Letters to the editor — The Courier-Gazette
Stop war on poor
While I have been pleased to read Mr. Brower's opinions on some recent political developments, his article "More Politics and the Ideology of Change" brings us back to an earlier debate about how we characterize the poor and those on food assistance. Missing from the article's supposed "common sense" about potentially dishonorable EBT transactions were facts. As the BDN reported about the supposed mass EBT fraud, "For context, that’s just one-fifth of 1 percent of the state’s total transactions in the time period in question, Jan. 1, 2011, through Nov. 15, 2013." So if my RDHS math is correct that is .002 percent of all EBT transactions were potentially scandalous. Maybe that is too much for some folks, but for a government program the facts seem to show it runs pretty clean. Further I would say there are many more important things for the legislature to work on like fixing our roads and finding a better way to fund our schools.
Instead, I guess, it's just easier to point the finger at those who are perceived as getting a "free ride," or "free lunch." Targeting those with the least political and economic power and saying to them you need to give up a little of your liberty because our economic model has failed you doesn't sound much like "We the People." Rather, it sounds like "You people, you poor folks... you need to straighten out." I am not buying this sort of "common sense." Further I don't want the state spending our scarce resources on drug testing my elderly neighbor because she gets assistance.
In states where they have tried this foolishness it has been a boondoggle; costs have dramatically outweighed the any benefits.
To help Mr. Brower with his question, "please help me understand why anyone can’t support welfare reform?" I think despite the constant barrage on the poor from the political talking heads and the media who champions them, many recognize that it is simply not as serious of an issue as it's made out to be. If people buy a pack of smokes with their EBT is it really that scandalous? Is that what is causing my pain at the pump, or the reason why real wages are stuck in the 1970s?
People at the top of our society can and have brought our economy to a grinding halt with mass mortgage fraud and investment scams, and I just don't hear the calls to strip those folks of their liberty despite many of their companies receiving vast government assistance. I've stated before I'll be for drug testing EBT recipients as soon as CEOs and their political friends who are sucking up and handing out tax breaks are up for the same scrutiny — perhaps we could weed out some of the bums.
James A. York
To the Taxpayers of RSU 13
Ten years ago I was asked to help start a World Languages program in the schools of SAD 50. I was excited to think that children in this area of Maine would receive an education that would prepare them for life in the 21st century and I agreed to lend a hand. The program was to begin with the kindergarten, first, and second grade students and gradually expand until we had created a sequential K – 8 program. By school year 2011 – 2012 the program was fully implemented.
Staffing during the years before consolidation with SAD 5 was provided through a mix of local American teachers and Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA’s). The FLTA’s each cost the district approximately $12,000/year – a real bargain. The advantages of using FLTA’s were educational as well as economic. Through the FLTA’s, the children learned first-hand what it meant to be part of a global community; they achieved near-native pronunciation; they learned geography; they developed a skillset for communicating with people from other cultures; they understood Maine’s place in the world. The Maine Learning Results mandates were satisfied through the FLTA program and the World Languages program.
Consolidation brought changes. The board affirmed the importance of World Language study and expanded programming to all the schools in the district. At the same time they cut the program at the K – 4 grade levels by 50 percent — from two classes to one class per week. Simultaneously, the new district decided to abandon the FLTA program and hire local Americans to staff the program instead. These two changes – cutting the time allotted to language learning and cutting the FLTA program – negatively impacted the effectiveness of the program. Now the entire K – 5 World Languages program is on the chopping block.
I believe the World Languages program should be retained. The state has mandated that students graduate from high school proficient in two languages. We need to start language learning early if we are to achieve that level of proficiency. A minimum of several thousand hours of study is needed to achieve proficiency in a Romance language program such as that offered in RSU 13. To reach proficiency in Chinese, Russian, or other languages more different from English many additional hours of study would be required.
Starting language learning in early childhood sets the stage for proficiency and also gives our students numerous cognitive benefits in other disciplines, such as math, literacy, and music. The benefits of language learning to overall intellectual development have been well supported by research many times. Anyone who is interested in learning about the importance of language learning in an education might like to consult Cognitive Benefits of Learning Languages at http://tip.duke.edu/node
Students in our district should have access to an education that will enable them to hold their own in the 21st century. Our students should not receive a lesser education than their neighbors in Camden, Lincolnville, and Hope — or further south in towns like Yarmouth and Brunswick. For one thing, our students will be competing with those students one day for college admissions and employment, and those proficient in more than one language will have a big advantage. Our mission statement says that we should “…engage all students in the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful and contributing citizens in the 21st century.” By any definition, 21st century skills include language proficiency, communication skills across cultural lines, and geographical and global awareness.
I suggest that the district follow its Strategic Plan, which states as an objective that we “Promote and emphasize global awareness, embedding in the curriculum the study of different cultures, traditions, languages, and politics of countries and economies around the world.” I hope that RSU 13 will not waste the work and money spent in the past decade by eliminating a program that so clearly belongs in the education of students preparing for life in the 21st century.
RSU 13 World Languages Teacher
Be a responsible dog owner
Regarding the letter written April 17 by Valerie Hooper and Linda Athearn, I am in full agreement. There were five days this winter when I chose not to walk out and about in Rockland, which leads me to inform your readers, that every day I was out, there were new piles of dog waste on Main Street, the entrance to and on the boardwalk as well as on the side streets. A suggestion was presented to the city manager that at the time of dog licensing there should be DNA testing done on each dog and when dog feces is not removed that the owners be fined after a DNA match is found. You want a dog, be a responsible owner as it could be your family member who gets seriously ill or dies from the parasites and bacteria.
Raise minimum wage
I have wanted to write this letter for some time, but after reading Senator Angus King’s Letter to the Editor in the April 17 Free Press, I could wait no longer. As an employer in Maine, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to run a business in this state, but we cannot continue to use that challenge as an excuse to pay our employees poorly. For all of the reasons that Senator King listed – lift people out of poverty, increase economic security, empower disadvantaged workers, and help bridge the wage gap between men and women – we need to start paying employees the new minimum wage of $10.10 before it is mandated.
It is time to give more recognition to the fact that the success of businesses is directly dependent on the caliber of their employees. Every day, I see businesses spend inordinate amounts of money on advertising and physical plants, but don’t take care of customers once they get them through the doors. Oftentimes, this is a result of disgruntled employees who haven’t been treated or paid properly. Not only is paying employees well the right thing to do for all the reasons that Senator King mentioned, it is also smart business. Employees who feel valued and appreciated usually give good customer service, which is good for business.
Because of my strong support for President Obama’s proposed new minimum wage of $10.10, ASK…for Home Care and Homeshare, Inc are not waiting for Congress to act. We are already paying all of our employees a minimum of $10.10 and we challenge other businesses to do likewise. We shouldn’t need government to make us do the right thing. Higher wages attract better workers who ultimately improve the bottom line. I hope my decision will encourage others to follow suit.
Administrator of ASK…for Home Care
Proprietor of Homeshare, Inc.