Reader letters, April 2

Apr 01, 2014

Brown will long be remembered

To the editor:

While I was waiting at the funeral home the afternoon before the funeral of Robert Brown, I saw hundreds of friends who loved him. We stood in line for hours to pay tribute with loving words to his family.

The funeral service was filled with meaning and beauty as so many remembered a special man who had blessed this world in powerful ways.

And to top it off was the magnificent tribute written by editor Vicki Hyatt in The Mountaineer (March 26 ). Her words breathed life into memories that will never go away from his many friends.

The pictures are beautiful and will keep the memory of this hero alive forever to his dear family and to our country. There is overflowing thanksgiving for his life that was lived in power and love. We are blessed to have read so much of it in our newspaper.  Thank you.

Lucy N. Adams

Lake Junaluska


Education is being sabbatoged

To the editor:

Thank you for your splendid editorial last week, “Don’t watch silently as public education is diminished.” As you said, the repair of the massive damage that’s being done to our schools begins with the November election.

Haywood County voters may want to consider that Rep. Michelle Presnell and Sen. Jim Davis are too much a part of the problem to be trusted with the solution.

No external enemy could reasonably hope to do more damage to the United States than to sabotage our most universal and most important institution: the public school.

Why, in state after state, are Republican legislatures doing this? The pattern is the same. Reduce per pupil funding. Siphon money to unaccountable private and charter schools, sometimes owned or managed by profit-seeking corporations. Demonize, demoralize, disempower and divide the teachers.

To hear the perpetrators, one reason is to tax less so as to improve the state’s economy. But, as the North Carolina Justice Center reported just last week, it didn’t work in Kansas and it won’t work in North Carolina.

Another excuse is “choice,” the mantra to rationalize flight from the public schools. But the aid offered poor students is far less than the tuition charged by quality private schools. It is simply a subsidy for wealthier families.

A 2013 film, “Now You See Me,” made the point that the secret of a magician’s deception is to distract the audience from what’s really going on.

The anti-education black magic act is a cynical and venal plot to reward rich contributors with huge tax cuts, to fatten the bottom line for private school corporations, to destroy the teaching profession because its members tend, for good reasons, to support Democrats, and yield in the end a population too poorly educated to look for the charlatans behind the curtains at Raleigh and other Republican capitals.

Martin A. Dyckman



Case for education was well-presented

To the editor

Thank you for your editorial in the March 28,  issue of The Mountaineer.

Dr. Nolte made the positive statement “Every Child” should have a “free and appropriate public education”.

My definition of an appropriate public education is that every child should have the opportunity to develop his/her abilities to their highest level.  Our schools were accomplishing that with “No child left behind” at one end of the spectrum and Governor’s School at the other.

That progress was effectively stopped by state funding decreases since 2008.  The state has eliminated class size above the 3rd grade.

Dr. Nolte reports that in Haywood County instructional supply funds have been cut a third.

Teachers have had no pay increases.  The general assembly legislative initiative includes changes in tenure, issuing vouches and setting up charter schools without supervision of educational content.

I see two courses we can take.  Individuals, parents, PTA/PTSA/support groups, community organizations, civic, social clubs and fraternities, churches and businesses can provide the needed provisions and funding for our schools.  This will help regardless of what the state might do.

The second and very important, we must know the legislators for whom we vote.  Not what they promised or said they have done but what they did or will do.

Doris B. Hammett, MD



Be wary of labor statistics

To the editor:

North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell again in February, and the Republicans in charge of North Carolina are crowing.  However, when you look at the numbers behind the statistic, there is nothing to crow about.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available is actually down 11,300 since January, after the state lost more than 7,000 jobs in January.

The reason for the dip in the unemployment rate is because the state’s labor force decreased.

Many people, some of them the long-term unemployed, are dropping out of the job market and are no longer counted in the unemployment rate calculation.  More than 60,000 people gave up and left the job market since February 2013.  The jobless are moving out of the labor force instead of into jobs.

I fear that North Carolina’s recovery from the 2008 recession will continue to be anemic until Republican policies, including tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for the poor and middle class, funding cuts to education and infrastructure, and refusal to expand Medicaid which would have added 25,000 jobs, are reversed.

Please vote for your pocket book in 2014.

Carole Larivee

White Oak



Comments (14)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 01, 2014 16:24

Mr. Dyckman: Your letter breaks my heart.  Really.  What are you saying that Ms. Presnell, a woman who owns a picture framing business, is doing that is part of the problem?  I mean list it out specifically -- don't just throw a generic "Republicans are mean" statement out there.


"Demonize, demoralize, disempower and divide the teachers." -- Please be sure to distinguish "teachers" vs. "unions/lobbyists/legal teams".  I'm fairly certain "Republicans" have no issue with "teachers" -- just their unionization and politics to demand from public funds and policy.  Do away with unions/lobbyists/legal teams and I'll bet you Republicans are FIRST IN LINE to attract and retain competent and effective teachers.


"To hear the perpetrators, one reason is to tax less so as to improve the state’s economy."  Perhaps.  But another slant on that is that efficiency can be improved if necessary.  Provide less funding and you get more efficiency and hopefully little-to-no loss in effectiveness.  Without any meaningful competition, there is no check-and-balance system to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.  Those in the public schools say they need "more".  There's never been a time in history where they didn't!  It's an education monopoly.  Until another entity can stand up and prove it can be done better and for less, we're at the mercy of the education power brokers telling us to trust them, they know all, give them more.


"Another excuse is “choice,” the mantra to rationalize flight from the public schools. But the aid offered poor students is far less than the tuition charged by quality private schools."  -- Choice would provide competition and then efficiency/effectiveness would be increased.  How can this be done in ways that is fair to all students?  I think all Republicans would love to hear ideas. I've heard good points such as the "undesirables" left behind. Points worthy of discussion.  It's those in the big-education power positions that fight ideas here.  And it's obvious they trump up their supporters by dressing them in red and telling them to be angry.


"The anti-education black magic act is a cynical and venal plot..."  Really?  Do you think Republicans really don't want education?


" destroy the teaching profession..."  Really? Do you think Republicans really want to do away with a role called "teacher"?


Let's put down the politics and talk ideas and facts.  All the arguing about money and power is not for the children's sake.  Children learn for free.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 01, 2014 16:29

Dr. Hammett: well put.  I think we're suffering some kind of transition phase in education.  The problem is, I don't see anything clearly communicated to what we're transitioning.  That seems to be a deficiency of the Republicans not putting out a message.  Or perhaps they are, and the media outlets I consume don't cover it.  Or, as is so common in today's world, there are too many small, incomplete sound bites that just don't tell the story.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 01, 2014 21:40

Regarding the "cost" of education.  The average for NC private schools (excluding the most costly 10%) spent an average of $4,900/student while the public schools spend $8,400/student.  Now if we're REALLY interested in what works and what doesn't work, then we need an open and honest discussion about why public schools costs 71% more per student.  Are public school SAT scores and standardized tests 71% higher than public schools?  Do public school teachers earn 71% more than private school teachers?  Of course not.  Start the discussion there.  What are the "costly" elements of public education?  Address those objectively and honestly.  Then we'll be able to develop a vision and measure our legislators against some kind of progress toward it as Dr. Hammett suggests.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 02, 2014 08:35

"No external enemy could reasonably hope to do more damage to the United States than to sabotage our most universal and most important institution: the public school."

        Mr. Dyckman nailed it. "Choice" is just another assault on OUR Constitution in the name of freedom. It is nonsense. Public schools are required to be uniform in standards taught. That is the problem. "Choicers" do not want their kids taught about evolution or anything whatsoever that challenges their Fundamentalistic opinions. AND! They want the rest of US to pay for their self-imposed ignorance. Plus there are those that want to profit from public education. These blood-suckers by and large also want "Christian" schools instead of secular Constitution based.

            No terrorist has ever attacked OUR Constitutions. Right-wingers do it daily.



Posted by: Ron Rookstool | Apr 02, 2014 09:47

Please register to vote, if you haven't already.  The voters need to have their voices heard.  If you are happy with the way things are going, vote for it, if you are not, then please vote for change. We all have our own opinions.  Be an informed voter and do not vote strictly on party lines.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 02, 2014 10:04

Mr. Zimmerman, the term "uniform" is used in the NC Constitution to describe the length of school year -- not "standard taught".  To address "standard taught", the Common Core is developing -- depending on who you ask, the Common Core is not necessarily a good thing.  As well, teachers were once given tenure as they became experienced and wise to deviate from education norms.  This gave "protection" to deviate from "standards taught".  But I think no more does tenure provide that protection.




Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 02, 2014 10:07

"Be an informed voter and do not vote strictly on party lines." -- YES!  YES! YES!  One BIG problem in politics today is the defining differences between Republicans (to represent a republic) and Democrats (to represent democracy) is lost.  It's lost because they do things and take positions to harm the other party -- even at a cost of not honoring their own beliefs.  Whatever your political affiliation, ask your government officials to have integrity.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 02, 2014 10:18

Let's not make the mistake of arguing the school choice issue from the student's perspective.  That's the wrong argument to make from the anti-choice crowd.  If a rural school has only one student that has an interest in Advanced Placement Physics, they won't have the same ability to take the class that exists in a large school system.  And within the same public school, you have classes for the "advanced" and classes for the "not so advanced".  Arguing all students must perform equally is not valid.  The public school itself divides the student population by whatever it wants.  Extending that philosophy to an entirely different school is valid.  In Greensboro, there is a "special" public school called "Weaver Education" where I attended a few AP classes that weren't offered at my local public school.  I was bussed between schools during the day.  It was class choice that equated to school choice -- all in the public school system.


So it's not "choice" that is the problem.  The problem (be honest) is the politics, power, and money that surrounds public education.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 02, 2014 10:31

Here's a good question to consider the "school choice" issue: If Haywood Public Schools did not have an AP Physics class because there weren't enough students, and a local private school had the class, would it be fair to suggest to the Haywood Public School that they partner with the local private school to send their one AP Physics student over for that class?  The class might be offered 100 miles away by a larger school system.  Of course, that would be best for the student.


Now is when you get into the REAL problem... What are the financial things that need to be worked out to do that?  Who pays for that student to attend the only AP Physics class in 100 miles?

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 02, 2014 10:36

Oh, and when someone "takes the bait on the previous post".... I'll ask the same question but I'll substitute "learning disabled" for "advanced placement".  Whatever argument should remain valid for either scenario.  Right?  (I'm just throwing it out there early so this discussion isn't so much a "gotcha" thing.)  :-)


Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 02, 2014 13:57

No takers?  Ok... There is a "Special Education Scholarship Grants" program that (ahem) gives vouchers for private schools for disabled children.  Anyone want to say why this voucher program should not be allowed?  Anyone want to say giving a parent a choice of private schooling for their disabled child a bad idea?  Anyone want to chime in for not having this program mentioned in the NC Constitution?  Anyone want to point to Republicans and say how evil they are to allow this kind of thing?

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 03, 2014 07:43

               Mr. Lilly;

               You have misread OUR Constitution. It not dictates a minimum of 9 months of schooling, but that that schooling must meet a uniform standard.

                 No reasonable excuse for vouchers can be made.

                Any and all students which are required to attend public schools must be given a "uniform education". No exceptions. Developmentaly challenged must have recourse provided to accomadate them.

               Private schools should never be supported by tax-dollars.

                Those who can afford private schools can pay for them out of their own pocket.

                Those students more advanced can test out and move-up in class at their own choice.

                 With the advancement of the Net, anyone has access to the information of their choosing. The self-taught will, by and large cause the end of many schools, private and public.

                 Myself, personally, I bought my text-books in advance. Read them and check-marked any questions I had.

                Sire's mother was kicked out of school in third grade. Taught herself to read and write. Her husband died the day I was borne. He was celebrating by playing "chicken" with two other drunks. Five people killed. She never had a checking account. Carried thousands with her. Had money buried everywhere. Owned/bought 340 acres, three houses.


                         No vouchers.


Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 03, 2014 07:54

                Long ago OUR Liberal Founders and their "posterity" embraced Jefferson's admonition that 'education is the answer to error. To that end it was determined that there must be public schools to properly educate those that would become new voters/supporters of Liberty. North Carolina as OUR Constitution declares as "progressive", spells out the requirements that and restrictions as to how public schools must be supported. No one can opt-out from paying taxes in support of OUR public schools. No One. Anyone may at their own cost home school or send kids to private school. That is the parent's choice. Students not of the age of consent, have no choice in the matter. None.


Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 04, 2014 16:29

Ms. Larivee, what is your source of your data?  The Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics say "Employment" in NC increased 7,400 between January and February from 4,355,600 in January to 4,363,000 in February.  That's more people working in February than January.  As well, the unemployment rate also dropped.  But the issue I take with your letter is that there are more people working in February than in January.  Yes, the civilian labor force fell as well -- could be any reasons for that: an aging population, discouraged workers, whatever.  But more people working month after month is a positive sign.  Anyone trying to say otherwise is being disingenuous.



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