Unlikely to find an answer in vouchers
I'm a black woman who attended religious, public and private schools. Mitch Pearlstein ("Achievement gap cures have their own gap," Dec. 6) suggests that "culture" is more powerful than improved, research-based instructional techniques because young people of color fear being ridiculed for "acting white" if they take school more seriously.
This oversimplification of the causes behind the achievement gap is ridiculous. Lower-income kids of color face a barrage of obstacles that affect school performance, not the least of which are hunger, homelessness, fear for safety going to and from school, and lower expectations. That's an incomplete list, but it demonstrates that there is a confluence of circumstances that affect school performance for low-achieving kids, none of which are likely to be adequately addressed by religious values or vouchers.
CNN recently reported that American kids score 23rd in math and 31st in science when compared with 65 other top industrial countries. Religious schools and vouchers are unlikely to close either the domestic or international gap. I'd rather my tax money go to a public school system where teachers are paid so well that the field attracts the best and the brightest. I'd like teachers and kids held to high standards and for good, impactful instruction to be made available at every school. Clearly, bold and effective reforms are critical. But vouchers for religious schools are a weak and toothless riposte to this intractable problem.
NIKI MITCHELL, MINNEAPOLIS
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Keep public safety at the forefront
Twenty years ago when I worked on the task force assembled by state Rep. David Bishop that created the legislation addressing sexually dangerous persons in Minnesota, my primary focus was public safety. Reviewing the initial recommendations of the current civil commitment task force for less-restrictive alternatives ("Sex offender reform is closer to reality," editorial, Dec. 9), I fear cost is the primary focus. Saving money is a laudable goal, but not at the expense of public safety.
The current process has been remarkably efficient in accomplishing its goal of confining extremely dangerous sexual predators: 600 in 18 years -- 33 per year out of the thousands of offenders involved. To now suggest that there is a subset of these offenders who can be treated in local programs spread out across the state makes very little sense, financial or otherwise. Assuming a group of, let's say, eight of the 33 would be eligible for some less-restrictive alternative, how do you fund, staff and locate programs to securely confine and treat one or two in each of, let's say, four regional programs?
The Star Tribune Editorial Board suggests that an expansion of the group subject to treatment in such regional programs would be good. My almost 40 years as a prosecutor convinced me that extended confinement is the only way to guarantee that we don't have to watch detectives searching burn pits for remains of the victims of repeat offenders.
RAYMOND SCHMITZ, ROCHESTER
The writer is a former Olmsted County Attorney.
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Senators' efforts are misplaced, unconvincing
The Star Tribune reported ("Senators fight planned tax on medical devices," Dec. 11) that U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are working to repeal or delay a tax on medical devices, which the industry has said would be "a job killer that would hurt innovation." However, revenue from this source and others supporting the Affordable Care Act are aimed at improving health care cost and coverage problems.
The medical-device business is important to Minnesota, but in three visits to Minnesota hospitals for surgery in the past 10 years, I noticed that just about all of the equipment and accessories used were imported from China or Europe.
Where have Klobuchar and Franken been on this development? It seems logical that they should work for a tariff tax on imported devices to replace the revenue from the ACA device tax, rather than to simply eliminate or delay that tax.
RICHARD PATTEN, MINNEAPOLIS
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Both senators were enthusiastic supporters of health care reform, and neither apparently had enough influence in the Senate to stop the harmful device tax before it was written into law. Proponents of reform promised us it was revenue-neutral and that it would lead to more jobs. I doubt that is true, but where do our senators now propose we raise the $28 billion needed if this aspect of it is repealed? I think both are working hard at pretending they are working hard on this repeal effort.
DAVID DINGEE, MINNEAPOLIS
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Debt -- good enough for government work
I was interested to read the comments from the reader who listed all the things that he could buy with a gross income of $120,000 ("Talk of tax hardship isn't quite persuasive," Readers Write, Dec. 11). If one were to study his expenses for even a moment and extrapolate some average costs, it would seem that he is quite proud that in a single year with an income of $120,000, after taxes he is able to incur a debt load of more than $400,000. Since he seems to have such a good handle on personal finances, he seems well qualified for a career in politics.
BRIAN CORNELL, MINNETONKA