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Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011: Education, college voters and parole

What would committee do?

A fifth year of high school is of limited value if the first four years are of limited value, or if those four years are compressed to or reduced to three years. So it seems that a fifth year with two years leading to a two-year associates degree implies that some students would only have three years to complete four years. Presumably those three years would be re-crafted to support the last two years. But this wouldn’t be for all students because some still might desire a “college prep” stream.

So the committee might return to the 1950s, with clear “tracks.” Would the committee also make recommendations on how the community colleges would adapt?

I support vocational education. Much of my professional life was in the vocational domain. Currently I am an adjunct faculty member at Southern Maine Community College, supporting these students’ vocational pursuits. Further, there are some secondary students taking courses at SMCC.

The committee might consider how to integrate the secondary and community college systems making it somewhat seamless, as has been done for the two-year and four-year post-secondary systems in Maine.

With the recent passage of the charter school law and with highlighting nonprofit efforts, it seems that the commissioner is moving not toward reforming Maine’s public educational system but rather avoiding it. Moving focus and funds from the study of the problems that need to be resolved by grafting nonprofit and privatized models onto the current system is like putting a bell and basket on a bike with no chain.

Mark Schwartz
South Portland

Time to grow up

I am shocked and angered at Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster’s disingenuous justification of vote-blocking by University of Maine at Farmington Republicans by claiming that using college vans to help members of the university community get to the polls is somehow unethical. “Get-out-the-vote” programs are found at all levels of government and in thousands of civic organizations in our country.

The U.S. government spends taxpayer dollars for the Federal Voting Assistance Program to help those who are isolated from polling places by virtue of being overseas to vote absentee. The USAID program invests hundreds of millions of dollars in developing democracies to fund “get-out-the-vote” programs which encourage democracy.

College students frequently do not have cars and find it difficult to get to the polls. The UMF effort was to enable students to participate in our democratic process. It was not limited to one political party, but it was one more way for Republicans to discourage voting in a population that tends to vote Democratic, just like they subsequently eliminated Maine’s same-day voter registration to discourage the elderly, the disabled and the poor from voting.

It saddens me that Republicans think it is ethical to interfere with democracy and unethical to promote it. In 2002, it was in New Hampshire that the Democrats’ voting assistance program was jammed by Republicans with phone calls on Election Day simply to prevent people from getting to the polls.

In politics we need to discuss ideas, not play stupid and unethical games to subvert our democratic processes. Grow up, Republicans.

Stephen Blythe

Saving money with parole

I’m a supporter of parole. If we paroled 500-700 low- to medium-risk inmates, the savings would be enormous. If we use the figure of $30,000 for one inmate a year times 500, that’s $15 million. That money could be used to hire 10 parole-probation officers at a cost of $640,000. The rest could be used to pay for support programs run by outside agencies. This would free up space for inmates who can’t be released to society, the state can close one of the aging facilities and transfer staff — saving the associated costs of other expenses from these facilities — and it would reduce overhead.

Also, if probation was offered more than incarceration, it would free up more space and if the bail code was changed we wouldn’t have so many people arrested for bail violations for what in other states are considered administrative violations that can be used in sentencing.

John Howard

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