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    Letters to the Editors

    Protect benefits of Bright Futures scholarships

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001

    Re: Lawmakers question college aid program, by Diane Rado, Feb. 6.

    I was very disappointed when I read this article. Several things were disturbing. Tom Feeney, the Florida House speaker, needs to remind himself of what Education Commissioner Charlie Crist said, that the Florida Bright Futures scholarship program is funded by the Florida lottery, not taxpayer dollars. I believe the Florida Legislature has raped the state education budget. Are the lawmakers now wanting to do the same to the lottery-funded Bright Futures scholarship program?

    I am excited that many students qualify for these scholarships. These students are tomorrow's leaders. Why can't we reward them for a job well done regardless of their parents' incomes? They are a breath of fresh air in today's polluted society.

    The statement that the program offers "thousands of students a full ride to college," and Feeney's statement that "if taxpayers are going to subsidize 100 percent of your education . . ." are both false. Remember that tax dollars aren't paying for the scholarship, the lottery is. If you check the estimated costs for attending Florida State University for 2000-2001, you'll find the figure for one year to be $8,229. The top scholarship pays only for tuition and fees, which is $2,379. That figure is 29 percent of the total yearly cost. The balance of $23,400 for four years still has to be paid by the student and/or the parent. It isn't a free ride.

    I think the state Legislature may well find that "reducing the awards would irritate a middle-class constituency important to many politicians" -- as the story noted. It may also irritate many new voters, the students themselves.
    -- Hazel Miller, Largo

    It's a good educational investment

    Re: Lawmakers question college aid program.

    Hooray for Charlie Christ, our new education commissioner, for sticking up for the Bright Futures program.

    Any program that helps encourage our best and brightest students to remain in a Florida school, return to their communities and contribute in a positive way has my vote. It offers the best return on investment of any state program around.

    Feed your winners!
    -- Frank Moss, Seminole

    Don't take money out of our schools

    Re: Students still spill into portables, Feb. 9.

    It's ludicrous enough to take public school funds and give them to students in failing schools (a grading system based on misleading criteria) so they can attend private schools. But now our leaders want to take more of these funds and give them to students to attend these same private schools as a solution to our overcrowding problem. What planet was this idea formed on?

    You know, it's just another way our Tallahassee representatives are washing their hands of a problem and giving it to somebody else to take care of. Let's not take more money out. Let's put the money into new schools. If the turnaround for new construction is too slow, threaten the the construction companies, not the schools!

    Has anybody taken a look at what impact special attendance permits have on school overcrowding? That might be one part of the solution. Rep. Curtis Richardson of Leon County states that "the legislation likely would benefit white middle-class families attending crowded schools in the northern part of the county. On the south side of the county, minority schools are not crowded, so children wouldn't get money for private school."

    That sounds like a situation that takes place all over our state. Why are these "south side" schools not overcrowded. Certainly there must be enough students to fill these schools? Where are they going? Is this still due to mandatory busing? If not, maybe you'll find a significant number of special attendance permits being issued.

    I hope that Gov. Jeb Bush takes one look at this legislation and says, "What, are you crazy?" I have a sneaky suspicion his response won't be quite that.
    -- Anne Kluga, Safety Harbor

    Put voucher money to better use

    President Bush has announced that he will go forward with his school voucher program proposal. His rationale is that parents who feel their children are not getting a good education in their particular school district should be entitled to place them in "better" schools, i.e. "private" schools. Private schools have always been an option for primarily white, upper-class and upper-middle-class students. Of course, this schooling was at the expense of the parents. And so it should be!

    First of all, I find it disgraceful that we do not have a uniform school system in every state and county. And if not, why not? Using the proposed school voucher monies to upgrade our troubled, primarily urban schools by purchasing up-to-date textbooks, paying for better teachers, etc. is a much better solution than the current proposal.

    It seems to me that this voucher system is just another word for segregation. White students fleeing from integrated schools under the guise of poor vs. better education.

    I strongly believe that if we want to do away with illiteracy, more emphasis should be put on raising the level of education in these schools. We should not let them deteriorate even further by ignoring these students while a select segment of the school population is able to flee to private schools with our tax dollars. One last point: Since most of these private schools are religious schools, what happens to separation of church and state?
    -- Monica Schwartz, Sun City Center

    A shortsighted view of school tax breaks

    Re: Reject private school tax break, Feb. 3.

    It astounds me how the liberal editorial staff at the Times can be so shortsighted, to say nothing of hypocritical. Your editorial bemoaning proposed education savings accounts for private education is a perfect example.

    If a tax break encourages parents to move their kids from public schools to private schools, it increases the demand for effective alternatives to public education, and that demand will be met by supply. It also leaves more money per student and fewer students per classroom in public schools. The goal is to improve the quality of education for American children, and we should not limit ourselves by thinking that public education is the only way.

    You support tax breaks for college tuition, but you don't support tax breaks for K-12 education. You argue for competition in air travel and other commercial enterprises, but you argue against competition in education.

    Your credibility, once again, is going the way of the Wicked Witch of the West. It's melting, it's melting . . .
    -- Richard Bloom, Palm Harbor

    Weighing the loss of a teacher

    Re: Newcomers find toll of teaching is too high, Jan. 21.

    A group of us know Bill Gaulman through a shared weekend, recreational interest. As typical of weekend friends, we rarely speak about work-related topics. However, we remember Bill's excitement this past summer when he talked about his upcoming teaching job. He was not out to change the world, but he felt he could have some positive influences on the students.

    What kind of teacher was Bill? We do not know since we never saw him in the classroom. We can only go on the basis of the upbeat, caring and knowledgeable person we know socially. However, does it make sense to take a brand new teacher and give him, not one, but two grades so that he has twice as much preparation and no previous materials to draw on?

    Enthusiasm and knowledge without some basics, trained or instinctive, in teaching techniques probably cannot produce quality outcomes for the learners. However, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people are usually receptive to suggestions -- all they need is some positive support. What kind of mentoring system exists for new teachers?

    Due to a breakdown or shortcoming in the system, Bill will not fulfill his goal of becoming a teacher. He, and the other new teachers discussed in the article, will find different endeavors that will respond to their talents. Ultimately, our school systems and students will be the losers for missing out on what Bill and the others had to offer.
    -- John and Henrietta Hight, St. Petersburg

    Annoying Confederate symbols

    The new design of the Georgia state flag, incorporating the Confederate flag into the design, although on a reduced scale, is a source of ongoing irritation to me, an American (not a Yankee, not a Southerner).

    This past summer, South Carolina was embroiled in a similar controversy about the symbolism of the Confederacy in its state flag.

    The Confederacy was defeated fair and square by the Union. Racial tensions aside, the showing of the Confederate colors over any American government facility is a slap in the face of the 2,213,948 Union soldiers (including 639,568 total casualties) who fought to preserve the integrity of the United States of America. As with any defeated enemy, America does not permit the flying of an enemy flag over any of its government structures. England was defeated in the American Revolution. Where is its flag? Where are the banners of France, Spain and Mexico of earlier generations?

    America has historically forgiven its enemies (including the Confederacy) and has supplied money and wherewithal for reconstruction. Yet this defeated enemy holds perpetual animosity toward America generation to generation. Conversely, America does not hold any grudges or enact penalties on the defeated foe. America even forgives the debt owed to it. But we (Americans) are jealous of our flag.

    Does one dare think the U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima would have risked their lives to raise a Confederate flag on Mount Suribachi? The South will not rise again. The South is still upset that the Union won the war. Well, I am fighting mad the Confederacy had the audacity to attack the United States of America.

    I thank God that Abraham Lincoln had the wisdom to not allow the nation to be divided.
    -- Tom Paton, Temple Terrace

    AARP opens door to junk mail

    Re: For mature audiences only? Hardly, Feb. 8.

    I enjoyed the article, but it failed to mention the downside to subscribing to any AARP magazine: an unending deluge of junk mail.

    We canceled our AARP membership some years ago because we were fed up with the endless offers for life insurance, health insurance, mail-order medicine, retirement communities, investment plans, etc., that clogged our mail box almost every week.

    At that time, AARP was also selling insurance, and it obviously sold its membership list to all comers. Perhaps this is no longer true, but we wouldn't re-subscribe to find out!
    -- Mrs. R.J. Murphy, Kenneth City

    A legacy comes to light

    Re: Clinton's legacy.

    During these last few days, it seems as if Bill Clinton is now realizing the legacy he so richly deserves.
    -- H.W. "Pete" Peterson, Belleair Bluffs

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