Anne Michaud's column "How to really get serious about school" [Opinion, Oct. 10] rightly raises a question of balance with sports and education in our schools. Most of us recognize the value of scholastic sports in teaching competitiveness, collaboration, self-discipline and physical fitness, but the emphasis placed on sports has regrettably eclipsed the primary objective of K-12 education in the acquisition of knowledge and skills necessary for personal achievement and the creation of a sustainable economy.
For years, we have witnessed a steady decline in our K-12 performance when compared with other developed nations. Now new data indicate that we have a poorly educated public ["U.S. adults can't keep up," News, Oct. 9].
It's time to reorganize our national priorities to emphasize the importance of knowledge.
John D. Cameron Jr., Rockville Centre
Editor's note: The writer is the chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council.
Anne Michaud compares U.S. scores on the Program for International Student Assessment test with the higher scores of Finland, Poland and South Korea. Here are a few more statistics to consider: According to UNICEF, 23.1 percent of children in the United States live in poverty, compared to 14.5 percent in Poland and 5.3 percent in Finland. In South Korea, the childhood poverty rate is about 9 percent.
In addition, the United States has the highest teenage pregnancy rate of all countries ranked by UNICEF and the largest percentage of children living in single-parent families. As of 2012, more than 1 million U.S. public school children were homeless.
If the United States is going to "really get serious" about improving educational outcomes for our children, it needs to address the very serious economic and social challenges with which they are burdened.
Mary Jane Conlon, Lattingtown
Editor's note: The writer is a member of the Locust Valley school district's parents council.
The need to "shift away from sports in favor of schooling" is the elephant in the room that school boards have ignored for years. We have unequal emphasis on students who engage in school sports, which are paid for by every resident in every district.
Could those funds be better spent, for example, on more science teachers to benefit all students? School board members hide their heads in the sand, believing that not enough of the public supports putting academics front and center.
Joan Nickeson, Terryville
This column was severely off target. If not for athletics, who knows where I would have wound up? A mediocre student mostly in a fog, I happened to excel in a sport. I was granted an athletic scholarship, which eventually led to a graduate degree.
Sports not only enabled me to feel better about myself, but forced me to appreciate hard work, to focus, and they gave me the ability to deal with success and failure. I'm sure there are others who lived that story.
Walter McCarthy, Massapequa
Ocean Parkway no better than before
Regarding "Repair work wiped out" [News, Oct. 15], it would be easy to blame the state Department of Transportation for the decision not to harden portions of Ocean Parkway from future storms, but it wouldn't jibe with the facts.
The federal government provided only enough funds to restore what was lost after superstorm Sandy, not to improve or strengthen our infrastructure. Our local heavy construction firms actually were encouraged by the state to include in their emergency-repair bids the specifications to create hardening measures, such as pile-driven steel sheathing and subsurface concrete barriers to deter erosion. Those options were not executed because, despite the local desire to build smarter after natural disasters, the federal reimbursement and bureaucratic malaise still do not permit the needed repairs to take place.
Marc Herbst, Hauppauge
Editor's note: The writer is the executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association.
Combining offices in Suffolk County
Consolidating the treasurer and comptroller offices to reduce the size of government in Suffolk County is a taxpayer issue, not a partisan political one ["Retain separate Suffolk offices," Letters, Oct. 10].
I support County Executive Steve Bellone's proposal to merge the two offices by letting Suffolk voters decide through a referendum. This is not a new idea; it has been introduced in the county legislature many times in the past 25 years to save cost.
We are the only county left in New York State to have two elected finance officials. Consolidation would save more than $830,000 a year by eliminating top management jobs and create a more streamlined and efficient financial structure. The treasurer's office remains one of the smallest and most top-heavy departments in county government. If Suffolk does nothing to rein in the size of its government, it will continue to face budget shortfalls.
Joseph Sawicki, Hauppauge
Editor's note: The writer is Suffolk County comptroller.