Commentary on school test wrong on the facts
This is regarding the June 16 commentary "Exposing of massive cheating sinks the STAR test."
It is unfortunate that the Times chose to publish Alan Bonsteel's latest diatribe against public schools without checking the facts.
While the Department of Education is still reviewing the matter, up to this point only 36 of the images posted on social media websites show an actual test question or answer. Not one of them -- let alone "hundreds" -- reveal a complete STAR exam.
The department's commitment to test security and the integrity of the state's testing process remain sound. And contrary to Bonsteel's claims, funding for erasure analysis of this year's tests has been restored at state Superintendent Tom Torlakson's urging.
Clearly, some people find pleasure or profit from discounting the progress California's public schools continue to make -- even in the face of severe budget cuts.
They do so at the expense of the state's dedicated teachers, school employees, administrators, parents and students. And they leave your readers -- and the public -- misinformed in the process.
Deborah V.H. Sigman
Deputy Superintendent, California Department of Education
Wildflowers in median were a traffic hazard
After many years, El Cerrito and Richmond Annex
Someone with good intentions spread wildflower seeds along the entire length of the median. Very beautiful colors sprouted this spring, but the flowers grew to 3 and 4 feet in height.
This wall of color made left turns a big hazard, as opposing traffic couldn't be seen unless drivers were in tall trucks or SUVs. And people trying to cross the street could not see or be seen either. The flowers eventually were trimmed to a lower level.
But the last section of median across from the year-round Nomura School was never done. I spoke with the project engineer last week. He agreed to take care of this safety issue as soon as possible, which he did.
The next day, a crew trimmed those pesky flowers down to the topsoil. The engineer told me they were a temporary landscape and that visibility at intersections would be considered in future plantings.
Congress must renew human trafficking law
Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, which ranks 184 countries on their efforts to combat human trafficking, including the United States.
The U.S. has long been a global leader in the fight against modern-day slavery, but this Congress has thus far failed to pass a critical piece of anti-trafficking legislation: the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
This bill renews the landmark TVPA of 2000, which made human trafficking a federal crime and established the Trafficking in Persons Office to combat trafficking internationally. Fighting slavery has always been a rare point of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.
As we approach the anniversary of our nation's founding -- a nation "conceived in liberty," in the words of President Abraham Lincoln -- Congress should come together again to rid the world of slavery, once and for all.
Payment to school employees wrong
While no one can question the importance of teachers' role in educating our children or school staff in supporting that effort, school employees should only be paid for the days they actually work.
Furlough days taken last year were days the school employees did not work, and days that students were not taught.
The Mt. Diablo Unified School District's decision to approve contracts with all of its unions that provide for a one-time 3 percent payment to each employee to reimburse employees for furlough days taken last year is outrageous, and it amounts to a $5.7 million gift of public funds.
If the district can afford to give its employees a 3 percent bonus for no work performed, it should not be surprised by strong public pushback when it asks for more tax dollars.
Executive order a political ploy
"Obama to permit young migrants to remain in U.S." was the headline in The New York Times on June 16. If anything shows the president's incompetence, this is it.
Barack Obama is not a president who works to lead a debate, create a new law, and guide his party to the heights of leadership.
No, this is Obama, the politician who only campaigns. He is His Royal Highness, the Imperial President, the dictator who "permits" migrants to stay. He cares about Latinos, but not enough to work the process of creating a law.
He had a Democratic House and Senate for two years, but did nothing about immigration.
Most significant legislation passed under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton was with a hostile Congress. All Obama can do is fly around the country, whining that no one will play the game by his rules.
The problem with creating a privilege by executive fiat is that it can be changed by executive fiat. There's nothing final when ruling by an executive order. It's just politically expedient and cynical.
I guess it feels better than being a great president who does the hard work of leading.