News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Proposed delayed start would benefit schools

In his March 23 letter, Tommy Sykes stated that House Bill 507 and Senate Bill 308 would shorten the school year and "strip local school boards of their authority" to establish a school calendar. This is simply not true. The number of instructional days is established by law. And, if HB 507 and SB 308 become law, local school boards may establish any calendar they want, as long as they do not open before Aug. 21.

Schools have opened earlier and earlier in order to get more and longer breaks within the school year, not to add instructional days or prepare students for No Child Left Behind tests. Alabama stands to lose millions in federal money because the state education department cannot comply with the NCLB requirement to report school evaluations to parents before many schools open.

It is true the recreation industry supports these bills in Alabama, as it has similar legislation in other states. Tax revenue is lost when recreational facilities are forced to close because early school starts shorten the summer. Point Mallard is a prime example. Such revenue could be used to increase instructional days, as advocated by Mr. Sykes.

Mr. Sykes neglects to mention that another bill introduced in the Legislature would postpone counting student attendance for state allocations until after Labor Day. It seems strange that a school board would advocate opening school several weeks before beginning to count attendance, unless excessive absences are reducing state allocations. Even the best teachers can't teach absent students.

School systems and the recreation industry have a common goal: increasing revenue, which can be spent on education. We should all support this legislation.

Frank Price


Riverfest belongs at Rhodes Ferry Park

Why does every special event that Decatur has need to be at Point Mallard? Convenience isn't everything to everybody.

Leave Riverfest on the riverfront. I believe there are people who come to Riverfest because of where it is held. Rhodes Ferry Park is beautiful and special to its neighbors. Our part of town enjoys a special event, too!

Ann Sparks


Why Congress doesn't address high gas prices

As gasoline prices continue to soar, the ripple effect is cascading across all segments of business. Gasoline is 40 cents per gallon higher than it was a year ago, and as a result the average consumer has less to spend on other items after paying his weekly gasoline bill. Estimates have the average family of four spending $33 a week more on fuel than it did last year.

While consumers suffer, how are the oil companies affected? In 2004, Chevron-Texaco reported an 85 percent jump in profits over their record-breaking year in 2003. The Top 10 oil companies recorded profits of more than $100 billion dollars in 2004. These profits are after the contributions made to political candidates.

In the past six years, oil companies have donated more than $440 million dollars to politicians, political parties and lobbyist. More than 73 percent of those contributions have gone to Republicans. At the same time, U.S.-based oil companies operated more than 900 offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes. While Chevron-Texaco enjoyed that jump in profits during the past two years, it was charitable to donate $4.5 million dollars during the past six years to political candidates, with 71 percent going to the Republicans. During the same time frame, Exxon-Mobile spent almost $56 million on lobbying while Chevron-Texaco spent almost $34.5 million on its lobbying efforts.

These numbers may answer the question as to why Congress is spending time debating issues such as Major League Baseball instead of addressing the concerns and needs of working-class Americans.

All experts predict that gasoline prices will continue to climb, and as consumers there is little we can do to combat it. Conservation is our only defense against these rising prices, because the oil companies have a firm grip on the government and we should expect no help there.

Terry Scruggs


Republicans ignore own tenets in Schiavo case

Apparently, the hypocrisy of the Republican Party knows no bounds. Its politically motivated posturing in the Terri Schiavo case is in direct contradiction with its long-held positions and actions. Tom Delay and House Republicans who are so concerned about the welfare of Mrs. Schiavo have quite recently voted to cut $15 billion from the Medicaid budget. Much of this money goes to nursing home and hospice residents who need the funding for their care, which often includes feeding tubes.

This is the same Republican Party that attempts to put limits on medical malpractice through its so-called tort reform. Republicans seldom refer to the malpractice case that involved Mrs. Schiavo and her earlier treatment. The list of the party's positions that it conveniently ignores includes its long-held views on states' rights and the death penalty.

It is unfortunate that the American people are forced to watch the Republican Party swallow the camel and choke on the gnat as it pursues its own petty partisan interests.

Will Bynum


'Second-highest' is inadequate description

This is just an old man's gripe, but why do the news media persist in labeling the Distinguished Service Cross "the nation's second-highest military decoration." They do the same with the Navy Cross. Those are both the highest decorations those services confer and they don't come cheap. The Congressional Medal of Honor outranks them but is often awarded posthumously.

As one whose military decorations topped out at a Navy Unit Citation and a Good Conduct Medal, I have great respect for anyone who is awarded either of those medals and many of the lesser ones. As an eager 17-year-old in 1943, it was my intention to earn at least a Navy Cross to show the girls at home what they'd been missing. As I got closer to the scene where these decorations were earned and my experience level increased, my personal ambition waned. But not my respect for those earning the big ones at great cost.

The award of the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross should never be characterized as the "second-highest," as it may leave the impression among the unknowing that it is similar to "the second-best used car on our lot."

Allan LeBaron


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