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Letters to the editor

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy's efforts to change the district; debating the healthcare law's individual mandate; women's rights in Afghanistan

April 11, 2012
  • Eating breakfast at Figueroa Elementary School, L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy jokes with Christopher Palma-Cruz, right, and Luisa Garcia. Putting kids first requires "professional courage," Deasy says.
Eating breakfast at Figueroa Elementary School, L.A. Unified Supt. John… (Los Angeles Times )

Down on Deasy

Re "On a mission to change school district's culture," April 8

In the 1980s I was a teacher in the L.A. Unified School District's Incentive Substitute Teacher Program, which was meant to ensure good instruction and classroom oversight in hard-to-staff schools. I can assure readers that "subbing" is one of the least-empowered positions in the district.

That L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy would walk into a classroom unannounced and criticize "well-regarded" substitute teacher Patrena Shankling as she "carried out the assignment left by the regular teacher," and then the next day send her a letter of termination, is nothing more than bullying.

Is this what Deasy calls "professional courage"?

Congratulations to Shankling for having the fortitude to dismiss Deasy from the classroom. Perhaps the school board can find the courage to dismiss the abusive Deasy from the district.

Ben Miles

Huntington Beach

Yes, Deasy is definitely pushing to change L.A. Unified by removing the chance of education for more than 300,000 students. I'd like to hear him explain exactly why the district plans to eliminate the adult education program, which grants high school diplomas, gives career education and teaches English to so many of the parents of the children he is trying to help.

Deasy is certainly pushing to change the system, but not for the better.

Bessie Platt

Santa Monica

Deasy's statement that the district has "a culture of fear to do anything independent in leadership" shows he is confident enough to stand up to his overreaching critics, such as the teachers union.

Conversely, his vulnerability to arrogance was shown when he appeared proud to shame a substitute teacher in front of her class and then fire her, saying her lesson disrespected students. Such behavior is disrespectful to students.

Balancing self-confidence and humility in cultivating good judgment is a rare talent. For the sake of the students, I hope he'll be mindful of this balance.

Roger Schwarz

Los Angeles

Healthcare and the Constitution

Re "A mandate that overreaches," Opinion, April 8

William Voegeli's reliance on English philosopher John Stuart Mill's concept of limited government to declare the healthcare mandate unconstitutional is typical of the law's opponents. To distract from valid arguments, they rely on viewpoints totally irrelevant to the Constitution.

The issue is not whether the mandate violates conditions that Mill proposed to justify government curtailment of individual liberty. It is whether Congress' constitutional power under the commerce clause extends so far as to mandate the purchase by individuals of health insurance.

Voegeli concedes that Congress could have constitutionally exercised its taxing power to fund the Affordable Care Act. What is so vexing is that congressional Republicans want it both ways: They refuse to impose any new tax while claiming government cannot require individuals to buy coverage.

Where is the viable alternative?

Robert J. Switzer

West Hollywood

Voegeli writes: "The individual mandate and tax promise are symptoms of modern liberalism's core defect." Really? The individual mandate was proposed by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank.

As a business owner who pays for his own healthcare, it is clear to me that the system is failing those it is supposed to serve. Healthcare is the only service for which customers cannot get a price until after the service has been provided. Doctors and hospitals have their own contracts with insurance companies.

Premiums and deductibles go up every several months, and businesses are dropping insurance for their employees. Soon, no one will be able to afford coverage.

Let the Supreme Court cut the mandate from the Affordable Care Act, and then Congress can save billions of dollars and people's lives by passing Medicare for everyone.

John Hopgood

Studio City

Women's rights

Re "Status of Afghan women threatens Clinton legacy," April 9

How could The Times assert that Hillary Rodham Clinton's legacy as one of our truly great secretaries of State would be tarnished were Afghanistan to recede into the dark ages in its treatment of women?

Afghanistan barely deserves to be called a country, and even if 1 million troops were stationed there for the next three decades, any progress would have to be measured in millimeters.

Clinton deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for her unstinting advocacy for women's rights, but in Afghanistan she's up against the duplicitous President Hamid Karzai and a collection of tribes riven by hatred for one other.

Harold N. Bass

Porter Ranch

Off the rails

Re "House plans rail probe," April 10

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) objects to the decision to remove the Anaheim-to-Los Angeles section from California's high-speed rail plan. Her attempt to save this illogical $6-billion spur is a vestige of the conflicts of interest that have characterized California's clumsy attempts to develop a high-speed system.

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