published Sunday, October 14th, 2012

'Which DesJarlais did the voting?' and other letters to the editor

Which DesJarlais did the voting?

I just read an op-ed at another site where Scott DesJarlais claimed that he was fighting the abuses of presidential power.

I just have one question: Is this the same Scott DeJarlais who voted to continue warrantless wiretapping until 2016 just before the recess?

Inquiring minds want know.

ROD YOUNG


Candidates confuse president's role

It is distressing that neither presidential candidate ever speaks of the constitutional limits on the office of chief executive. To wit: all the frivolous talk about raising or lowering taxes in the first presidential debate and all the charges of lying in the flurry of post-debate political ads. I say "frivolous" because, while the president may offer leadership on tax reform (Obama has offered little here), all tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives.

Even more grating is all the talk about job creation ("we've created 5.2 million jobs"). Where does the Constitution even remotely suggest such a role for the president? Certainly the federal government is a major player in our economy (doing more harm than good, many of us would argue), but what sort of audacity would lead a newly elected president (Obama) to announce that we will "rebuild the American economy?" Who decided that it was broken? Who authorized him to rebuild it? What in his experience as a community organizer led him to think that he even understood the economy?

If Mitt Romney is truly business-savvy, he'll understand that rebuilding the economy or fundamentally transforming the country is not his mandate. We need a president, not a Dear Leader.

GARY LINDLEY, Lookout Mountain, Ga.


Public prayer distorts rights

Let's get real about prayer. So many people seem offended by the thought of not being allowed to sponsor a spoken, explicitly Christian prayer in the public sphere. But the reality is that when it comes down to it, faith is a personal matter between you and your God. That's why it's called faith. Prayer is supposed to strengthen that connection. You don't need any other people to be involved in order to engage in prayer in a meaningful way.

I've never heard of anyone getting "saved" after a pre-council meeting prayer or a pre-football game prayer. If the purpose of your public prayer is to rattle "nonbelievers" around you, then you're not acting out your faith in a loving way. You're being a combative jerk, and you are the reason why Christians get a bad rap these days and fail to inspire or encourage people to follow a Christian path.

The freedom to believe or not believe as we each choose is a beautiful and precious American right. Subjecting others to prayers they don't or can't believe in is a manipulative distortion of that right. It is, at the very least, callous and, at the worst, downright mean.

ALLIE STAFFORD


Candidates can debate amicably

In this age of deep political discord and incivility, I would like to commend the candidates and the moderator of the political debates that have been airing on our local GCTV cable channel. The amicable nature of these debates is a testament to exemplary Tennessee values. The candidates engaged in polite discussion as they presented their views in order to let voters decide based on the issues. I'd like to think that those we elect could be capable of working together in this way.

I was, however, disappointed with the absence of 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais from the debates. His opponent, Eric Stewart, was there and addressed questions of importance to all of us. Voters have a right to "comparison shop" for elected representatives by hearing them debate rather than having to rely on one-sided mailings and "sound bite" television ads that get annoying really fast.

Whoever is elected to offices this year, I hope they know the meaning of the word "compromise." The U.S. population is fairly evenly divided by party. Elected representatives need to represent all the people. If one party or the other must have an unassailable majority in order for anything to get done there is something wrong.

GREGORY MAGAVERO, Monteagle, Tenn.


Election politics darkens nation

When we consider the needs of others, this nation shines like a city of light on a hill to the world. But when the American people are being bullied, blackmailed and manipulated by the narrow-minded, uncompromising politics and policies of ignorance, green and apathy, like today during this election cycle, our dark side puts a bushel over our light.

B.J. PASCHAL, Sevierville, Tenn.


Pruett will help use border funds wisely

As of June several areas of East Ridge have been granted border region status. The funds designated for our area will only be utilized if we have the best organization in city government to ensure the border regions are developed properly.

Ann Pruett has East Ridge residents' interests at heart and knows what needs to be done to make sure we take full advantage of the border region status. She will make it her goal to see border region projects approved, planned and accomplished.

Ann knows how important retail development is for any city and especially for her hometown.

In a struggling economy where new construction projects are few and far between, the incentives granted to East Ridge's region are a rare gift not to be wasted.

Vote for Ann Pruett to East Ridge City Council so we can ensure that we get the most out of the grants and tax incentives and rebuild East Ridge's retail community.

ANNIE MIZE, East Ridge


Just use tax funds for school vouchers

According to the Hamilton County DOE budget, we the taxpayers have contributed $330,799,744 to the county's general purpose school fund. With current enrollment approximately 42,705, this equates to around $7,746 of annual spending per student. And yet, the most recent scorecard for Hamilton County schools shows this area, on average, underperforming the rest of the state in student achievement, in a state ranked eighth worst in the nation earlier this year!

With this being the state of affairs, it is no wonder that the percentage of students attending private school in Hamilton County is more than double the national average.

It certainly begs the question: what, exactly, are our public schools spending all this money on? It certainly doesn't seem to be on educating our children.

Instead of forcing our children to attend underperforming schools, why don't we give vouchers worth $7,746 to each student and let them and their parents determine where to send them to school? $7,746 is enough tuition for a K-8 education at almost all private schools, and K-12 at most. Our tax dollars are paying for our children's education anyway; we might as well be able to choose good schools for our money!

JOSH PAUL

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Rickaroo said...

Allie Stafford, you certainly make a good point, but I'm afraid it's entirely wasted on the ones who should be heeding it. The trouble is, most evangelical Christians like to pray in public because they see it as a form of "witnessing" to those around them. Evangelicals believe that unless they actively try to influence non-believers to join their ranks, they are not being true Christians. Public prayer is a way for them to show others that they are not ashamed to be a Christian; and if they get persecuted for it, they feel even better about it, because they're earning brownie points for suffering for their God and Jesus or whatever.

Any reasonable person who believes in prayer for the sake of praying and not witnessing knows that true prayer is and should be a private affair, flowing from the depths of one's heart. But as long as we have Bible thumpers who believe that their way of believing is the ONLY way to believe and that all others are going to hell, then we will have to suffer their arrogance and ignorance.

October 14, 2012 at 2:43 a.m.
Fendrel said...

Allie,

Well said, Rickaroo...you too ...gosh you guys haven't left any good scraps on the table to fight over this morning...nothing for me to add. Have a nice weekend!

October 14, 2012 at 7:11 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

You are incorrect, Mr. Paul. Most decent accredited private schools cost much more than $8k. The ones that cost less offer less: sports, music, art, science costs a lot, and these things cannot be offered without sufficient funding.

Check out the Websites of the best schools in Chattanooga. You will find that the truly good ones like Baylor and GPS cost MUCH more, and what you won't see is that your tuition doesn't actually cover the full cost-their endowment kicks in some so that they can keep their tuition competitive. Small classes, state of the art technology, good library, science equipment, safe buses, faculty development and benefits, sports facilities are all very expensive. If you find a school that costs 8K, you better look really closely at what you are getting. Probably underpaid and underqualified staff and a lot of bible study.

October 14, 2012 at 7:38 a.m.

Instead of refuting, at length, Ikeithlu's post above, I'll simply post middle school tuition rates garnered from a simple Google search:

Chattanooga Christian School - $7,445 Boyd Buchanan - $8,100 Silverdale Academy - $7,427 St. Jude - $7,350 Grace Academy - $6,395 (Notre Dame requires a phone call to the business office to inquire about tuition rates. My recollection tells me tuition is slightly higher, around $10,000 for non-Catholic students).

Many, many more options exist for elementary students, also at lower cost than those referenced above. All of the above schools have full athletic offerings, smaller class sizes than our public schools, and higher graduation and college placement rates. All have fees associated with certain activities above the cost of tuition, but the same holds true for public schools in the area.

As for this statement:

"If you find a school that costs 8K, you better look really closely at what you are getting. Probably underpaid and underqualified staff and a lot of bible study."

I can only offer two thoughts. First, generalizations do not typically form a solid foundation for a quality thesis. Research your statement before making yourself look foolish. Second, do you really think the quality of the education from the "under-qualified staff" is less than that of our local public schools? A sad conclusion, to be sure, and one that lacks merit.

October 14, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

I stand by my post, just, particularly involving high school. I noticed that you did not check the best schools, nor did you take into account fees, books and transportation. A voucher for 8k will help a middle class family who can pony up the rest, but will not help a poor family. Even so, school endowments still cover a significant % of the cost of educating a student.

I think you have missed the basic point of my post: we do not spend enough per pupil in public school. No, throwing money at the problem is not the answer-public school problems are complex and involve everything from un-involved parents, teacher's unions and top heavy administration. But pulling 8k per student out of public schools to help those that can make up the rest needed to educate their student will leave those who can't (or those who students can't handle the rigor) with much less.

October 14, 2012 at 2:47 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

I don't like to repeat myself but I'm going to do it here. I wrote this in response to an article the TFP editor for the left side of the paper wrote on the subject of school vouchers a couple of weeks ago. Pardon my redundancy but I think/hope that it bears repeating. Of course, those who disagree with me will still disagree just as strongly, but so be it.

The latest Gallup poll shows that 65% of Americans are opposed to the concept of school vouchers. There has been a 15% increase in opposition since 2008. Practically every poll ever taken has shown an overwhelming number of Americans are opposed to school vouchers and support more funding for public education.

For every one student who receives a voucher and goes to a private school, there are at least 10 students still in the public education sector. If vouchers are "the way to go" and the government is funneling vast amounts of money away from public ed as it doles out more and more money for vouchers, what is to be done about the 90% of American kids still stuck in a languishing, underfunded public education system? There are not enough private schools to accommodate every student nor enough money for the government to dole out.

Conservatives are always making the claim that it's not government's job to fund things like health care or education or entitlement programs anyway, but handing over money to individual families for education is still government funding/involvement. If we go to an all-private school system, then schools must be built or converted quickly and on a massive scale; otherwise we will have kids stuck for years, even decades maybe, in the underfunded public school system, because no amount of private enterprise alone can act quickly enough to make it a profitable venture to undertake.

Free-market purists think that everything revolves, or should revolve, around someone making a profit. But there are some things, like health care and education, where our basic necessities must be taken care of without regard for profit. No matter how you slice it and whether you like it or not, government is going to have to have a hand in our education.

There is no need to try to reinvent the education wheel. We need to stop this insane siphoning of money away from public ed and focus completely on strengthening and improving our existing public school system so that ALL Americans can get a quality education.

October 14, 2012 at 3:29 p.m.

Several thoughts. First, I believe the adage that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" applies here. Yes, Baylor, McCallie, & GPS are not listed above. But one cannot seriously argue that the education obtained at Boyd or St. Jude, for example, is not better than that obtained at our public schools. Thus, why forego an education that is better than the one currently offered, simply because it is not the best available?

Second, while high school tuition is higher, research has consistently shown that the most important years for a child's education are the early years. A child that falls behind struggles mightily to catch back up. Therefore, the focus, clearly, should be on the elementary and middle school years, and our public schools fail tremendously in this regard. Remember, Tennessee is ranked 8th worst in the country, and Hamilton County underperforms the state as a whole. That is not an opinion, that is simply the facts.

Third, I shudder to think what would happen if you were in charge of other areas of our local government. Throwing money at a problem is rarely, if ever, the answer. If more money will improve the situation in public schools, then our private offerings would benefit even more with funding increases, as they have shown to be more efficient with the dollars they currently have!

Finally, this:

"But pulling 8k per student out of public schools to help those that can make up the rest needed to educate their student will leave those who can't (or those who students can't handle the rigor) with much less."

This statement is frequently used by defenders of public schools, and reeks of a white, middle class supremacy bias. The natural extension here, while intended or not, is that poor students are less apt to succeed, if given the opportunity, in a more rigorous private school setting. This thought I simply cannot tolerate. Furthermore, no less is being spent on the education of the student who chooses to continue attending public school. Their approx. $8k voucher included in their public school is the same contribution that would have been made had the voucher system not been in place. Granted, there may be fewer total dollars infusing the public school system, but that is only the case if there are fewer students as well, so per student expenditures would be the same.

October 14, 2012 at 3:34 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Anti-public education folks treat our education system just like our health care system: they're not the least bit concerned with looking at the big picture and what serves the interests of the nation as a whole; they care only about what serves the interests of a select few, those who are well off enough or fortunate enough to be able to make choices in the first place. The vast majority of kids in the puclic schools come from families who are not so fortunate or pro-active as to be able to even consider private schools for their kids.

But just like in health care, where we need a basic level of coverage that ensures care for everyone, we need a basic standard of education for everyone, too. And that basic standard needs to be raised much higher. Of course there should always be choices for those willing and able to pay more, but we should first expend our energy, time, and money in ways that will raise the bar from the bottom, so that no kid, regardless of economic status, receives an inadequate basic education.

October 14, 2012 at 3:53 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

I disagree, Just. It is not a racial thing either. Most private schools have entry requirements. They cannot provide the one-on-one personal assistance to those students with learning disabilities or lower IQ. They have to be selective because they cannot take on what they are not equipped to handle. In addition (as Rickaroo said) there is not enough places for those kids who can meet the entry requirements. Louisiana is doing this: not only does this mean dumping huge amounts of taxpayer money for sectarian (usually evangelical) education, some of the schools gladly take the money and students before they have the facilities and staff set up for them, giving them an experience that is FAR WORSE than what they had. In addition, I made it clear that throwing money at schools is not what should be done, but adequate funding should be part of the solution. The good private schools, including those that have innovative programs for lot of different learning types, can cost $20k or more per student, not all of which comes from tuition. That should tell us right off that we are not spending enough for our very diverse public schools.

October 14, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.

I realize now this conversation really can go nowhere. The statements being made above are either fraught with bias or are based on factually incorrect generalizations. First, this statement:

"The vast majority of kids in the public schools come from families who are not so fortunate or pro-active as to be able to even consider private schools for their kids."

This, again, illustrates the bias that parents of poor families are not capable (or pro-active enough) to make good education decisions, if given the option and resources. While I am certain Rickaroo will not admit the bias, it is evident in the argument, piggybacks Ikeithlu's previous bias, and is likely so ingrained that neither party can readily acknowledge the problem. The fact of the matter is, providing parents with school choice will, in fact, "raise the bar from the bottom, so that no kid, regardless of economic status, receives an inadequate basic education."

And, finally, let's touch on the factually inaccurate generalizations proposed, once again, by Ikeithlu. The truth is, our private schools in the area: A) Are equipped with programs for children with learning disabilities. They do a better job educating those with alternative learning styles than do our public schools, and do so without a $20k pricetag. But don't take my word for it: do your own research. (Or is that too much effort; would you prefer just to be blissfully ignorant?) B) Are good schools; better, in fact, than our public schools. One needn't attend Baylor or McCallie in order to obtain a higher than public school level of education (just look at the statistics and grades of our public schools compared to our private! How am I the only one that can read the numbers?). To propose such an idea, again, illustrates a level of blissful ignorance, that, unfortunately, neither I nor anyone else will be able to overcome.

This, ultimately, is why I'm un-electable in any public office. I grow weary of those that tout opinions that are neither defensible nor grounded in fact.

October 14, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Just...you might or might not be truly "independent," but your biases come into play on this or any other issue just as much as mine or anyone else's. You people who claim to be "independent" are really disgusting. You seem to think that just by virtue of claiming to be independent, that automatically makes you more objective or somehow able to see more clearly than someone who professes to be liberal or conservative or whatever.

Your statement that "the fact of the matter is, providing parents with school choice will, in fact, 'raise the bar from the bottom, so that no kid, regardless of economic status, receives an inadequate basic education'" is hogwash. It's just like the same old conservative mantra that tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs. It's pure, unadulterated BS because you are addressing the problem from the top and completely ignoring the problem at the base level, where it needs to be addressed first and foremost.

You "grow weary of those that tout opinions that are neither defensible nor grounded in fact?" Aww...poor pitiful weary you. I grow weary, too, of inflated egos like yours who pretend to have a firmer grasp of facts than me or anyone else. You just cling to whatever study or data suits whatever "facts" you want to believe in order to support your own bias.

Independent, my hiney.

October 14, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.

Exactly how is providing EVERY parent the power to choose where their son or daughter goes to school addressing the issue from the top down? Seems to be giving people the power and ability to make their own choice...something akin to addressing the issue from the bottom up, no?

October 14, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

That's just it...it is not possible to give EVERY parent the option of sending their kids to private schools, even if every parent wanted that option. There are not enough funds to make that possible, nor are there enough private schools to accommodate all the kids.

Power and freedom of choice are buzzwords that sound good (who is opposed to freedom of choice, after all?), but they are just loose-lip terms that anti-government people like to use to make their case against the government. But if you give "freedom of choice" - vouchers, in other words - to EVERY parent, then you are talking about dispensing with public education entirely and going with a restructured system wherein the government is basically going to be subsidizing private schools, with absolutely no control over how the money is spent and no uniformity of educational standards whatsoever. We would be creating the balkanization of education, only hoping that competition would cause the quality of each school to improve; but there would be no assurance that competition would equate with quality. As with any profit making enterprise, profit is always the bottom line. Improved quality is not always considered as the main way to generate more profit.

If we are going to have basic educational standards that need to be met (and we should have such standards), then there is no way that education can continue to be privatized. While vouchers might be giving some fortunate few more power and freedom of choice in the short term, it would be impossible to implement a full scale voucher system that would maintain cohesiveness and take all children from all economic sectors into consideration. By siphoning off funds into vouchers we are dangerously eroding a public school system that is by no means beyond repair or without hope. It needs to be salvaged, tweaked, and given a new life for the 21st century

October 14, 2012 at 8:09 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

Just, I was a private school educator for decades. I know what private schools cost beyond just the tuition. Books, supplies, sports, musical instruments, private tutoring, standardized testing, transportation, uniforms, activity fees, lab fees, the list goes on and on. I also know that the quality of the education, especially in high school, varies greatly. Special needs kids have added tutoring costs, and specialized tutors are very expensive. Is it fair? No. But gutting the public schools isn't either.

To expand on the LA example, changes in their laws (which incidentally are similar to our HB 368) allow schools to teach science with materials from publishers like Bob Jones University. Sectarian religion is now taught to LA public school students at private school using taxpayer dollars.

Vouchers would have helped my school. We had many parents that struggled to pay, and some kids couldn't come because we could not always provide the financial aid. Vouchers would have helped, but they could not help everyone. The 6k voucher (rural county) only covered less than half of the tuition. The generosity of some members of the board and the community provided opportunities for some and scholarships for others, but it was out of reach for most.

So don't sit there thinking I have not had experience with this. If anything, I should be for vouchers, as my own institution would have benefited. But it is wrong to make the situation worse for the very poorest in order to provide this to a few who can pay the difference.

Finally, it is a question of funding. School is very labor intensive. 80-90% of a private school's operating budget is staff salaries and benefits. So the money the school brings in translates directly into class size, teaching expertise, faculty retention and specialized training. Most facilities are built by capital raised in campaigns by the school's development office. As a private school teacher I taught 4 sections of 16. Compare that to a public school, where a teacher will have 5 or 6 sections of 24-30, depending on the state laws. I could work with kids one-on-one, assign and evaluate work daily (including significant writing exercises) and I had adequate supplies and equipment. I worked 60 hours a week, including nights and weekends. It's a completely different environment. The cost per student was enormous, more than we could charge families, so the general fund and endowment covered the rest.

Public schools have cut and cut their programs to save money. Special ed kids are now mainstreamed, and with larger class sizes, teachers cannot be as effective. Kids don't get one on one attention that they need. I could go on and on about what public schools need, but it would fill volumes. I have some ideas, but in the end we should be listening to the public school teachers themselves.

October 14, 2012 at 8:39 p.m.
SarahS1980 said...

We as citizens can make our voice heard on this issue. Sign this petition to tell the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners and the American Medical Association that sexual relationship between doctors and their patients is not okay:

http://www.change.org/petitions/tennessee-board-of-medical-examiners-and-the-american-medical-association-revoke-the-medical-license-of-dr-scott-desjarlais-for-ethics-violations

October 15, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.
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