Email letters, November 1,  2013

Amendment 66 is not the solution for creating educated workforce

As an advocate for economic development, I’ve learned that an educated workforce is an vital community element to any new or growing business. Likewise, a strong and productive school system is a must-have for job-producing businesses … both to their employees and owners. So, the necessity of both is, in my mind, a foundational building block of any healthy, growing community. In our own community, District 51 has done more with less than many in the state, and I appreciate the excellent job it’s doing.

This said, the way in which a state cultivates that system, and pays for it, can make or break the very economic backbone on which it rests.  We must remember that the majority of those “rich taxpayers” that are most highly targeted by this two-tier tax system are actually small Sub-S businesses. In a Sub-S tax filing, the income from the business actually flows through straight to the owners. And in an economic recession as difficult as this one, those businesses should not be asked to carry an additional load, much less one that is mandated by a Constitutional amendment.

Equally, many people do not understand the ramifications of amending our state Constitution. We need to understand that this is akin to amending our own United States Constitution. It’s serious business with very long-term ramifications. 

Colorado’s Constitution has already been amended twice to provide for educational funding; the Gallagher amendment of 1982 and Amendment 23 passed in 2000. While the debate about the benefits and determinants of these amendments goes on, there’s little disagreement that they have put the taxpayers in a legislative box that frequently limits state and local governments from making the best decisions with the funds available. Let’s also not disregard the fact that through these two legislative tools, the state’s school systems is already apportioned 43 percent of all state tax revenues collected, with additional funding coming at local levels.

Notwithstanding the real and present needs in our school systems, altering the state Constitution to mandate yet another school-spending amendment will likely cause more of the same common-sense deifying conflicts that the first two have caused.

While it always feels good and correct to ante up on behalf of the children and education, we must find a better way to deal with our problems than further tangling the already impossibly tangled ball of yarn we have now. Amendment 66 is not our answer.

TERI CAVANAGH
Palisade

Sen. Udall mistakenly touts solar energy’s cost-effectiveness

In Thursday’s paper Gary Harmon’s article quotes Sen. Mark Udall as saying, “Clean energy creates jobs, saves consumers on their utility bills, strengthens our national security and makes us more energy self-reliant. . . . A national renewable energy standard, which would require a percentage of the electricity we use to be produced from renewable energy sources, will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs, keep our air and water cleaner and spur sustainable economic development in rural areas.”

No! It will do none of these things. All energy, excluding nuclear, is ultimately solar in origin — be it from coal, oil and gas, to wood, wind, hydro and direct solar. The difference is that the fossil fuels have concentrated the solar flux over millions of years to a high density of BTUs per pound and thus into useful economic packages; wood, other bio-mass and hydro are solar-flux concentrated over years to decades. Thus, they are less dense than the fossil fuels but still are sometimes in useful economic packages in special circumstances.

Wind, solar and current crops (corn, switch grass, etc.), however, are solar flux at real time concentrations which are so dilute it is not economical to capture and package in useable quantities – the cost in equipment and geographical area required exceeds the value of net power available. They will never reach break-even and thus need to be subsidized by taxpayer dollars or ratepayer dollars. They are not environmentally friendly, regardless of what the true believers think and they will never be economical. They are the energy version of the perpetual motion machine, a physical impossibility.

Any honest and competent scientist in the relevant field will confirm this, but the true believers do not want to listen. The only thing that will be accomplished with Udall’s 25 percent renewable energy bill will be to drive more manufacturing overseas and raise the cost of energy to all remaining users.

JIM GESICK
Montrose

Gessler may now pick up the tab

... and I assume the expenses caused by Scott Gessler’s election witch hunt will be deducted from his paycheck.

HENRY SNYDER
Grand Junction

Ted Cruz influenced by Gary North

We Americans used to be known for our reason and pragmatism. Sixteen days of government shutdown and flirting with not raising the debt ceiling has changed that. And now Ted Cruz says they just did not go far enough. Not enough damage to the economy for him.

Of course, he is influenced by Gary North, founder of the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas, and the Christian Reconstructionist, who want to replace our government with a theocracy founded on biblical laws. Ted’s father, Rafael Cruz of the Purifying Fire Ministries, has already called his son, “The Anointed One,” or Messiah.

Other politicians have also been associated with North and his ideology. Rand Paul has been associated with North since 1976. Paul and others are also associated with the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, which, contrary to its name, wants to end public school education. Most citizens do not recognize the end results of their political beliefs.

Following Old Testament rules combined with Ayn Rand does not produce a utopian society. Read Deuteronomy 21 and 22 to understand the extent of misogyny and brutality. But even if these positions are moderated, the living conditions of biblical times produces a lot of poor and a little middle class, and the wealth and taxes flow to the top. No health care. No retirement. Just die.

Wait, doesn’t the current GOP want to end pensions, end Social Security, end Medicare, have only private schools and do away with the minimum wage?

Why is that the master’s, “What you do to the least of them, you do to me (Matt. 25:35-40)” carries no weight? Why is it so wrong for Americans to join together to make retirement and health insurance for all?

HARRY MCDONALD

Grand Junction
 
Leany’s recent comments, actions concern elementary school principal

I am the principal at an elementary school in Grand Junction. I have been reading, with great interest and much frustration, articles around the school district administration and board members’ visit to the Douglas County School District, the upcoming board election and, most recently, the article titled, “Leany: Union contract has ‘got to go’” in Wednesday’s Sentinel.

To hear that our district administrators and board members traveled to Douglas County to visit schools saddened me. I have been the principal in this school for four years (the current year being my fifth), and I have never had the pleasure of having a board member come to my school to see what innovative, exciting things we are doing here.

If those individuals would like to see staff, students and families working hard toward achieving excellence, I say they could easily have stayed closer to home and looked
within. The schools in the Grand Valley are focused, student-centered and constantly evaluating to meet the needs of both the student body as a whole, and the individual needs of every child, while consistently meeting the ever-changing demands of local, state and national law makers. We are unified in our goal to provide the best possible education to every student.

Tuesday’s article said that Leany “has spent his time on the board learning about the district and researching reforms at other school districts to glean ideas for District 51.” I believe that he has been researching reforms at other school districts. I’m unsure as to how well he has learned about our district.

Three weeks ago Leany came to this school to meet with teachers. I was confused because I wasn’t aware of the plan for any such meeting. As we talked, it came to light that Leany was, in fact, at the wrong school. If he doesn’t know the most basic of information about our district – which building is which – just how well does he know District 51?

Further, Tuesday’s article quotes Leany as saying that “teacher unions are ‘terrified’ of potential changes in tenure and compensation.” The word “union” is a political buzzword that politicians use to incite voters. If the people of the Grand Valley would consider who our teachers’ union is, they would realize that “the teachers’ union” is truly those individuals completing the hard work of educating our children.

They are the 900-plus teachers who work tirelessly to plan, implement, evaluate and adjust so that every child’s needs are met. They are the ones who work before and after contract hours, evenings, weekends, holidays and summers.

They are the teachers who purchase, out of their own pockets, supplies, materials and resources when families can’t afford them and the school has no more money to spend. They are the people who pay tuition to colleges and universities in order to continue their education and keep current with research-based teaching strategies, as well as to meet the requirements for state licensure.

The teachers are not terrified of potential changes – to anything. Change is an integral part of the education system. They do, however, want change to be thoughtful, systemic, researched and, most important, in the best interest of students.

When considering the election, as an educator who is part of the system, I say the system is not broken. We don’t need complete reform. We need to continue to move forward, constantly evaluating what we do in our schools, always being open to new ideas but also making sure that we are identifying what we are doing right, what is working and recognizing the unique needs of our student population.

The bottom line is that our number one priority must be students and what is best for them. Politics and personal agendas do not belong on the board of education.

Our schools can continue on the path of excellence in education if the right people are leading us. My vote goes to the candidates who recognize that District 51 has many celebrations but also understand that we need to continue to grow and improve: Tom Parrish, Greg Mikolai and John Williams.

CAROL WETHINGTON
Grand Junction

Political agendas should not drive our children’s education

Aa a retired teacher, with two adult children who attended District 51 and received a good-enough education to graduate from respected universities, I am still an educator and care very much about our schools.

After reading the recent front-page article bashing teachers and the Mesa Valley Education Association by school board member Jeff Leany, and then seeing the political ad from one of the “reform” candidates referring to “Union Control” and its responsibility for“30 years of educational failure“, I am deeply concerned. It seems obvious to me that some radical wannabe politicians, in the guise of reform, are attempting to control our children’s education, with the guidance and support of the radical right.

First, some facts: MVEA is not a union. Teachers may choose to join the association, or not. As a college student working summers in a steel mill, I had no choice but to join the union. A union implies uniformity (“the state of being one, a complex whole, a systematic totality“).

While MVEA does represent all teachers in master contract and salary negotiations, (someone has to), there is no uniformity among our teachers. Many teachers, for whatever reasons, do not join MVEA or pay MVEA dues, but still benefit from the efforts of MVEA members negotiating on their behalf. Contrary to Leany’s narrow views, MVEA does a lot more for District 51 than just negotiate contracts and support teachers.

Second, I have some questions for Leany:

Why does he think that paying higher salaries for hard to fill positions will lead to better student achievement? Just because someone is certified to teach physics, does that necessarily mean he or she is a competent teacher and deserves a higher salary? And, are we talking $2,000 more or $20,000 more?

Has he looked at the salaries of the “high demand” teachers on the Front Range? Does he think they would come running to a school district that has historically low wages, and has a school board that wants to micro-manage the curriculum?

What about the proven master teachers in “high supply” fields such as elementary classroom, music and language arts, many of whom have earned National Board Certification? Do we put them on a lower pay scale to pay for the “high demand” areas? The money has to come from somewhere, and since Leany and the three Republican candidates do not support a modest raise in state income tax earmarked to improve education, will they cut programs such as art, music and other subjects that are not on the almighty test?

Lastly, is Leany aware that tenure and the master contract, in their traditional roles, simply grant teachers due process if certain workplace situations arise? Many of these situations involve conflicts with principals. The same principals that are given three years to evaluate new teachers and release any incompetent ones without any due process or reason given. Some principals make the tough decisions, and some do not. This is not an MVEA issue; it is an administrative one.

School board members should generate policy and hire central administrators, letting professional educators deliver instruction, choose materials and develop curriculum.

The agendas of Leany and his followers go much farther than the scope of an effective school board. Blaming teachers for our schools’ problems, without looking at the bigger picture, and attempting to bully MVEA will only create havoc in our schools and drive good teachers away. Our children’s education is too important to have a political agenda interfere with it.

MICK WILSON
Grand Junction



COMMENTS

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Regardless of the outcome of the school board election I smell recall for Leany.  Good luck to all candidates on Tuesday!

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