1. Letters to the Editor

Sunday's letters: Helping kids to become readers

Your editorial could not have been more timely. Many organizations and community leaders have been focusing on this crisis for the past several years. Under the leadership of Superintendent Jeff Eakins, organizational and business leaders have been coalescing around the need to address school readiness as early as possible in a child's life. In order to read by third grade, children must enter school ready to learn. In Hillsborough County, close to 50 percent of kindergartners entering school are not.

Good science tells us that school readiness begins from the moment of birth. When parents and other adults talk, read and nurture infants, these synapse connections are accelerated and build brain architecture, the basis for successful lifelong learning. By age 18 months, an infant's brain is 80 percent developed. This is the message of the national initiative "Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing" founded by George Halvorson, former CEO and president of Kaiser Permanente. His book, Three Key Years, and compelling messages for all parents have inspired Champions for Children to take a leadership role promoting "talk/read/sing" principles and practices within our own agency and with community partners.

To broaden the messaging to the entire community, Champions for Children, the Early Learning Coalition and PNC Bank are bringing Halvorson to Tampa Oct. 16 and 17. We will be hosting a series of community events and conversations to do exactly what the editorial suggests: involving a greater cross-section of the community. Halvorson has mobilized California to promote and support resources for infants and toddlers. We are certain he can do the same in Hillsborough in October.

Amy Haile, Tampa

The writer is executive director of Champions for Children.

Keeping DNA private

It's your private information

Life and disability insurance companies can use your genetic information — sometimes obtained from private DNA-testing companies like Ancestry, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA — to determine your coverage and even your rates. This practice has essentially turned life insurance into a product only the genetically favored can access. That is why Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Rep. Jayer Williamson, R-Pace, have pushed for a Florida law that would stop life and disability insurance companies from using this sensitive DNA data. Health insurance companies are already prohibited from doing so, and it's time that life insurers join the ranks.

Recently, DNA-testing companies have made headlines for selling your genome data to Big Pharma. This is not the first time DNA companies have shared your data, preying on customers' trust. I've been fighting to end this practice, calling on these companies to implement a transparent notification and release process prior to inking deals for profit and sharing data with government entities.

Life insurers are no different. In Florida, they can obtain your private genetic makeup and use it to determine eligibility and rates, negatively affecting life insurance coverage.

This proposal in Florida would put our individual genetic code out of the reach of life or disability insurers, period. At its core, this is a debate over the privacy of our own individual genetic makeup, and I firmly believe that we must not allow life and disability insurers to pry into our genetic code. Using this information disproportionately favors some over others. We can't allow vast groups of uninsured to develop simply because of something they have no control over. As DNA testing becomes more popular, and digital hacks become a part of our everyday lives, we must ensure Floridians' genetic data is protected at every level. We must protect the privacy rights of all Floridians.

Jimmy Patronis, Tallahassee

The writer is Florida's chief financial officer.

The 2019 Legislature

Whose representatives?

The Florida Legislature has just voted to permit the arming of teachers in our schools. Teachers overwhelmingly do not want this. The Legislature has also voted to permit the spending of tax money on private schools. The public also does not want their school tax money spent on private schools, which do not have the same accountability as public schools.

The voters of Florida voted to return voting rights to felons when their sentences are complete. The Legislature has conjured one impediment after another to ensure many felons not be able to regain their voting rights as full citizens of the state and country.

The voters approved the use of medical marijuana by a large margin. Again the Legislature has dragged its feet and conjured ways to delay the implementation of the popular vote.

Are there any bets as to whether the good citizens of Florida will reelect these politicians to "represent" their wishes in Tallahassee?

Barry Kreiling, Brooksville

Pasco deputy's gun discharges in school | May 2

Changed my mind

I have always thought a well-trained school teacher, coach or custodian in possession of a firearm would be a deterrent to some deranged psychopath from endangering our children in school or at least limiting the carnage. But if that person receives the same training as that Pasco deputy, I must rethink my position.

Gene Shaw, Wesley Chapel

The Mueller report

Read it for yourself

The most important action we can do for our country is to read the Mueller report ourselves. Then vote accordingly for our country and our values that make us Americans in 2020.

Betsy Wells, St. Petersburg