Michelle Rhee and student achievement; L.A. Coliseum officials rake in the sick pay; Obama's budget proposal

For kids, it starts at home

Re "Patt Morrison Asks: Michelle Rhee," Opinion, Feb. 11

FormerWashington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee very adroitly avoided answering the question regarding parent responsibility for children's school performance. Ask this question of anyone who has ever taught in a classroom and the answer would be that parents have everything to do with achievement.

It is not a student's fault if he or she is being shuttled from one parent or grandparent to another, has no time or place to do homework or is never encouraged to read. But it is not the teacher's fault either. The very best teacher who can jump through hoops while tap dancing through a lesson will never inspire a child whose home does not value education.

Every child deserves both a dedicated teacher and a parent dedicated to education. But if the student does not have both, the teacher is always the scapegoat.

JoAnne Sandoval


When it pays not to be sick

Re "Coliseum officials rake in sick pay," Feb. 13

As your story indicates, it's not just L.A. Memorial Coliseum officials cashing in. People everywhere in the public sector are taking advantage of loose rules on benefits to spike pensions or cash out tens of thousands of dollars in vacation and sick pay.

Sick leave is supposed to provide pay continuity when a person misses time because of illness, and that's the way it works in the private sector. Unlimited accumulation is unheard of.

When private sector workers question this practice, the response is always the same — and usually twofold: "Look at the outrageous pay of corporate CEOs," and "Cops and firefighters lay their lives on the line." This change of subject often shuts off the conversation.

If practices outlined in this story are within the rules, then the solution is simple: Change the rules instead of demanding more taxes.

William Bradshaw

San Diego

I am one of those individuals who, throughout my corporate work life of 25-plus years, was out sick fewer than two days total. It is because of people like me — who are healthy, productive, engaged and dependable — that companies flourish regardless of those employees taking sick time even when they are not sick.

You can bet that, when

I left each company for which I worked, I deserved every penny of the sick time that I had legitimately earned by being present and productive every day. After all, I had truly

earned it.

Those who leave with sick time benefits are to be congratulated for being tireless performers who picked up the slack caused by those who couldn't — or didn't — come to work.

Mary Carney

Sierra Madre

The article quotes David Kline, vice president of the California Taxpayers Assn., as saying, "I guarantee you will never find a private company that will allow any employee to accrue more than 30 years of unused sick time."

When Lewis Platt retired from his job asHewlett-Packard's chief executive in 1999, the company paid Platt — a 30-plus-year veteran of the company — nearly $600,000 in accrued sick leave. This payout was part of a much larger compensation package that Platt collected from HP that year.

So much for Kline's guarantee.

Jonathan Eisenberg

South Pasadena

The politics of the budget

Re "Obama's budget draws battle lines for the election," Feb. 13

President Obama is using his budget proposal to shift to more politically advantageous questions of who should pay more taxes and what's fair.

It's obvious that he will not be able to ask President Reagan's reelection question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" That resulted in a landslide victory for Reagan; for Obama, it would only bring a chorus of jeers.

John Tintle

Nipomo, Calif.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) says it is irresponsible not to propose changes to the major entitlement programs.

His statement would have more credibility if he started with Congress' own entitlement programs. Its pension plans and healthcare coverage are far better than those of us on Social Security and Medicare.

The Bush administration got us into this mess, but the Republicans continue to pin the tail on the donkey. And for the record, I am a registered Republican.

Jane Hilgendorf

Corona del Mar

Not so fast on gay marriage

Re "Why gay marriage is inevitable," Opinion, Feb. 12

Michael Klarman wants everyone to think there's widespread support for gay marriage. Then why have voters rejected it in every state where it has been on the ballot, including recently in Maine and twice in California?

In the few states in which it is allowed, it was the result of backroom maneuvering — such as in Massachusetts, where the legislature won't allow its residents to vote on the issue, or California, where judicial fiat has now overturned two elections.

Because the public won't cooperate, Klarman cites polls that suit his opinion that gay marriage is inevitable. This reflects a mind-set that shows contempt for the democratic process.

Pat Murphy

Pacific Palisades

The problem is with the word "marriage." In the hearts and minds of billions, marriage is only acceptable for the union of a man and a woman.

We did not eliminate widespread racial discrimination by imposing a nominal one-color society. We did it by respecting our diversity; by making sure everyone is equal before the law. We are proud of

our rainbow America.

There is no need for an in-your-face attitude. It is time to compromise.

Dov Malkin

Los Angeles

Tax everyone

Re "Dueling tax hike measures occupy Democrats," Feb. 12

Pat Hurley, a delegate to the state Democratic Party convention, remarked, "Voters might think the governor's [sales tax] plan is too broad" and that only millionaires should be targeted for increased taxes. Hurley's remark highlights the problem.

As long as there are only a wealthy few who contribute to the supply side of tax revenue, those on the demand side can remain less involved about how politicians spend a limited pool of revenue. If everyone were asked to contribute more, as in a sales tax increase, perhaps more Californians would demand more accountability and responsibility from our politicians.

As long as we pick on the super wealthy, the rest of the populace lacks an incentive to rein in spending.

Ron Mossler


Train safety

Re "On track with effort to prevent crashes," Feb. 12

In its most basic form, "automatic train stop," or ATS, consists of a metal lever next to the rails that is raised when a signal is red. If a train attempts to pass it, the lever trips the brakes. Often magnets are used instead of levers.

These systems, which were developed about 100 years ago, are commonplace overseas and on the East Coast. They've even been installed on parts of Metrolink's lines.

While American railroads continue to argue with Congress over expensive satellite-based train control systems, the fact is that a simple ATS-type system would have prevented Metrolink's 2008 crash in Chatsworth and saved 25 lives.

Roger Rudick

Los Angeles

More bad cars

Re "'01 Aztek tops list of worst cars," Business, Feb. 10

I was surprised to see that while the Pinto made the list (I had two, with no problems), the Corvair wasn't mentioned at all. Ralph Nader made a name for himself by revealing the many faults of that model.

Also, my late husband had a Fiat, a true piece of junk that mostly sat off the road collecting dust.

Sylvia Dohnal


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