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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 5, 2009 at 4:19 PM

Education

Memo to Bill Gates

Bill, stop hammering teachers and become one [“The Bill Gates school-repair plan,” Opinion, March 31].

The sobering reality you’ll face during that year — the reality you don’t get visiting a school or presenting your ideas to fawning crowds at symposiums — will startle you.

The first thing that will startle you is how hard you work. The second is how little you’re supported. The last thing that will startle you is the satisfying fatigue at the end of the day, knowing you’ve left everything in that classroom and changed lives.

Bill, teachers are not in charge of keeping kids out of poverty or making sure their parents attended college. Fix those two issues, and we teachers could work miracles.

Like senior employees at Microsoft are amply rewarded for their effective service, so should senior teachers be rewarded. Bill, the best teachers don’t leave in their fifth year because the money isn’t equivalent to the private sector. They leave because they realized that they just signed on to one of the most arduous jobs on the planet, and they couldn’t cut it.

The long-serving teachers you’ve described with such disdain stuck it out because they’re drawn to the payment that transcends the monetary world — a spark.

— Jon VandeMoortel, Seattle

Merit pay only makes sense based on teacher’s performance

To the layman, merit pay for teachers based on student performance sounds like a swell idea [“Is Wall Street best model for fixing our schools?” Local News, March 22]. But it makes about as much sense as merit pay for doctors based on patient performance.

Does a highly educated, highly skilled physician always have a 100 percent success rate with each patient? Are there ever extenuating circumstances, beyond the doctor’s control, that make it impossible for all patients to survive?

If a patient should perform poorly by dying, after the physician has tried every intervention possible, is the doctor a failure and does the doctor receive a reduced fee for the services rendered?

Doctors educate patients on how to lower blood pressure and cholesterol by telling them to watch their diets and exercise daily. If patients continue to have high blood pressure and cholesterol because they didn’t follow the doctor’s prescription, does that mean the doctor failed?

At least doctors have little pills they can give to patients to counteract the patients’ inability to follow directions. There aren’t any pills for teachers to dispense, and even if there were, it is unlikely that our Legislature would be willing or able to provide the funding for them anyway.

The advantage doctors have over teachers is that they can refuse to treat a patient who doesn’t cooperate, but teachers have to keep every student that is placed in their classroom.

I’m not against merit and performance pay if it is actually based on the merits and performance of the teacher and not on the merits and performance of the students.

— Elaine Inaba, Renton

Senate needs a reality check on higher education

I agree with University of Washington President Mark Emmert in the sense that the Senate’s budget cut proposal is nasty [“How 4 key areas would be affected: higher education,” News, March 31].

As a college student, it is difficult to see tuition being increased, classes being cut and fewer students accepted, especially when Senate Bill 6116 is being considered.

I can’t help but wonder why the state would consider giving Husky Stadium a remodel at the price of $1,500,000 while the funding of state universities and community colleges is being cut by $513,000,000 over two years.

The Senate desperately needs a reality check. While sports programs do generate large amounts of money for schools, the No. 1 priority of any academic institution should be academics.

An estimated 1,000 employees of the University of Washington will be unemployed at the expense of a remodel for a football stadium for a losing team. It is time to rethink the budget proposals for the universities with the students in mind.

— Jamie Matous, Seattle

Divert wasted tax dollars to education

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate recently to establish a commission to examine the nation’s criminal-justice system. The commission would be charged with a top-to-bottom review of the entire criminal-justice system and with offering concrete recommendations for reform.

Any comprehensive reform would certainly eliminate mandatory minimum-sentencing laws that are filling the prisons with those who perpetrate low-level offenses and are serving sentences that do not fit the crimes. Courts should determine every individual’s prison sentence, not one-size-fits-all laws.

A poll taken in 2008 found that 59 percent of those polled opposed mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses while fully 78 percent think that the courts should make the decisions.

Wouldn’t it be great to divert some of those wasted tax dollars to education?

— Moira Hennings O’Crotty, Tacoma

Comments | More in crime/justice, Education reform, Higher education

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