Printed Letters: March 11, 2014

Will teacher compensation be inspired by innovation?

I was privileged to take part in a recent strategic teacher compensation plan meeting attended by School District 51 teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators. The initial phase of “how” to approach strategic teacher compensation will soon be followed by “what” it will look like, as the strategic teacher compensation design is formulated.

Strategic teacher compensation, when well implemented with an evidence-based design, can be a boon to academic achievement, as well as teacher performance and retention. There exists strong evidence that individual teachers rewarded for excellence spur overall improvement. However, I can’t help but wonder if the strong Mesa Valley Education Association presence expected within the design committee will do more to stifle innovation than to address District 51’s existing problems with real changes.

As a former nonunion teacher, current substitute teacher and parent in D51, I hope that Superintendent Steve Schultz will ensure the design team has equal representation among MVEA members, nonunion teachers and the invaluable classified personnel (aides, secretaries, librarians) who serve students.

As national, state and local teachers’ union membership drops, and unions are often seen as rigid special interest groups, it’s important that those with new ideas, unfettered by union loyalties and unafraid to try new approaches by rewarding good teachers, will be given as much sway on the strategic compensation committee as those present to protect MVEA interests. These are my hopes. As a citizen, I also urge the school board to ensure that the design meetings are open to the public. With transparency comes accountability. With accountability comes trust.

Will the District 51 strategic compensation design be inspired by innovation, the desire to reward and retain the best and brightest teachers regardless of tenure, and a fearless free market of ideas? Or will it be driven back into the same old ineffective approaches that are no longer relevant in the evolving world of education?

MARJORIE HAUN
Grand Junction

When so many struggle,
 we are all poorer for it

Josh Penry is correct when he praises our country’s free enterprise system. It’s among many freedoms for which we should be most grateful.

That said, the avenues for advancement aren’t so clear for much of the population. When a third of children living in the U.S. don’t get enough to eat and 1 or 2 percent of us earn more than 50 percent of the rest of us combined, something is very wrong.

Our residents are our human capital, and to the extent they are deprived of access to a good education, health care and jobs that provide food and shelter, we fail miserably.

On whom do we think we’ll rely to gas up our airplanes, drive our food-delivery trucks or make sure our hospitals are sanitary? On whom do we think we’ll rely to be our future physicians, teachers, city councilmen or law enforcement officers?

Forget about the bank account. In reality, we are all sustained by each other, and when so many among us are struggling, we are all much poorer than we think.

PAULA MASSA ANDERSON
Grand Junction

Obama fails on world stage,
 as well as on home front

Issues of substance were not a focus of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, except for his defense of Obamacare. We now know that defense was a bunch of misrepresentations. Hard to believe it, but Sen. Harry Reid wants you to believe that all the Obamacare horror stories are made up. Reid is the price paid for Democratic control of the Senate.

Add to his many domestic messes this president’s failures in foreign policy. The more intelligent and informed of our citizens remember the debates before the election when Obama made fun of Gov. Mitt Romney for pointing out that Russia represented the greatest geopolitical threat to our country. Who now thinks Romney was the one out of touch with reality? I’m sure Putin was very happy when this president was re-elected.

Americans want the first black president to succeed. They desperately wanted to believe him and gave him four more years to get the job done. That freed him to be who he really is, the most left-leaning president in recent history.

To clean up his many messes, it will first take removing the obstacle of Democratic control of Congress. It’s not too early to begin to get back on the right track by promoting business and in doing so good jobs. Renewed economic growth will also put the fear of the U.S. back in our relations with Russia. Only the naïve believe Putin (the bully) respects anything but superior power.

DAVE KEARSLEY
Mesa

Exactly what Grand Valley 
jobs did monument support?

In The Daily Sentinel March 4, Gary Harmon reported on a National Park Service study that claims Colorado National Monument “generated more than $26.5 million in economic activity” in the Grand Valley in 2012.

That’s an impressive number, but how verifiable is it?  The study mentions that the monument supported 356 Grand Valley jobs that year.  That’s a very precise number, so obviously those jobs are identifiable.  May we know what the specific jobs are, and how that number is derived?

Beyond the salaries for the 356 jobs, that leaves a lot of economic benefit going somewhere.  What is the dollar figure for that benefit, exactly where did it go and how are those facts derived?

RICHARD RININGER
Grand Junction


COMMENTS

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As usual, Dave Kearsley’s latest offering – “Obama fails on world stage, as well as on home front” – proves just how divorced from reality he remains.

“Issues of substance” are never “a focus” of Kearsley’s letters, because he’s a captive of the fact-free bubble bloviated by Rush Limbaugh, FoxNoise, and Dave’s favorite “back-seat pundit”, Charles Krauthammer.

We now know that President Obama’s defense of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) was not “a bunch of misrepresentations”, but rather was undercut by insurers’ cynical efforts to profit from the transition to ACA-compliant policies by inducing consumers to abandon “grandfathered” coverage and by aggressively marketing non-compliant ones.

We now know that (as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid aptly observed) virtually every “ObamaCare horror story” touted by Republicans (and FoxNoise) has been proven by objective journalists to be fraudulent – including that cited by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) in the GOP’s response to the State of the Union message.

Meanwhile, studies released within the past week demonstrate that the ACA is steadily fulfilling its promise—by lowering the percentage of Americans who remain uninsured and by gradually reducing overall health care costs.

Similarly, Kearsley proves that (like Krauthammer) he is obviously unqualified to opine on foreign policy matters.  Rather, as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned Sunday, Republican critics of President Obama’s on-going efforts to deal with complex foreign policy issues should “cool it” – noting that Democrats did not assail Republican President George Bush for failing to respond to Putin’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Since Mitt Romney opined that Russia was “our number one geopolitical foe”, partisan Republicans have refused to confront the fiscal policy implications of their own premise – but instead have deliberately undermined our national security by obstructing President Obama’s efforts to stimulate “renewed economic growth” (and thus American power).

The tumultuous events in Ukraine suggest that Mitt Romney’s most accurately prescient contribution to the 2012 Presidential campaign was his opinion—expressed on March 26, 2012, to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer—that Russia was “without question our number one geopolitical foe” because “they fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors”.

Of course, Romney’s assertion was prompted by President Obama’s “open mike” remark to Russia’s then-President Dimitri Medvedev that he could be “more flexible” on arms control and missile defense issues after our 2012 presidential election – recognizing the realities of our partisan politics and anticipating the return of Vladimir Putin to Russia’s presidency.

However, Romney, other “neo-con” Republicans (like Senator John McCain and pundit Charles Krauthammer), and their “Teapublican” fellow-travelers (including our own Scott Tipton), consistently fail to appreciate both the sources and limits of our strength.

American power derives – not from any self-proclaimed “exceptionalism” – but from a vibrant economy that generates sufficient revenues to sustain both a broadly attainable “American Dream” and military forces sufficient to deter aggression, but whose use demonstrates moral leadership and allegiance to long-established international norms.

Romney lost because he was inextricably associated with the same Republicans who are still preaching “trickle down” economics, who squandered a budget surplus and trillions more by concurrently initiating two unfunded wars while (over McCain’s objections) enacting massive tax cuts for the wealthy, who irreparably damaged our international reputation by resorting to official policies of “preemptive” invasion and “torture”, who imposed mindless cuts on the defense budget, and who are still obstructing rejuvenation of our economy and “playing politics” with commitments to Veterans and their families.

Nevertheless, among the GOP’s presidential hopefuls for 2016, Romney remains the most credible and competent would-be President (albeit less-so than Hillary Clinton).

True “conservatives” would recognize that Democratic policies better serve “national security”.

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