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