1. Opinion

The time to support Pinellas schools is now | Letters

Here’s what readers are saying in Thursday’s letters to the editor.

Vote yes to extend success in schools | Times recommendations, Oct. 11

Vote yes on Pinellas schools tax

In 2004, voters approved a half-mill property tax to directly enhance Pinellas County schools. We have renewed it every four years since and another renewal is currently on the ballot.

Our school referendum requires that the money be spent for teacher pay, reading programs, arts and music and textbooks and technology. The Pinellas referendum provides a dedicated local source of funding over and above state monies. One hundred percent of referendum funds directly benefit students (no administrative costs) and all spending is monitored by an independent citizen oversight committee, which meets quarterly to review the expenditures.

Due to a recent legislative change, a small portion of referendum funding will be shared with district charter schools. Pinellas County does not have any for-profit or religious charters and all schools will use the funds in the same categories and be subject to the same oversight as outlined above.

In 2019, the school referendum cost the average single-family homeowner in Pinellas just $7.15 a month, but it produced $44.5 million for Pinellas County schools. If the voters do not renew the tax, that funding will disappear next year. Good schools support higher property values and are good for our economy, because they supply an educated work force and encourage business relocation. An educated population results in lower crime rates and less strain on social programs. I urge Pinellas voters to continue to support this ongoing funding for our local schools.

Beth Rawlins, Clearwater

The writer is the chair of Citizens for Pinellas Schools.

Barrett sworn in at Supreme Court | Oct. 28

A loss for the court

Rushing Judge Amy Coney Barrett through the Supreme Court confirmation process, just days before the presidential election was not the most ideal situation. Yet Barrett never asked for the nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which placed her in the middle of a highly contentious and controversial battle. And because Barrett will bring skill, humility and grace to the Supreme Court, along with her over-the-top qualifications, I find it difficult to hold the untimely confirmation against her. For some senators, it may have been a tough call of conscience, as their heads and hearts competed for justification. But if Barrett had not been confirmed, it would have been a major loss for the court.

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

Child care workers

Child care is not the problem

Like many organizations, child care programs have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Association for the Education of Young Children estimated that half of all child care programs were forced to close their doors to protect the health of their staff and the families they serve.

A new study conducted by researchers at Yale University suggests child care programs that remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic did not contribute to the spread of the virus to providers. Researchers found no differences in COVID-19 outcomes between early educators who continued to provide in-person care for young children and those who did not, as long as programs followed core health and safety practices. This is good news.

Although the impact of COVID-19 on the early childhood field has been devastating, we are hopefully beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Phyllis Kalifeh

The writer is the president and CEO of the Children’s Forum.