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Letters 2-16-14

February 16, 2014 - 12:05am

Students’ voices deserve to be heard

West Hawaii educational leaders, parents and the community might take another look at plans to cut full-time librarian Woody Plaut, a 10-year veteran at Konawaena High School, to part-time in 2014. Some data suggest otherwise.

Between 2009 and 2013, overall enrollment increased at Konawaena High School from 669 to 707. The percent of students eligible for the free or reduced lunch program (an indicator of family economic need and often, educational need) increased from 46 percent in 2009 to 62 percent in 2013.

That is, Konawaena is getting more students and their educational needs may be increasing. Having a full-time librarian such as Plaut could benefit Konawaena’s performance.

More than 500 students signed a petition to keep Plaut, whose work includes promoting literacy, reading and encouraging college enrollments. That’s remarkable student support. The students’ voices deserve to be heard.

Plaut has been successful in getting more than $250,000 in grant funds for upgrading the library and getting computers— many students do not have them at home — and leveling the playing field for these students. In 2004, when Plaut began, there was one student computer. Now there are 65 and they are in constant use. Few librarians may have Plaut’s initiative to get money for the school; even fewer may have his grant-writing skills.

Yes, schools urgently need adequate funds in all areas, and where to tighten the belt is a tough decision, with the principal’s sense of priorities to be respected. However, educational research shows that skilled, motivated, dedicated staff are key to results. Keeping Plaut full-time — as the students urge — as librarian seems worth considering. About $20,000 or so might be saved by cutting his time. Where would the money be reallocated? What is worth as much as he is?

Lois-ellin Datta


Beware of gifts from the government

Don’t fall for the president’s “no risk, guaranteed return” MyRA scheme, because that’s exactly what it is. The cheese is no different than the usual we need to help this or that abandoned, neglected group of Americans — single moms, students, African-Americans and the list goes on. In this case, it’s low-income wage earners who have not been able to establish retirement savings.

Oh, no doubt, it sounds good but with very little investigation it reveals a plan to part the fools from their money. First of all, contributions are not tax deductible and who needs these deduction incentives more than low wage earners? It’s touted as no risk with guaranteed returns, but the money can only be invested in government bonds, those same treasury bonds China quit buying long ago and the Federal Reserve is being criticized for buying in the deficit-soaring $85 billion per month program.

The bulk of these government bonds is loaded with leftover mortgage backed securities and toxic derivatives from the 2008 debacle where millions of Americans lost all their retirement savings to save the too big to fail banks and too big to jail bankers.

The MyRA program is already being planned without the benefit of congressional action, but should Congress sanction these MyRA accounts with legislation, employers will be mandated to enroll employees unless they opt out. It’s a trap making your savings highly visible to the government and driving your investment toward financing the highly indebted federal government rather than the productive private sector.

If you are considering starting a MyRA account just think U.S. Postal Service, Amtrak, Obamacare and that Social Security lockbox that was to preserve seniors’ payroll deducted contributions toward their retirement.

Michelle “Mike” Kerr