Schenectady school budget woes still need to be addressed
Until now, [Schenectady school] Superintendent Laurence Spring has confronted one terrible problem after another, directly and forcefully. But now, he and the school board have agreed to a 2.75 percent tax hike. This is a return to the shabby business as usual.
Granted, the state is shortchanging the district. But the real problem is the iron grip of the teachers’ union and the locked-in contracts, step wages, high salaries and outrageous benefits.
For far too long, the school board has approved contract after contract, all of which were unaffordable, just like the city council in Detroit did. The result? Bankruptcy.
Schenectady taxpayers are among the poorest in the state, while taxes are among the highest. Compare the median household income with the compensation packages for teachers, administrators, aides, etc.
Get some backbone and confront the real problem.
Get big money out of national politics
Is money equivalent to free speech and protected by the First Amendment?
According to the U.S. Supreme Court and its 5-4 majority in the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, it is.
[Daily Show host] Jon Stewart said: “If it is, then at the current rate of growth in income disparity, only a few people will soon have free speech!”
No matter how the Supreme Court parses the words, our democracy is already being sold to the highest bidder. Sheldon Adelson, multi-billionaire casino king, recently held a “kiss-the-hand” event for all aspiring presidential candidates who will promise to make casino gaming on the Internet illegal.
[Sen.] John McCain recently said: “We will have scandals with all that money washing around.” He is alluding to the rampant bribery and conflicts of interest that exist in the hallowed halls of Congress today. It is a reason given by a few honest congressmen for retiring in recent years. Most of their time has been taken by the need to solicit money quid pro quo instead of doing their jobs.
Now the most difficult job is persuading those who remain in Congress that they should bite the hands of their benefactors who feed them and do the job we the people paid them to do, namely, represent 'we the people' for a change. We are all in this together. After all, it is our democracy.
I urge you to write or call your congressman and ask him/her to sponsor an amendment to have only public funding of all federal elections. It will save us money in the final analysis.
Congressional District 19: Rep. Chris Gibson; Congressional District 20: Rep. Paul Tonko and Congressional District 21: Rep. Bill Owens.
Stop using butterflies, birds for ceremonies
When doves are released at weddings, funerals and other events, they are apt to starve, freeze or be eaten by predators.
On Jan. 26 at the Vatican, a seagull and a black crow attacked two doves that were released alongside Pope Francis. These birds are usually in-bred, can’t fly well, and otherwise lack survival skills.
Please don’t use butterflies, either, for ceremonial releases. They are usually shipped long distance in boxes into which they are packed in small, flat envelopes.
A guest at one wedding posted on the Internet: “The bride chose to release small butterflies. It was the most appalling sight we have ever witnessed. Half of them had broken wings or were near dead. People were stomping on them to put them out of their misery. How anyone could think this is pretty or romantic is beyond me.”
The surviving butterflies usually can’t cope with strong, hostile environments. And they may also spread diseases and parasites to local populations.
Since ceremonial dove and butterfly releases are supposedly intended to reflect peace, let’s heed Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
The writer chairs the public education committee of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York.
Parochial schools have own fiscal challenges
Regarding the April 6 letter, “Parochial schools don’t merit public money,” by Richard A. Stevens: He is so right. Parochial enrollments have declined over the past years due to increases in tuition and school taxes. But I beg to differ on the part of lack of certified teachers.
I cannot speak for other private schools, since I have only taught in the Albany Diocese for over 30 years, retiring in June 2012. I have taught at a total of six schools and was a principal at one of them. Each of those schools had very qualified teachers who either had their New York state permanent certification or at least one master's degree in education.
I, myself, have an associate’s degree in early childhood education from SUNY Cobleskill, a bachelor’s degree from Russell Sage College, state permanent certification from Russell Sage College and a master’s degree in education administration from the College of St. Rose.
Many in the religious faculty have enough credits to earn a doctorate degree in either education or religious studies. Not only must the diocesan schools follow the public school curriculum, they also have their own guidelines that must be followed very closely. All of the state-mandated courses must be taught daily, with the addition of religion incorporated into the program.
The parents who send their child(ren) to an Albany Diocese school make that choice. But remember, they also pay school taxes for a school that their children do not attend. Each year, those taxes are raised and the school of choice must also raise its tuition. The days of fluctuating tuition are no longer. The parents must pay thousands of dollars for each of their children to attend the school of their choice.
Why shouldn’t these parents be given a tax credit for their decision to send their child(ren) to the school of their choice?
Diane M. St. Onge
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