Home Commentary Opinion LETTERS: 6.1.17

LETTERS: 6.1.17


Affordable Care Act Inadequate


I have witnessed and felt the impacts of the healthcare system’s many manifestations over the course of my lifetime. My parents spent nearly two decades paying off medical bills from my younger brothers’ stints in the hospital with infant asthma. I was forced to put off graduate school for several years after breaking my collarbone and using my savings on the subsequent costs. My wife and I will be paying off a $5,600 tax bill for the foreseeable future after trying to navigate and utilize Vermont Health Connect. The Affordable Care Act was inadequate, and the version being crafted now will certainly be worse. It is a cruel joke to call our system the best in the world, when the market-based, pay-to-play format benefits the wealthy and insurance and pharmaceutical companies over regular people. I am a proud member of the Vermont Workers Center and stand with all citizens who recognize that the time for a single payer system is now. The state legislature must fulfill the promise of Act 48.

Mike Leonard, South Burlington


Shutting Down the Meat Industry


This past Sunday, animal rights activists shut down the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus after years of effectively exposing them for animal abuse. Can the meat and dairy industry be far behind?

The shift toward plant-based eating is everywhere. Fast-food chains like Chipotle, Quiznos, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s offer plant-based options. Parade, Better Homes and Gardens, and Eating Well are all touting vegan recipes.

Indeed, Global Meat News reports that nearly half of consumers are reducing their meat intake. Beef consumption has dropped by 43 percent in the past 40 years.

Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt views replacement of meat by plant protein as the world’s No. 1 technical trend. The financial investment community is betting on innovative start-ups, like Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods, while warning clients about “death of meat.”

Even Tyson Foods new CEO, Tom Hayes, sees plant protein as the meat industry’s future. The industry needs to transition to plant-based foods, or shut down like the Greatest Show on Earth.

In the meantime, every one of us can shut the meat and dairy industry out of our own kitchen by checking out the rich collection of plant-based entrees, milks, cheeses and ice creams in our supermarket.

Maxwell Branset, Montpelier


Statewide Teachers’ Contracts Would Save Time And Money


Teachers in Vermont are paid in accordance with their academic educational qualifications and their longevity in the system, by contracts negotiated or supported by a powerful union. This means that teachers’ pay has no necessary connection to perceived quality of teaching. Thus, local knowledge of teacher quality has no relevance whatsoever in teacher negotiations. Under such conditions it is a colossal waste of time for hundreds of school boards across the state to be individually negotiating local contracts with representatives of the same statewide teachers’ union. For these reasons it is entirely logical for the state to negotiate a single statewide teachers’ contract on behalf of all school districts. This would properly connect the major educational taxing authority with negotiating the largest educational expense. School boards would be relieved of an onerous and time-consuming task for which they generally lack adequate expertise. Importantly, there are other, less obvious, advantages to this arrangement.

Currently, school boards are reluctant to authorize the employment in new positions of high-cost teachers as long as acceptable quality low-cost teachers are available. This reality means that experienced teachers, because they become higher paid by virtue of longevity, tend to become trapped in particular schools for the rest of their professional lives. A statewide teacher contract would allow the state to “charge” local school districts for their teachers based on the average Vermont teacher salary multiplied by the school district’s total [full-time] teachers. In this way each school would refocus on acquiring the services of the perceived best teachers without regard to salary level, since the local financial commitment would already be determined by the average statewide salary level. Movement of teachers between schools is far more desirable for quality education than a system that discourages such periodic movement. Further, promoting such freedom for teachers will add a useful statistic distinguishing poor from good quality schools. Poorly administered schools will be less likely to attract teachers of recognizably high quality; they would tend to migrate to well-administered schools. This will create pressure for upgrading school quality.

Dr. W.F Cowan, former school board member for six years, Montpelier


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