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The wrong direction

EDITOR: One-hundred years ago, a diploma from a Santa Rosa high school meant qualification to attend the University of California. But that’s all it meant, and for only a few students. High school evolved from that narrow offering into providing students a variety of courses for a variety of futures.

By high school age, students have figured out, consciously or unconsciously, where they fit academically. For sizable numbers, it isn’t college; instead it’s working to master basic skills.

Today any student, regardless of ability, can enroll in college-prep classes. Those with neither study skills nor learning behaviors have a difficult time there. They often drop to a lower level or force the instructor to weaken materials and expectations. Imposing A-G requirements will force the latter (“SR to require college-prep classes,” Thursday).

Instead of punishing all students — by watering down material and sending them into a program they may not want or need — the board of education should shift focus to the lower grades where students can learn skills to help them succeed in high school or college. A positive home environment helps, too.

I speak from the experience of 32 years of classroom teaching at all levels — elementary, middle school, high school and junior college. If the board had similar experience, it would see the folly in its plan. Remember the failure of “Project Achieve”?

MICHAEL DANIELS

Santa Rosa

Targeting the neediest

EDITOR: Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development proposes to triple the rent for poor families receiving housing vouchers (“Poor, old, disabled face substantial rent increase,” Thursday). This is the same man who sought a $30,000 dining table for his office.

The astronomical increase mustn’t be viewed simply as Carson’s mischief. It has more to do with a massive tax cut, 80 percent of which will benefit the richest of the rich. And it’s becoming clear that the poor will pay for it.

This is the first step on a long, miserable road to stripping away every form of assistance for the neediest, as Republicans struggle to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

This targeting of mostly minority constituencies that don’t usually support Republican candidates could be likened to ethnic cleansing of a more genteel variety. Deport the brown ones, cut off assistance for the black ones, and soon the opposition simply vanishes.

Under different circumstances this would be big news. Maybe that’s the whole point of the circus in Washington; keep the media occupied with endless stupidity, while the truly sinister — voter suppression, mass deportation and the deprivation of the least among us — is carried out systematically in order to assure the survival of the richest.

PETER BARMUS

The Sea Ranch

Mosquito control

EDITOR: Already we have had several mosquito sightings in the Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood. It is urgent to eliminate all standing water for vector control. Aside from the obvious (checking trays under potted plants), note that unexpected traps such as tarps that are stored outdoors can collect and hold water for months. Also, as intermittent rain will likely fall here over the coming months, please follow up with inspections and draining.

FREDERICK SMITH

Santa Rosa

Evicting the homeless

EDITOR: Along with neighbors, I watched the police dismantle the homeless encampment in Roseland (“Homeless camp residents evicted,” April 20). According to news reports, the city gave the people some options, not always viable (mainly church groups with moral agendas). Their sign read “Right to Stay,” but no one offered that option, instead telling residents to “move along.”

Some lost valuables, some were worried about their pets, which aren’t welcome in shelters. Stop treating homeless people like vermin. Human family like us, they deserve to be treated with dignity.

Ironically, the county is selling Roseland to the highest bidders. Where the homeless camp was dismantled, 140 new “units” are proposed, which will clog the already-jammed neighborhood streets. We know this won’t help the homeless, but in the name of providing housing, it brings in investors in the new disaster economics that seems the norm since the fires.

At the same time, no tiny house village, no solution for the poor. We can do much better than to sell off our neighborhoods to the highest bidder, while people struggling through this housing crisis have to skirt under bridges just to sleep through the night.

AMITY HOTCHKISS

Santa Rosa

Pension costs

EDITOR: Dan Walters of CALmatters recently wrote that the California Public Employees Retirement System — the nation’s largest pension trust fund — has immense gaps called “unfunded liabilities,” which are assets it will need to meet its obligations to retirees.

In times past, shortfalls have been helped by “contributions” from public agencies. This is no longer financially feasible. Walters went on to report this will mean slashing spending for vital police and fire services.

Cities are forced pay 50 cents into CalPERS for every dollar of police officers’ salaries. And that’s nothing compared to the 75 or 80 cents estimated to be required within a few years, as Walters wrote. Even school districts are doubling their mandatory payments to the California State Teachers Retirement System in hopes of easing the burden.

In a major face-off between both parties recently CalPERS told Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators that they must include $6.3 billion in the 2018-19 state budget to cover state employee pensions, making it one of the budget’s largest single items.

J.L. ROBLEY

Santa Rosa

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