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Friday's letters: University funding fuels Florida's economy

Corcoran targets college spending | March 10

Universities spur our economy

The uncertain nature of pure research can make it easy to claim that the frontier of science is a waste of tax dollars. In 1898, the scientist J.J. Thomson of Cambridge University was exploring electricity. Parts of Manhattan were already electrified, but there was a conundrum regarding how electricity traveled: as a particle or a wave? Thomson settled the matter with his discovery of the electron. Following the breakthrough, he noted the obscurity of the work in a toast: "To the electron — may it never be of any use to anybody."

Yet it is that single discovery that makes much of modern life possible.

Of course, waste can occur in science, or in universities. All large enterprises have some easy targets. But in excoriating them, we risk missing a bigger picture. The focus becomes the "useless invisible particle" and not opportunity that can lead to wealth creation.

A Times article reports that the Florida House finds university foundations "use taxpayer money to pay for worldwide travel, lavish salaries and solicitation of private donations," painting an incorrect impression of an overfunded and self-indulgent enterprise.

In the Florida Research Consortium's report, "Florida Higher Education — Is the Cheapest Fiscally Sound?" we show Florida universities are 50th in revenue per full-time equivalent student. Our research universities lag at 42 percent of our peers. This is important because of strong correlations between university revenue and quality, and between university quality and regional economic performance.

It is Florida's economic performance that is getting lost in the politics.

Measured by GDP per capita, Florida's economy peaked in 2006 and had not recovered by 2015. That's nine years and counting.

We know there will be another recession. If we remain mired in debate about how to prosper, we can expect Florida's economic performance to lag further. Adequate university funding is essential.

Jack Sullivan, Tallahassee

The writer is president of the Florida Research Consortium.

Atrocities in Syria

Calling out Russia, Putin

I found the Netflix documentary The White Helmets to be inspiring, while at the same time I was shocked and saddened by the horrific actions of the Russian military in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin should be charged with crimes against humanity.

The film documents the military actions against civilians in their living quarters as well as attacks on hospitals by the Russian military. It shows the heroic efforts by the men known as the "White Helmets" to rescue people who have been impacted by the daily bombings by the Russians. These horrors have continued even as the Trump administration fails to condemn Putin for his coordinated military efforts to prop up the Syrian president and systematically slaughter innocent men, women and children.

Why hasn't President Donald Trump spoken up against the Russians, considering the horrors of mass murder against Syrian civilians? Trump continues to overlook the murderous behavior of Putin as innocent civilians are slaughtered daily.

Thomas Scully, South Pasadena

Hospitals urge Congress to push for an extra $1 billion in health spending | March 2

It was failure by design

A recent article on the low-income pool for health care and how it is affecting the viability of our hospitals failed to mention that this is a direct effect of Florida's legislative and executive branch decision to not expand Medicaid.

The reason the low-income pool was slated to go away is because the states were supposed to expand Medicaid, which would eliminate the need for a low-income pool. The Republicans knew this and still decided to forgo the expansion. So they gave up billions of dollars, continued to allow approximately 2,000 Floridians a year to die because of lack of health insurance, gave up approximately 50,000 new jobs, and destabilized our hospital system (especially in the rural areas).

Why? Because they hated President Barack Obama and did not feel the working poor were worthy of the coverage.

Christopher Radulich, Apollo Beach

Teacher development

Better reading instruction

It wasn't long ago that nearly half of Florida fourth-graders could not read at a basic level. For years, children were passed from grade to grade, ultimately doomed to failure without the basic skills needed to succeed in the classroom and in life. Thankfully, Florida leaders implemented a comprehensive policy to make reading by third grade a reality for every student.

Over the past decade, Florida has made great progress in improving reading proficiency among the state's third-grade students. Students have doubled the national average for reading improvement, and versions of our comprehensive K-3 reading policy have been adopted in 12 other states.

While we have much to celebrate, there is still more to be done, including the reinstatement of consistent, statewide teacher training on how to teach all children to read, including students with severe reading difficulties.

You may be wondering why this is necessary. Don't all teacher preparation programs cover how to teach reading? Sadly, the answer is no, or at least not consistently. School districts do their best, but their resources are limited. What we need is a statewide, evidenced-based professional development program for all elementary reading teachers, so that they have the tools to help our youngest students.

I have filed SB 468, which will establish and fund a researched-based professional development program that will help teachers understand and employ the fundamental principles of reading instruction. I believe that giving teachers the tools to succeed in their classrooms will translate to students being better prepared for college and career.

Join me in making sure every child experiences one of the most wonderful joys in life — the ability to read.

State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, District 22

Friday's letters: University funding fuels Florida's economy 03/16/17 [Last modified: Thursday, March 16, 2017 4:42pm]
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