Readers write: July 14

When freedom isn’t free and should be

A few days ago, while celebrating the Fourth of July weekend, my friends and I came across one of the ironies of living in America. Upon visiting the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, we found even though we pay taxes of all sorts, and even though it was the weekend when we celebrate the freedoms of living in the United States, we were still required to pay a parking fee to visit a public park.

Though only a nominal fee, it occurred to us how ironic it is to pay twice through taxes and then through parking fees to visit nature — that iconic place of freedom. I know parks need funding to operate and they are entitled to such funding; but I also realize the amount collected through parking fees probably doesn’t even cover the salary of those who collect and process the fees.

Our taxes should easily cover park maintenance and operation if the money is being used responsibly and isn’t being siphoned off to pay for wars or building ever more roadways. If people continue to let even nature become something we must pay to step into, our freedoms will be eroding out from under us. We may live in the greatest country on earth, but we still have yet to be totally free.


When state’s rights trump environment

In blasting the Environmental Protection Agency 's carbon-reduction proposals, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols excoriates the president for his "encroachment on state sovereignty" ("Regulation could exceed EPA authority," July 9). However, as Echols defends Georgia's right to "govern itself" down the road to ecological disaster and a smog-related health crisis in our own state, our "right" to burn coal also contributes to tragic consequences for our Appalachian neighbors who mine it.

Georgia’s insatiable appetite for coal is blameworthy in the acidification of streams and groundwater caused by mountaintop coal removal; contamination of aquifers below mining sites; critical loss of agricultural productivity through erosion, and annual fatalities due to mining accidents and black lung disease, horrific ways to die. When state’s rights in Georgia result in last rites of fellow Americans and their environment, maybe it’s time to abandon coal and embrace EPA’s role in leading us forward into an era of clean and safely produced energy.


Measure student growth over time

Every year, educators dread test results. They exult and cheer if the pass rates are higher than the year before, but they sulk and scratch their heads if they are lower. This fascination with comparisons totally misses the key point. It is disingenuous to compare last year’s fifth graders to this year’s fifth graders, for example. What if this year’s 5th graders at XYZ Elementary School had a much larger concentration of impoverished households than last year’s? What if this year’s group had much less parental involvement and terrible attendance? Does our analysis include such factors, or do we immediately look within the school and classrooms to find the right “culprits” to blame?

The only way to make sense of these data is to measure the growth of each student over the course of a school year. It is reasonable to expect every child to show growth — at least a year’s worth — in a year’s time. Expecting the current 5th grade to outperform last year’s kids who had much higher levels of parental support and involvement, a much lower poverty rate, and exceptional attendance, flies in the face of reality. Maybe one of our gubernatorial candidates could embrace this position and let teachers know that they know non-school impediments to student success can greatly impact test results.