Funding teachers too tough for Yee?

In his Dec. 10 My Word, interim Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Gary Yee wrote that the superintendent's job requires "when necessary, it means making tough decisions because business as usual is not in the best interest of our students."

Business as usual in OUSD has meant not fully funding district's classroom teachers at 55 percent of the district budget as required by law.

Business as usual has meant the district incurred a debt of $10,866,092 for failing to funded its classroom teachers at the required 55 percent; and asking the county superintendent to waive the debt owed its teachers.

Business as usual meant Yee in his June budget asked the Oakland school board to pass the 2013-14 budget more than $2 million short of the required 55 percent.

Business as usual in every other district in the Bay Area is 55 percent of the district's budget going to its teachers and not needing to request a waiver to avoid paying its teachers millions of dollars owed.

Why can't business as usual in OUSD mean budgeting so that its classroom teachers get at least the minimum 55 percent of the budget?

Can it be restructuring the budget to meet the 55 percent requirement is too tough of a task for Yee?

Jim Mordecai

Oakland

Berkeley smoking ban goes too far


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The recent Berkeley ordinance to prohibit smoking in dwellings with multiple apartments goes too far.

The science of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is not as well founded as that of, say, global climate change due to greenhouse gas emission. Gaps in consensus about the number of deaths, the minimum safe exposure, and the efficacy of outdoor smoking bans, have been noted in leading scientific journals.

The anti-tobacco crusader, Stanton Glantz, spoke of the need to create a "social movement." However, Glantz himself has been criticized -- even by scientists friendly to him, such as Michael Siegel of Boston University -- for letting his enthusiasm trump his scientific judgment.

In these circumstances, it is not justified to attempt to regulate the behavior of people in their own homes.

If activists wish to attack a major crisis in public health, I suggest they instead turn their attention to the rise of drug-resistant microbes. Antibiotics are rapidly losing their potency, due to over-prescription, but even more importantly, to their use in animal feed in factory farming.

Europe has banned this practice, but the United States has been slow to follow. I exhort concerned individuals to organize and act.

James Tropp

Berkeley

Cyclists must also obey rules of road

Richmond is defending itself for not doing more to ensure cyclists a fair share of the road. Other communities face the same issue.

Safety and ability to use the roads is a legitimate issue. What gets ignored is many cyclists' lack of willingness to participate at the same level as cars.

I paid $128 to license my car. Bicycle riders pay zero. I was also required to prove I could drive by being tested and licensed. So, let's require all riders and bikes to be tested and licensed, too; that includes juveniles. This seems fair to me.

Then we would be able to hold riders accountable for ignoring stop signs, running red lights, no lights on their bikes after dark, and many other regulations applicable to their choice of rides.

I applaud the cyclists for their impact on the environment and reductions in traffic, but condemn many of them for blatant and consistent disregard of the traffic laws.

If riders want to have rights and respect on the roadways, they would be well advised to start by giving it. At present that often does not happen.

John Rexroat

Lafayette

Recognize impact of public schools

A Day of Action for Great Public Schools was created to recognize public schools for their positive impact upon communities and contributions to individual lives.

On Dec. 9, everyone in our communities had an opportunity to salute public education and to unite with the United Teachers of Richmond and members of the community in recognizing and supporting the great institution -- public schools.

Every day should be a day of action for great public schools. They have a proven history of producing CEOs, medical specialists, astronauts, teachers, agents for change, warriors for peace, technicians, dietitians and more.

Raise your hand in solidarity and continue to provide solutions for our future and hope for children to maximize their individual potential, skills and talents.

Diane Brown

Richmond Brown is president of United Teachers of Richmond