THE PILOT EDITORIAL - A little bit about a lot of stuff

Thursday, April 5, 2001

You can best judge a town by the way it treats its kids and old people. Storm Lake has a bit of work to do, then.

The city is trying an interesting approach toward a new aquatic center, assigning both a local and a distant engineering firm with experience in modernistic pools to work together on a potential design to take to voters.

The current pool won't last forever. It isn't much fun, and without zero entry, is not friendly to very young children, older people or the disabled. The council will do well to formulate a plan, and then the voters will have their say - as it should be.

By then, perhaps we will know more about the future of the proposed Community Diversity Center and its presumably indoor pool.

A new city pool will not be cheap, but neither were such things as a new police station, a new fire truck, a remodeled city hall and a renovated golf course clubhouse.

We hope voters will give the idea some fair thought.

Kids and old people. While we're at it, we might keep an idea for an expanded senior center in the back of our mind as we tackle the former half of the equation.

As Storm Lake goes begging for a needed and environmentally sensible expansion of its dredging project, the DNR is now talking about spending tax dollars - albeit a small amount in comparison - to drain a lake.

They don't like the rough fish in Big Creek Lake, so the DNR plans to drain the whole thing, dump the poisonous pesticide rotenone on the exposed shad, then refill the lake so it can be stocked with tourist-attracting fish. The project has suddenly leapt onto the list to be done this year, although we are always told there are no more dollars for lakes...

We would remind state officials that Storm Lake is already rich in sports fish, is a much greater tourism pull, and requires only commitment, not poison.

It is not our place to second guess DNR projects, but sometimes the priorities do make us wonder.

Our local State Senator, Mary Lou Freeman, is a bit stung by criticism of the Republican teacher pay proposal from teachers themselves.

What hasn't been discussed, she notes, is the "core" ideas for pay increases. According to a model she sends, teachers would gain steadily over time.

A career teacher starting at the minimum of $24,000 would be making at least $28,077 by year 5, $34,159 by year 10, and over $50,000 by his or her 20th year of teaching. This assumes an inflation ratio of 3 percent per year - and of course that future legislatures don't make any changes in the system over the next generation.

The governor's alternative plan seems to pay more faster, while the GOP version went for the long term.

The GOP plan was derailed by the "12 Week Wonder" alternative licensing plan that was included, for good reason. We still do not believe that a quick summer session is enough to determine if a person can succeed in front of a classroom.

The idea is not without merit, however. While lawmakers saw it as a quick fix for "shortage areas," it should instead be judged on educational merit.

If we can come up with a more reasonable training process to encourage good professionals in business, technology, arts and other fields to share their abilities as educators, we can bring important career experience to our students. The philosophy has paid off well at the college level.

We shouldn't pursue this as an easy answer, or the quickest way to rush bodies into vacant teacher desks. We should look at it as a way to improve. And how about more opportunities for career teachers to take an internship or sabbatical study into the professional field they teach?

At any rate, the teacher pay issue and the alternative teacher licensing should never have been pushed into the same package, and it is unfortunate that the "12 Week Wonder" issue has distracted the legislature from a more bipartisan approach to the pay issue that they were sent to Des Moines this year to resolve.

One Iowa legislator is making a big push to make Daylight Savings Time be a year-around condition in Iowa, although the effort by Creston's Jeff Angelo is wasted words. Even the mighty Iowa legislature doesn't have the power to change time.

Too bad. Changing the clock twice a year is kind of a foolish exercise. We are told that the only real reason to set clocks back in the fall was to avoid boarding school buses in the dark. Daylight Savings Time, on the other hand, gives families more light at the time of day they can use it. A group of Iowa middle school students conducted a pretty impressive study that indicates that leaving the time where it is could save energy, reduce crime and improve overall traffic safety.

Then there's the mental benefits of being able to go home to your family before it's gotten too dark for a game of catch. A rather "bright" idea...