An open letter to our congressmen
Dear senators and congressmen: I am writing to say that this tax cut for the rich and screwing the middle class is immoral. The House and Senate bills would get rid of the medical expense tax credit, the student loan interest credit, and make student loans that are paid by employers taxable income. It would also get rid of the property tax deduction. These tax increases will devastate my family.
First, by getting rid of the medical tax credit, my daughter and her husband will have a larger burden paying back the medical bills my grandson has incurred. Roman has had three surgeries in the past month and he will be in surgery again in two weeks. He has been hospitalized more days than home since he was born nearly two years ago.
Second, I have two children in college who are taking out student loans because we can't afford to pay out-of-pocket. They will be hit hard by the student loan credit repeal when it's time to pay them back. Also, my wife has decided to go back to school to get a Ph.D. in psychology to help disabled veterans with PTSD, such as myself. The Veterans Administration has a program that pays off student loans for employees who go to work helping veterans. Making that student loan payoff taxable will deter her from being able to afford to work at the VA.
Third, we are trying to buy a house, and depending on if we can get a VA loan, we might have to pay property taxes. By eliminating the property tax credit, the bill will place an undue burden on me as well as my children when they are ready to purchase their own homes.
These bills are immoral. And to cut corporate tax rates in half and reducing or eliminating the estate tax that helps Donald Trump is appalling. These bills are tax increases on me and my family and a giveaway to millionaires and billionaires like Trump and his family.
Enough is enough. Kill these bills and start over by cutting taxes for me and my family, and raise taxes on the corporations who are stashing trillions of dollars in the Cayman Islands.
On Sunday, Nov. 12, the Democrat-Gazette front page told Arkansans that the state spent more than $4 million with a company to develop "learning communities" in select schools. Max Brantley showed this week [on the Arkansas Blog] the actual cost is $12.5 million. Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) spoke the truth when she said the expensive material was nothing more than team learning that has been a part of education for years. The process described in the article is typical of education decisions made at a high level and then foisted on teachers. The decision-makers mean well, and want to do something to move kids forward; their hearts are in the right place — but not their brains.
There is another common occurrence that happens when salespersons ply leaders with "educational trips" and perhaps some new golf balls. That sales tactic brings packages to schools that often have no scholastic merit. In fact, this writer knew such useless, expensive programs were bought when he was called to the central office and saw packages of golf balls on the boss' desk. Sadly, the new stuff more times than not replaced what worked well. In the case of Solution Tree, had the leaders taken the time to talk with teachers like Linda Chesterfield, they would have told them that the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Assuming there is no way out of the Solution Tree contract, let this be the last instructional contract instigated for schools by legislators. Empower, encourage and support teacher efforts to establish good learning environments and help when asked. Our charter schools have shown how well empowering teachers works.
Perhaps the Arkansas Times would assign one of its gifted writers to do a deep dive into the many commercial programs and training sessions bought by the Little Rock School District over the last 10 years. Report the cost, status, results reaped and, most importantly, if a program was abandoned, what happened to the expensive materials. This writer predicts the total cost will be several million dollars; most programs are no longer in use; their use did not bring about noteworthy change and the costly materials were trashed. For sure, the Times should monitor "Pollution Tree." Fancy commercial programs depend more on high-powered marketing departments rather than powerful educational results.
To unite Little Rock, the education divide must end, and caring leadership will do just that. Over time, charter schools cause unintended financial distress that harms the school district because it has no choice but to give the charters money that is needed elsewhere. Charters are meant to be a temporary way to try innovative education ideas and then return to regular school status. They either develop a good idea or prove something not worth doing.
For example, if a charter pulls 1,000 students from the public system, that system must maintain the schools vacated by the charter students, but without the state funds associated with those students. The charter students come from many schools in the district, and the district cannot close any one school to compensate for the loss of state money. In a few years, the impact of lost funds damages the public system. Worse, permanent charter schools help create the artificial tag of good and bad with well-run charters considered like desirable, expensive private schools. Concerned leaders will see to it that every Little Rock school is considered good, and no area is favored over another.
Much could be done to unite us with little or no cost. Charters could voluntarily return as open public schools, and the school district could assure them that they could continue to be independent. More independence could be granted to regular schools. Baker Kurrus' research showed that keeping children together in good schools longer leads to better students, so we could work toward creating more pre-K-through-eighth-grade campuses. The community could solve the east-west high school crisis, avoiding a lawsuit with a special election providing one-time funding to equalize money for Mills and Robinson construction. Doing the Same Old, Same Old begets the Same Old, Same Old results. Is this community satisfied with SO, SO?
From the web
In response to the Nov. 16 article about filmmakers documenting the Elaine massacre and its reverberations:
I live in Fayetteville and work with the Lee Street Community Center in Elaine. My first trip was in 1998. I had been going there seven or eight years before I learned about [the massacre] at a film festival at the University of Arkansas. Our nonprofit chairman is George Andrew Gibson, who grew up in Elaine and wanted to do something for the children. Our building is located near the low-income apartments. When we park in the grass at the center, children start showing up. The school closed 10 years ago, and they need something to do. Last year we opened Turning Point Park on Main Street. Our theme is "Recognizing the Past with Hope for the Future, 1919 to 2019 and Beyond." The legal proceedings following the massacre led to a Supreme Court decision that redefined the 14th Amendment to give due process to ALL citizens. I have written a children's book to teach about this on an elementary level. We need to start teaching appropriate parts early and build on it. There are so many significant details to this history.