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The state can't afford to sit on a surplus

I was stunned to read that state Rep. Mike Turzai and his Republican colleagues would rather hoard $500 million of our money while many school districts in our area will be forced to raise property taxes and cut programs ("Spend the Surplus: How Can Republicans Let Pennsylvanians Suffer?," May 11).

This is what happens when lawmakers spend too much time in Harrisburg -- they begin to think that the taxpayer's money is their money! It isn't. Taxpayers do not send their hard-earned money to Harrisburg so that lawmakers can sock it away for the proverbial "rainy day." Here is a wake-up call to anyone in Harrisburg who isn't paying attention -- it's raining!

Banking a $500 million surplus isn't getting the job done. Working families send their legislators to Harrisburg to solve problems using available resources. If this economy doesn't qualify as a rainy day, what will?

According to the Post-Gazette, Rep. Turzai's budget cuts public education and slashes higher education. It cuts funding for nursing homes and hospitals and other core programs. And all the while, he wants to stash away a cool half a billion?

JACK SHEA
Downtown
President, Allegheny County Labor Council


Work, don't whine

If I have the story right, at least one of the leaders at the University of Pittsburgh challenged students to unite in protest over the funding cuts proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Over coffee and the P-G last week, my wonderful and most resourceful wife, Janet, came up with a better idea. Rather than have Pitt students go to Harrisburg with protest signs, why not have those same students work with their teachers to come up with better ways to address the university's financial issues? Faculty, administration, students, parents and alumni could form a "mastermind" group to brainstorm ideas to address the money issues. As stakeholders in the problem and the solution, each participant in this group has a vested interest in addressing tuition, salaries and paying Pitt's bills.

Students who come up with the best money-saving or money-making ideas should be rewarded with a scholarship. If teachers are truly dedicated in preparing students for the real world, would not addressing real problems be the most practical exercise and application of what they're teaching? Instead of writing a paper, challenge the students and faculty to "right the ship." Use the incredible minds we have to propose solutions. Let's use our minds for creating solutions instead of grumbling about the problems.

Add one important book to the required course work at Pitt: "The Little Engine That Could." It's not a children's book; it's a philosophy for tackling every challenge that we face. We can solve any problem that we set our sights upon. Napoleon Hill said it so perfectly in his book, "Think and Grow Rich": "What the human mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

LEW SOLTIS
Shaler


A bad bill

I'm writing to inform people about the problems with economic furloughs of teachers. Teaching is a constant learning process, and teachers get better with experience. Cutting our most senior and experienced teachers may make financial sense, but it is not sound educational policy.

Teachers do not earn 20 years of experience by sliding by in the classroom. They have worked hard to craft their skills. They not only teach the children of the school but also help to develop the new teachers of a district by passing on the knowledge they have gained in the classroom.

Senate Bill 612 would give school districts the authority to lay off teachers, including their most senior ones, whenever they want to balance their budget. It gives no incentive for a district to be fiscally responsible. If the district makes mistakes that put the district in financial trouble, no problem. Just lay off some of the senior teachers to save the most money. Unfortunately students will pay the price for a school district's bad economic decision making.

RICHARD TEXTER
West Deer
The writer teaches social studies.


Pay for the best

As a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a master's degree in education, it is disheartening to see our elected officials cut funding to schools and programs that are designed to educate the youth in this country.

Today, more and more districts and institutions are having to do more with much, much less than just a few years ago. And the politicians try to justify these cuts by attacking teachers as being lazy, overpaid whiners, all the while justifying billions in bonuses to Wall Street, which caused the worst recession in 70 years. I wonder, what is more important than teaching? Isn't learning to read and do math just as important as playing the stock market? More so, considering you couldn't be on Wall Street without knowing how to read and do math.

So why don't I see the teachers and their unions, and the public for that matter, pushing back and telling the political hacks, "If you want the best, then it's time to pay for the best." Maybe if we increased teacher pay instead of cutting it, the best and the brightest would be attracted to spend time in our classrooms developing the minds of future generations. It's time teachers start to loudly and publicly stand up for ourselves. It's time that the public start asking themselves, who do we want teaching our kids? Don't they deserve the best?

BILL MARX
Ross


Best-kept secret

In a world where terrorism is thriving, suicide bombing and a war in the Middle East, it is unfortunate to not even know who your allies are.

Eric Schmitt, Thom Shanker, and David E. Sanger ("Raiders Braced to Fight Pakistan," May 10) point out in their article the mistrust the U.S. military had in Pakistan when drawing their plans to capture Osama bin Laden. Helicopters filled with U.S. Navy SEALs flew in undetected to execute their orders and ultimately killed bin Laden. The Navy SEALs were authorized to return fire on the Pakistani forces if needed, but avoiding contact was a higher priority.

You really have to ask yourself, "How did this country that is calling itself our ally not know that the most wanted man in the world was living in a million-dollar estate inside its own borders?" I believe President Barack Obama and the U.S. military officials had every right to reject a proposal that would bring the Pakistanis in on the mission and took the necessary actions to keep the mission a secret. Had the Pakistanis known, would they have warned Osama beforehand?

JOSH WAGNER
Emsworth


Cat problem can be solved without killing

In her recent article calling for cats to be kept indoors ("Pet Tales: Cat Fight Continues," May 7), Linda Wilson Fuoco demonstrates a devastating lack of understanding of the cat killing in Monessen.

Ms. Fuoco attempts to blame "the plight of homeless cats" on people who allow cats outdoors, but outdoor cats are not the result of negligent pet owners -- feral cats have lived outdoors alongside people for nearly 10,000 years. As to their "plight," studies show they are just as healthy as pet cats.

Pretending that Mayor Mary Jo Smith was forced to choose between killing cats and angering citizens is just plain wrong. The city could have addressed concerns humanely with the trap-neuter-return approach and it still can. This method stabilizes the population, ends the mating behaviors Ms. Fuoco points to like spraying and fighting, and introduces strategies to keep cats out of areas where they aren't wanted -- all without killing.

Ms. Fuoco writes that several "nice" cats were adopted rather than killed. But feral cats can't be adopted as indoor pets and are almost always killed in shelters. Do only the "nice" indoor cats deserve to live?

According to the overwhelming majority of Americans, the answer is no. More than 80 percent of Americans believe it is more humane to leave cats outside than have them caught and killed. Ms. Fuoco even refers to a reader poll in which the majority of the community wanted the cats trapped, neutered and returned.

The people of Monessen support a humane approach, but instead -- and with hardly any notice to citizens -- city officials chose to kill. It's too late for those cats, but concerned citizens and organizations like Alley Cat Allies are still ready and waiting with the resources and experience to institute a life-saving trap-neuter-return program that will benefit all of Monessen going forward.

REBECCA ROBINSON
Bethesda, Md.
President, Alley Cat Allies




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