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Half-day kindergarten ought to be preserved

One of the reasons that I was so excited to move to East Aurora is that I knew my kids would be lucky enough to experience half-day kindergarten. Not only did it serve as the perfect introduction to elementary school for my sons, which is what it should be, but it was also just enough schooling for their age group. I had hoped that my daughter would also be fortunate enough to benefit from an educational structure that has served many generations of students very well, including mine.

So, I was greatly disappointed to read the article, "Half-day kindergarten near end," especially in light of the fact that we keep talking about how American schools are failing their students. We talk about what other countries are doing with their schools, and we see that Finland is consistently at the top of the heap. Children in Finland do not start school until they are 7 years old. Do we look at that as a model to learn from? Ironically enough, no. Instead, we do the complete opposite -- we keep pushing our kids to start school younger and younger, claiming that it is good for them to be steeped in academics as soon as possible. And yet, our students don't seem to be getting any smarter.

Who are we kidding? We have allowed the misguided and often selfish dictates of our society -- jobs first, family second -- to shape the educational system. Instead of implementing programs that might actually be age-appropriate and beneficial for our children, we push for harder, faster and longer, and we chip away at what is left of their childhoods because it is the schedule that adults need, not children.

I know that I can seek out alternatives for my daughter when the time comes for her to start school, but I still can't help but mourn the loss of this last little vestige of academic sanity that I hoped would be preserved in East Aurora.

Meg Kontrabecki Jones

East Aurora

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America needs to invest in natural gas vehicles

Promoting compressed natural gas vehicles can lead to new, well-paying blue-collar and engineering jobs. People will be needed for building the filling stations, serving the stations, and training mechanics, sales people and service people for the vehicles.

Natural gas vehicles are now used in University at Buffalo buses, Department of Transportation trucks and New York State vehicles. Many cars and trucks are available. The Honda Civic factory-built natural gas model like the one so popular in California is available here. General Motors has an excellent cargo van ideal for tradesmen and small business. Waste Management is using natural gas in its trucks, with considerable savings. New York City, Ontario and Youngstown, Ohio, have public filling stations.

Natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline, and is less polluting. The price of natural gas has been dropping and is now under $1 for an equivalent gallon of gas. Mileage is the same for any vehicle.

Due to lack of filling stations, the advantages are not available to commuters or small business people with small fleets. We must get public filling stations for all of the above to happen. I hope the economic development people can figure out a way to build or subsidize public filling stations. Surely there are grants, subsidies and maybe something on the Obama jobs program. Perhaps Boone Pickens can help.

Robert J. Collins

Snyder

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Everyone, not just PEF, should make sacrifices

I would like to respond to the Oct. 4 editorial regarding The News' suggestion that the Public Employees Federation approve the contract recently submitted.

I have been a member of the PEF since its inception. I would suggest the contract would be more acceptable if there were sharing of the sacrifice deemed necessary. I would ask if the governor has reduced the number of patronage jobs, including the high-priced commissioners, deputies and assistants prevalent throughout the state government. I would ask if the Legislature has reduced the $300 million annual cost of its staff. I would ask if the Legislature has eliminated the "member items" that are nothing more than taxpayer-funded bribes for votes. I would ask why the governor refuses to even discuss alternative methods for reducing costs. For example, stop outsourcing jobs to consultants at inflated prices.

I would ask for a guarantee of no layoffs in exchange for concessions. We already agreed to pension reform in the form of the Tier 6 pension level. This was supposed to be in exchange for no layoffs. Tier 6 still exists but the layoff notices are going out.

Let's have everyone contribute to the solution, not just the state employee unions.

Gary G. Campbell

Lockport

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Wealthy have been waging class war against the rest

"Who loves ya, baby?" A good question. There are times when our actions might benefit from careful consideration of the answer to that tidbit of pop culture.

Do the Republicans love us when they threaten to shut down government, dismantle the very foundations of our security, health, culture and environment? Deregulation means letting loose the corporate or "fictitious people" to prey at will upon real people, their institutions and their very world.

Does the alliance between the rich and their conservative minions show us those who care about human beings who actually work and produce? Wallowing in wealth they acquire by underpaying workers and suppliers, avoiding taxes and overcharging consumers, the so-called "job producers" prefer to send work to Asia where despots suppress labor rather than allow freedom to flourish. Most of the rich have been waging class warfare against all of us in order to support their insatiable gluttony.

We the people can protect ourselves only by working together through our governments. Government is for the people, but it can only work if those people pay close attention to what is going on. Public education, not private indoctrination, and a free press, not a corporate propaganda machine, must flourish. Misguided voters duped by radical right propaganda overturned a people's victory in Congress in 2010 and have produced political and economic chaos while the rich dance with glee. Banks and corporations withhold investment in order to retard economic growth and induce voters to remove the only political force that stands between we the people and the voracious appetites of the rich.

The last thing we need is business men and women running public institutions as though they were designed for profit rather than for people. Keep up with the news. Read and watch with a critical eye. Be vigilant and you will see "who loves ya, baby." It's not the conservatives.

John Marvin

Cheektowaga