Align learning standards to improve employment

Recently I served on one of several committees charged with helping the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council develop a strategic plan to improve employment and the economy of our five-county region. As a recently retired (Pioneer) school district superintendent, I was invited to participate because it was felt that public schools have a big role to play.

The final plan is a beautifully crafted document. Unfortunately, it lacks details about alignment and communication among schools, colleges, businesses, parents and community groups. Despite a multitude of separate programs and initiatives, there is no single mechanism to enable all educational stakeholders to discuss and unify their priorities. The voices of parents and community members are missing.

Recent surveys found that college instructors and employers estimate at least four of every 10 high school graduates are not prepared for college and work. The underlying problem is that learning standards between secondary and postsecondary institutions are not well aligned. Colleges require placement tests that compel many freshmen to take expensive remedial coursework. This would not happen if test criteria were shared with school districts so that high school coursework could be adjusted. A parallel problem exists for schools and businesses with regard to job candidate tests.

The Board of Regents has adopted new Common Core Standards. They will demand more complex thinking skills to support college and career readiness. As schools busily redesign their methods to conform to the new core, college professors, business leaders and parents should be invited to discuss with educators how the standards can be embedded into community-based learning.

The Western New York Economic Development Council's proposals are right on target. The next logical step is for the council to become a mechanism through which all stakeholders can align economics and education.

Jeffrey Bowen



It's sad to see police dismiss bullying case

The surrender of the Amherst police on the Jamey Rodemeyer case does make me nod my head sadly. I kind of knew it was coming. True, the police do have limits. But it sends a grim message to kids who are being bullied and abused: "We will give you a lot of positive feedback and shout 'bullying is bad' from the rooftops, but when push comes to shove, you're on your own." The thugs who abused Jamey are laughing at us.

Larry Schultz



Huge shifting of wealth is worthy of discussion

Regarding a recent letter, it certainly is sad that some people think class warfare is being waged against the wealthy, that some of us are merely envious of the successful, and that we are blaming the boogeyman for the worst economy, highest unemployment and greatest inequities in income and wealth in the United States since the Great Depression.

Here are some facts. From 1945 to 1973, typical middle-class income (median, inflation-adjusted income, not average income) roughly doubled. From 1973 to 2010, it rose only about 10 percent. At the same time, the income of the top 1 percent in income roughly tripled, with two-thirds of that increase going to the top .1 percent. The salaries of the CEOs of the largest American corporations rose from 26 times median income to more than 300 times median income.

Also from 1973 onward, the share of overall corporate profits from the financial sector rose from roughly 9 percent to almost 40 percent, in spite of the skyrocketing salaries going to the top people in the major investment banks.

So in the last 40 years, there has been a massive shifting of income to the more wealthy, with middle-class income basically stagnant and a big economic crash. Examining whether the shifting, the stagnation and the crash are interrelated is engaging in thought, not engaging in class warfare. Given that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have both been fully engaged in the exercise, it is hard to see it as mere envy. The hard reality is that the United States now has significantly less social mobility than other advanced, industrial countries.

The writer also repeats the fantasy that redistributing wealth is socialism. A little research into history shows that all societies redistribute wealth. It is a mark of civilized societies to redistribute wealth to provide for the needy.

John MacCallum



Buffalo doesn't need to apologize in slogan

Over the years, I've been consistently puzzled and frustrated by the always apologetic official slogans that are rolled out to promote Buffalo. Whether it's "Talking Proud" or "Buffalo For Real" or "Buffalo, You'll Be Surprised," the implication is always that we're trying too hard to get over being embarrassed. Enough of that. I'm not sure we need a slogan; just promote what's here with visuals and the name of our historic city.

Wayne Geist



Hydrofracking poses far too many dangers

A recent letter stated that we should begin hydrofracking in New York State. Here are some reasons why we shouldn't. Each fracked well uses millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals.

In 2009, wastewater found on the surface contained high levels of radium. Toxins such as benzene, toluene (causes birth defects), boric acid, formaldehyde and xylene are also found in large quantities. These are just the toxins that are known. Drilling companies do not have to disclose all of the toxins in the wastewater.

There is a plan to take this wastewater to the Niagara Falls Water Treatment Plant. After the wastewater is treated, it will be dumped it into the Niagara River, which then flows into Lake Ontario.

Also, most of our oil now comes from Canada, not from the Middle East. The most heavily drilled energy states in the United States are experiencing the most critical water shortages. The Great Lakes are the largest source of freshwater in the world. Tampering with this will affect drinking water for millions of people.

Fracking is dirtier than drilling for oil. The tar sands process is the dirtiest way to extract oil. Fracking is now the second-dirtiest way to extract fuel, beating out coal mining. It is absurd to argue that fracking doesn't hurt the watershed. That is impossible since when the slurry is injected at high pressure, it actually goes through the water table.

To create jobs, we need to look at sources of green energy. Economists state the way to create jobs is to bring manufacturing back to the United States, as well as investing in solar and wind power.

Jennifer T. Schultz