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    Letters to the Editors

    FCAT scores show A+ Plan's success

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 29, 2002

    Re: All legislators should be forced to take the FCAT, Sept. 22.

    Martin Dyckman again attacks the FCAT as though it were some horrible, alien thing. FCAT is simply a reading, writing and math test. Yes, it is rigorous, but it should be.

    The only reason Mr. Dyckman continues to criticize the FCAT is that it's a Republican idea. As all of his readers know by now, anything Republican is automatically bad. He has jumped on the McBride bandwagon (who copied whom?), saying that the FCAT should only be used as a diagnostic tool. This is ridiculous. Teachers must use diagnostic testing throughout the entire year to determine what skills they need to teach and reteach. The FCAT's purpose is to determine how well these skills have been mastered after a year's work. This type of testing is essential. As a fourth-grade teacher, I always told my students on FCAT day, "Today is a great day. You'll be able to show what good readers, writers and mathematicians you are!" They were nervous but excited to see how well they could score.

    The results of the latest FCAT and comparisons with previous years' scores have been released by the Florida Department of Education. These results prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that children are learning more, especially minorities. In 1998, 58 percent of these fourth-graders were reading at Level 1 (the lowest level). Four years later, only 38 percent are reading at that level. In 1998, only 23 percent were reading at Level 3 and above, but in 2002, 42 percent are reading at these higher levels. This is thrilling news.

    Many people have forgotten that Jeb Bush was elected on a "fix" education platform. The reasons were clearly evident. First, high school drop-out rates were extremely high (students frustrated because they were unable to read, write and compute well enough). Second, colleges were complaining that high school students were unprepared to enter college and had to be remediated. Third, businesses were alarmed that the work force being sent to them was woefully lacking in basic skills. How quickly we forget why the A+

    Education Plan was needed.

    We have a program that is working. Why in the world would we want to go back to education as it was before 1998, when it wasn't?
    -- Barbara Hungerford, Palm Harbor

    Stretching teacher pay

    Re: Teacher pay.

    Let's bring up something that seemingly everyone ignores. Yes, Florida's teachers do not receive the same pay as those in New Jersey, Connecticut and California, to name just a few. But their paycheck goes a lot further. A $200,000 house here would cost at least $400,000 to $600,000 in the above named states. The average property tax for a $200,000 house in Florida is about $1,800. In the above named states, property tax on a $200,000 house is between $4,000 and $6,000. In Florida we don't need winter coats -- our winters are mild -- we don't have to heat our homes very often, and, yes, our summers are hot, but so are theirs.

    Let's face it: Being a teacher in Florida isn't as bad as some politicians would have us believe. For nine months of work and three months of vacation, I am sure there are many who will agree with me.
    -- Liz Boeckmann, Hudson

    Corporate dream schools

    Re: Charter schools: a solution to overcrowding?, Sept. 15 and A charter to profit, editorial, Sept. 22.

    The editorial on charter schools and the article by Kent Fischer have provided a disturbing look at the inequities of our educational system.

    Many taxpayers are clueless that corporations create nonprofit foundations to establish charter schools and hire themselves as administrators. Developers team up to offer homeowners private school amenities, tuition-free.

    What is wrong with this picture? While public schools are being tested, held accountable and graded on their performance, charter schools escape the same standard. Curiously, charter administrators are not required to reveal their salaries.

    Jeb Bush has said Florida cannot afford to cap class size in our overcrowded public schools. This is unconscionable when at the same time he offers the favored few corporate "dream" schools financed with our tax money.

    Hopefully, Florida voters are paying attention, as well as the IRS.
    -- Harriette F. Bryan, Tampa

    It's early in Jeb's "career'

    Re: Bush vs. McBride offers clear choice, Sept. 22.

    I recently joked with a friend about possible tactics the Jeb Bush re-election camp might try before Nov. 5. In the course of that conversation, I argued strongly that Bush would never try to harp on Bill McBride's lack of political experience, since in his first two bids for governor, Jeb Bush did not have much of his own political weight to throw around. Imagine my surprise when I saw the front page of your Sept. 22 paper.

    In an effort to cite "stark" contrasts between the Republican and Democratic candidates for Florida governor, the caption to the pictures included in Adam Smith's article identified Jeb Bush as a "career politician." I'm not taking any bets, but I don't think even Jeb Bush would go that far. Two years as secretary of Commerce and one term as governor do not make Bush a career politician, although he has more experience as a politician than McBride. In fact, Bush's real career, including real estate development and Nigerian water pumps, might be of more interest to the voting public than his short political one.

    The contrast in political experience is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that there are stark philosophical contrasts between these candidates. Since most readers never get beyond the pictures and first paragraph, please focus on the issues, the real issues, and help to make your readers informed for the election.
    -- Lucy Yeager, St. Petersburg

    Ad gave wrong message

    Re: Bush vs. McBride offers clear choice.

    There may also be a difference in the way Jeb Bush and Bill McBride interpret the role of governor. A campaign ad has been running on television recently that features some residents of Baker County reporting that, thanks to Gov. Bush, a stoplight has been installed at a dangerous intersection in their community. The residents say they had gone through "all channels" contacting the necessary officials to request the stoplight, but it was only after Bush had personally observed speeding cars at the intersection that he picked up the phone and ordered the secretary of the Department of Transportation to have it put in.

    I assume this ad was supposed to convince voters that Jeb Bush is a man of action who gets things done. On the contrary, for me it is a reason to vote for Bill McBride.

    What does this incident say about Jeb Bush's leadership? That it took the governor to get something done because the officials in the administration whom he appointed didn't do their jobs? Do we want a governor who travels around the state deciding where to place stoplights, or one who will appoint the right people to do this in the first place? The governor should not be proud of what he did -- he should be embarrassed that his administration's incompetence forced him to do it.

    While it was good for the people of that community to get their stoplight, it's unfortunate that it was the governor who had to make it happen. That shouldn't be his job. His is to put competent people in place who listen and are responsive to the people's voices so the governor doesn't have to pick up the phone to do their job.
    -- Rick Carson, St. Petersburg

    Preserve ground zero

    According to George Will's logic (A hallowed ground of devotion unto death, Sept. 22), had a Civil War battle taken place on the island of Manhattan, it would be incumbent on the government to preserve that site as a memorial and cemetery regardless of how large or at what cost in lost real estate revenues.

    Will's distinction between lives lost at ground zero and on a Civil War battlefield is lamely absurd. "A battlefield is different," Will writes, "because (the soldiers) were devoted unto death to certain things." Well it just so happens that half of the soldiers who fought (and won) at Chancellorsville were "devoted" to the cause of slavery. That's a "large idea" all right. But is it one worth memorializing at all costs?

    Yes, the woods of Chancellorsville should be preserved from rapacious development. But the idea that ground zero is any less deserving is absurd and unjustifiable. I would call the death of thousands of civilians and the destruction of national symbols "large ideas." So, too, the preservation of civilization.
    -- Richard Reeves, Lutz

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