Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of April 11, 2011

Readers write in about defense spending as the real 'entitlement' the US Congress should cut and the need for better parental involvement in the effort to turn around failing schools.

The real 'entitlement' to cut

Regarding the March 14 editorial "Tea party can show its punch": If the tea party is really on a mission to shrink government, tea partyers should focus on expanding the budget discussion. All we hear, as quoted from the editorial, is this line: "The most meaningful cuts, the vital debt-reducing moves ... lie in reform of costly entitlements – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

But there's another "entitlement" – military spending – which is surprisingly absent from the political discussion/posturing about debt and deficit reduction. US military spending is more than the rest of the world's combined and continues to grow in real dollars. Yet none of the big government opponents who are ruthlessly removing social safety nets appear to be looking as seriously at the military budget, where efficiency cuts could yield big money.

Can we afford the crippling costs of being the world's police force? Are all these expenditures making us safer?

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These difficult economic times are forcing working people to closely examine their budgets. Our elected officials need to look closely at all parts of the national budget as well. Perhaps a "Gang of 87" freshmen might not yet be too beholden to military lobbyists to expand the budget discussion.

Paul Przybylowicz

Olympia, Wash.

School reform needs parents

The March 21 cover story "Turnaround test" raises this question for me: How can one expect to turn around a school without parental involvement? In his Upfront column ("What it takes to build on a culture of learning"), editor John Yemma correctly notes that parents as well as students, teachers, and administrators have roles to play.

But the cover article makes no notice of parental involvement in the planning, implementation, or formal evaluation of the school turnaround effort. It's nearly impossible for turnaround schools to reach their potential without turnaround parents.

Jim Sargent

St. Paul, Minn.

In spite of vigorous efforts to make schools better with money and reinvention, it seems unlikely that there will be significant improvement in education until the home situation of students in low performing schools is addressed. Education reform efforts that don't address the home lives and family situations of these students are like patching up buildings with insufficient foundations.

If the money poured into failing schools could be allotted to teaching students to be good future parents, a more certain and beneficial change would probably result. Some of the money spent fruitlessly on school reform could also be used to subsidize parents to stay home and nurture children for at least a year, as many other nations do. Dedicated parents are the first and best teachers.

Charles S. Merroth

Warren, Pa.

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