School standards pay off for Florida | Dec. 20, commentary
Emphasis on testing misplaced
After 27 years of teaching in Florida public schools, I resigned last year and took a job overseas. Why? Because of the horrible changes that have occurred that have sucked the joy out of teaching and learning in Florida and that have hurt the quality of our public schools, in direct contrast to what Patricia Levesque maintains.
She continues to spin the standardized-testing agenda that has turned Florida's schoolchildren into nothing but numbers. Seventeen years after her partner in "reform," Jeb Bush, started his attack on public schools, she is still defending this failed approach to school improvement. While Florida may be leading the nation in privatizing schools, that is not the same as improving public schools.
Levesque has a lot of nerve suggesting that her agenda has helped "traditionally underserved subgroups," when year after year bonus money based on test scores goes to schools and teachers of overwhelmingly white and privileged students, while teachers of less fortunate kids continue to work miracles that go unappreciated because so many things can't be measured in a test score.
Each year, more and more tax dollars are diverted to unregulated private, religious and "home" schools, where students can be taught anything and no one cares. This is not "fair, honest and transparent accountability." Neither is "secret testing," where parents of children denied diplomas or grade promotion are not allowed to look at the results.
Sarah Robinson, Istanbul
Community redevelopment agencies
Redevelopment plans work
The 2018 Florida legislative session is almost upon us, bringing with it the introduction of two bills attacking community redevelopment agencies, or CRAs. The proposed legislation would enact crippling limitations in an attempt to impede the creation of new CRAs and phase out existing programs all over the state.
CRAs breathe new life into downtowns and older urban neighborhoods through otherwise unaffordable projects such as road and infrastructure improvements, building renovations and the creation of affordable housing.
CRAs are funded using tax revenues from increases in property values in the CRA neighborhood. Revenues are reinvested only into the areas they serve. Additionally, each redevelopment plan is uniquely designed by the community, addressing an area's individual revitalization goals and needs. The activities of CRAs are kept transparent through five annual reports that agencies are required to release by law, detailing all activities, finances and administration, as well as by direct oversight from the local government of each city.
It is clear that redevelopment works, and I urge residents of the Tampa Bay area to call on state lawmakers to protect our CRAs instead of destroying them.
Michael English, Tampa
The writer is a former city planner and urban designer in the Tampa Bay area.
Sharing economy good for state | Dec. 20, letter
Help grow local economies
This letter encouraging Florida communities to cooperate with local tourist services such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft rang a bell with me. Treasure Island has adopted a restrictive ordinance that prohibits more than five occupancies per year for any given property in a large area of the city — extending even to the owners and their families. Some owners actually purchased their properties specifically for the purpose of short-term rentals, so they are suffering from the ordinance.
It appears the city has taken broad action through this ordinance to attempt to prevent unacceptable behavior by some short-term tenants rather than taking specific action against the abusers. I hope the city will come to realize the loss of tourism and goodwill engendered by this ordinance and that it will adopt a positive approach.
Bruce LeBaron, St. Petersburg
McClure wins House seat | Dec. 20
Poor voter participation
I am ashamed that out of 91,603 registered voters, just 13,938 took the time to vote in the special election for Florida House District 58.
I believe this kind of turnout is why the government is so dysfunctional. Our elected officials know they don't need votes — just money to get and keep office. I know my one vote has little weight determining the outcome of any election, but not voting should not be an option. Fifteen percent of the voters elected Lawrence McClure to the Florida House. I hope the other 85 percent are happy. Maybe it is time to start mandatory voting.
James Osten, Temple Terrace
So Longo | Dec. 21
End of the line for this fan
Today I finally lost all interest in Tampa baseball. It has been made abundantly clear that Rays ownership has zero interest in fielding a contending team. It is also clear that the fans do not matter. All I can say is that neither the Rays, nor our delirious County Commission better ever approach Hillsborough taxpayers to assist in moving this Single-A franchise to this side of the bay.
George Springer, Tampa
GOP delivers on tax rewrite | Dec. 21
Too much wasted effort
I appreciate our legislators finally getting something done. I have read the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and there are portions I agree with and others I do not. Overall this bill should stimulate economic growth as it will benefit small businesses, corporations and most individuals.
However, I found myself resenting the politicians "spiking the ball" by claiming they are giving the American people a Christmas present. Taking in excess and then re-gifting a small piece of it back to the original owner is not a present in my view.
All of the wasted time and partisan bickering over this tax bill need not have happened if our politicians focused on running the government more efficiently and effectively for the people versus protecting their jobs and catering to special interests.
Scott Burgess, Safety Harbor