I have been a volunteer at Castro Elementary School for about five years, working with the Literacy in the Classroom program as well as on my own time. It has become quite evident to me that the children who take advantage of the PACT program are predominantly the white, middle class students. The classrooms that I volunteer in are mostly made up of poor, Latino students. So, what kind of message would spending money on further separating the PACT program from the rest of the school send?
Our neighborhood schools are bulging at the seams and they will continue to do so. The money would be better served if it went to increasing the pay for the teachers in this district who are overworked and underpaid. We need to invest in programs that work to educate our growing student population so they too can become vibrant citizens who can have a job they love and are interested in, and a home they can call their own.
As a community we need to come together to raise the bar for education for all students, not only for those who are already advantaged. I want the same programs available to all the students in the area so they can all learn in environments that promote achievement and diversity.
If the parents of the PACT children want to further segregate their children, let them pay out of pocket to send them to a private school. I do not want my property taxes to take part in this segregation.
Gisah de Freitas
Court fees out of control
Your column, "Hung Up" prompted the following: I'm with you (From the Editor's Desk, Nov. 28). Police fines seemed to have turned into a money raising source, rather than a means to promote safety.
I recently received a citation for "failure to come to a complete stop" at a stop sign. In the words of the officer, "You and the car ahead of you both came to a complete stop, but when the car in front went ahead so did you." I traveled maybe 10 feet at about five miles per hour and did not stop again, even though there were no cars or people anywhere to be seen.
So I get to pay Santa Clara County $171. More than a slap on the wrist I'd say. I believe this was excessive enforcement of a technical violation. I would not be too upset over a minimal fine for a technical violation (to emphasize safety), but $171? Wow!
Self-absorbed drivers are the problem
Cheers to Ann Schneider and Paul Tetach for their eloquent, bull's-eye letters Dec. 5. My own experience of Silicon Valley traffic accidents was also from inattentive drivers hitting me. At heart, this isn't about phones or other objects, but reckless self-absorption.
Not that cell phones are blameless. Before the "ban," you'd see queues of 10 or 20 commuters entering Highway 237, say — every one earnestly focused on their conversation on a handheld phone.
Mystery court fees should be scrutinized
You violated a law and suffered the consequences. While the writers who wrote about your column did not offer any sympathy (perhaps rightfully so), their letters could almost be interpreted as "good." Those using cell phones while driving can cause serious problems and should be penalized whether before or after an accident.
But of more concern is that the fine appears to have been turned into a fund raising tool.
In the past, there have been jokes or accusations that law enforcement officers have quotas for the number of tickets they should write. With this new hidden penalty, politicians may use it to raise funds without calling it a tax, and they've selected those who have broken a law and thus "deserve" to be penalized. Big Brother is sneaking up on us.
Perhaps you will do a follow-up report on what these "other fees" are, where they go, and how much has been collected.
Voting in America is not that hard
I was disappointed to read your Nov. 21 article about voting, which quoted Stanford Prof. Pamela Karlan ("Not everyone's vote is cast, or counted").
When I watched as the people in Iraq risked their lives to vote for the first time, I thought of the courage it must have taken to have the mark of the purple finger as evidence that they had indeed voted. After seeing that on television, I thought, never again will Americans talk about how "hard" it is to vote.
We have to get ourselves to the right polling place, or we must mail our absentee ballot in time ... boy, is that hard! Come on, it's just not that hard, we certainly don't need a national holiday.
As for the Electoral College, so many people are jumping on this bandwagon. It is not true that if a candidate wins a plurality of votes nationwide, he or she will not win. The real issue is that without the Electoral College, a few large states will dominate all national elections. True, Al Gore had more votes, however that was due to New York. Do you want to be governed by New York? Not me.
W. El Camino Real