Letter: Promote academics as much as sports

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Sadly, sports are very highly valued in this country, often over academics. Although people and school districts may claim otherwise, how can this be true? My school district, Half Hollow Hills, managed to put together $1 million to make a second football field a couple years ago, but it doesn't have money to sufficiently compensate teachers working long hours for what I call "academic high school sports" such as the robotics team.

Sports are nice, but they should not have more support and funding than their more important and useful academic counterparts.

Newsday, among other newspapers, perpetuates this by having sections for high school sports, allowing parents and relatives to keep up with their favorite teams. Newsday doesn't have a section dedicated to academic accomplishments, even though it prints a zoned school news page on Sundays in LI Life. The coverage is not equivalent.

Lawrence Wolf-Sonkin, Melville

Prevailing wage helps middle class

Prevailing wage was a very good idea when it was created ["LI debris cleanup," News, June 14]. The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 was a reaction to the undercutting of middle class wages in the construction industry in Northern states. It basically stated that the federal government would not take part in destroying the middle class.

Poor Southern blacks were migrating North. Desperate for work, they were willing to settle for lower wages. Contractors would hire them, undercutting the wages in the area.

So prevailing wage does not benefit the immigrant workers in the country illegally; it protects the wages of American workers, including your Long Island neighbors. Forcing contractors to pay the wage prevailing in an area, which is not necessarily the union wage, stops a race to the bottom that is destroying the middle class.

In 1931, the American people understood that they were being screwed by robber barrons who had accumulated the majority of the nation's wealth. Newspapers ran cartoons similar to Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly character. They understood that income inequality had reached unsustainable levels.

The robber barrons are back. They own both major political parties. President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are not socialists; they are fully owned subsidiaries of Wall Street. The Republicans are worse. They are unrepentant representatives not of the 1 percent, but the one-tenth of 1 percent.

Joel Herman, Melville

Water bill made major omissions

I agree that Long Island's myriad water issues are far too acute and critical to ignore any longer ["New momentum to save LI's water," Opinion June 22]. But the Long Island Water Quality Control Act bill, which failed to pass the State Senate, contained two crucial flaws.

Whether because of a lack of funding, dearth of personnel, paucity of talent or other factors beyond its control, the state Department of Environmental Conservation's groundwater policy and oversight are virtually nonexistent on Long Island. Among other issues, DEC has neither been engaged with nor even commented on the saltwater intrusion that will result in western Nassau when New York City reopens its Jamaica wells, roughly, in 2020.

Given this history, what makes bill advocates and Newsday's editorial board think DEC would effectuate any of the bill's mandates or responsibilities?

The second flaw is that the bill targeted nutrient and pesticide quality problems in Suffolk County -- an unquestionable necessity -- while ignoring groundwater issues and quantity problems threatening both counties. This certainly didn't exemplify the comprehensive Long Island water plan it purported to be. In fact, it circumvented Nassau's biggest water problem, which I dare say is the seminal cause of most of the other problems imperiling the Island's groundwater: utilities over-pumping the aquifer and refusing to adhere to DEC pumping restrictions.

Gerald Ottavino, Point Lookout

Editor's note: The writer is the co-chair of the Point Lookout Civic Association's environmental committee.

Experienced teachers often are better

I don't see how "the entrenched rights of unionized teachers" hold back education reform, as your editorial argued ["Don't weaken teacher evals," June 12].

Who says that younger, newer teachers are better than older, more experienced teachers? I would think that the opposite should be true. Also, considering the attrition rate in New York City, the teachers who stay are obviously more interested in teaching than those who have left.

Teachers unions are not the only ones with the "last in, first out" rule. Why are they singled out for reform of this rule?

Tenure is granted in New York State only after a teacher has been judged satisfactory after three years. Ineffective teachers are weeded out in that period.

Tenure does not guarantee a job for life. It merely means that a teacher must be given a fair hearing before being terminated. Anyone who thinks that teaching is easy should try it.

Stuart Kucker, Oakland Gardens

Editor's note: The writer taught in New York City schools for 32 years.

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