Readers Respond

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Taxes up, but why?

From DAVE INMAN / Storm Lake

I just got my property taxes in the main; they increased by 15 percent over last year. I'm trying to figure out why.

The quality of life in Storm Lake is decreasing, rapidly - yet it costs more and more to live here each year.

All of the extra expenses the meat processing plants put on us has a lot to do with our taxes. We have to have more police, bigger jail, and more teachers, etc.

It all costs us money, and even though most of us don't want these problems and expenses; we just keep paying and paying.

It's ruining Storm Lake and I wonder what it will be like in another ten years? Most of us liked the way of life we had here before the meat packers came and put their problems and expenses on the city of Storm Lake and its citizens.

Don't undermine


From DON SOIFER / Via Internet

Sen. Barack Obama just ignited a minor firestorm when, at a recent town-hall meeting, he told the audience not to worry "about whether immigrants can learn English - they'll learn English - you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish." The media frenzy that ensued has focused attention on the important issue of bilingual education.

But Sen. Obama's comments and much of the row they triggered misses the most important part of the problem - the fact that we're failing to assimilate non-native speakers into the English-speaking mainstream.

Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that the majority of these English Learners who start school with little or no English skills are, in fact, not immigrants. Contrary to popular belief, more than two thirds of the five million English Learners in our schools are the second or third generation to live in this country.

In other words, learning to speak English isn't just a challenge for immigrants. It's a challenge for Americans who were born and raised in this country. Even more striking is the fact underlying the reason that many American children aren't learning English: They're being held back by their schools, which force them into (bilingual) classrooms.

So they have a much harder time learning English naturally by hearing it spoken by teachers and peers.

This does them a major disservice. Proficiency in English is the most essential factor toward assimilation into American society, culture and economy. Research shows it is the key to higher earning, success in education, even to living a healthier life.

Students who begin school as English learners but then become proficient frequently outperform other students in school. They regularly surpass native English speakers on standardized tests, including English tests.

Unfortunately, some of these English learners fall terribly behind - not because they aren't capable of excelling, but because their schools - driven by bilingual education laws, school funding formulas, or other requirements -- segregate them from their peers.

These segregation policies are especially harmful in the lower primary grades, when a child's brain development makes second-language learning easiest and most effective.

In several of the states with the largest English-learner populations, we are doing our worst job of teaching English and fostering assimilation.

In California, Texas, and Illinois, for instance, fewer than 10 percent of English learners acquire enough English skills each year to be deemed proficient and to move into English classrooms.

This means that it will take many of them more than 10 years to become proficient in English.

Children who become redesignated are far more successful over the long term. On the other hand, children who are stuck in classrooms with limited exposure to English are more likely to drop out of high school and pursue less lucrative careers. A majority of 10th grade English learners in California have been enrolled in U.S. schools since kindergarten or first grade...

The best kind of hope and change we can deliver for our nation's 5 million English learners is to equip our schools with policies that can deliver the skills they need to succeed.