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Editorial / Op Ed

 

 

 


Monday
May162016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "Caring For Our Veterans"

“Caring for Our Veterans”

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

As a nation, supporting our veterans must always be one of our highest priorities. These brave men and women, who willingly and selflessly put their lives on the line while defending our country, deserve nothing but the highest quality of life and care once they return home.

According to the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency (VSA), there are 83,254 veterans who live here in Suffolk. With the highest population of veterans by county in New York State, and one of the highest in the entire country, there is a significant need for increased care options for our veterans in Suffolk County.

There are so many options of quality care for veterans, but too often their choices are limited. Quality care can also come at a great expense. In an effort to expand access to care for our veterans, I recently introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress, H.R. 2460, which would ensure that 70% or more service connected disabled veterans are able to receive Adult Day Health Care, a daily program for disabled veterans who need extra assistance and special attention in their day to day lives, at no cost to the veteran and their family by defining the program as a reimbursable treatment option through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). H.R. 2460 has strong bipartisan support in Congress, with over 45 cosponsors, including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation. My bill would greatly expand this great option of care for veterans on Long Island and across the country. Just last month, on April 20, 2016, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hosted a hearing of the Subcommittee on Health regarding my bill, and on April 29, 2016, the Health Subcommittee held a markup and favorably forwarded my bill to the full committee for final consideration before being sent to the House floor for a vote. Working with my colleagues in the House, and various Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), I will continue pushing to get this bill passed out of committee in earnest, to allow this bill to come to the House floor this year.

While serving in the New York State Senate, I secured the funding necessary to create the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Project, a peer-to-peer support program for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). PFC Joseph Dwyer, from Mount Sinai, New York, served in Iraq and received nationwide recognition for a photograph that went viral—showing him cradling a wounded Iraqi boy, while his unit was fighting its way up to the capital city of Baghdad. Sadly, after returning home and struggling with PTSD, PFC Dwyer died in 2008. Created in his honor, the Dwyer Program was initially launched in the counties of Suffolk, Jefferson, Saratoga and Rensselaer. Since 2013, the program has successfully expanded to over a dozen counties across New York. Earlier this year, I introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress, H.R. 4513, that will expand the Dwyer Program on a national level, so that every veteran in the U.S. eventually has access to a peer-to-peer support group. This bill has strong bipartisan support, including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation. I will continue working together with them in the fight to expand the Dwyer Program.

Additionally, right here on the East End, working closely with Peconic Bay Medical Center (PBMC) and VA, I secured an East End health care facility for veterans and their families at PBMC’s Manorville campus. After so bravely serving our country, this facility provides an important new option for veterans, increasing access to care for veterans who live on Long Island’s East End, while still allowing them to continue receiving other services and ongoing treatment at the VA Hospital in Northport.

There is so much more that Congress can do to improve the quality of life for our veterans. I will continue working to ensure that my bills that previously passed the House are signed into law, including H.R. 1569 to protect the benefits of deceased veterans and H.R. 1187, which would eliminate the loan limit that the VA can guarantee for a veteran. Congress also must continue to reform the VA wherever it under serves a veteran. A series of recent USA Today articles reported that VA supervisors in multiple states instructed their employees to falsify patient wait times at VA facilities. This is a slap in the face to all veterans and those responsible must be held responsible. Just last year, the House took a step forward by passing the VA Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1994); legislation that I cosponsor that would make important reforms to the VA system, which will providing the necessary resources and flexibility the VA needs to hold poor performing employees accountable. While I believe that 99% of VA employees genuinely care about the work they do and want to help veterans, we must always ensure that the other 1% of those who are not acting in the best interest of veterans are held accountable. Our veterans deserve only the highest quality of care at our VA facilities.

Fighting for our veterans who fought for us has always been one of my top priorities. I will continue my work in Congress to improve our veterans’ quality of care in any way that we can. 

Also, every day, my constituent services team works on cases to help Suffolk County residents. Since entering Congress last year, my office has successfully resolved over 3,150 cases; many of those are veteran cases. If you or your family ever needs help on a federal issue, I encourage you to contact my Long Island office at (631) 289-1097.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, an Army veteran who continues to serve today as a Major in the Army Reserves, represents the First Congressional District of New York. The Congressman serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and two related subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

Monday
May022016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "A 21st Century Approach To Combating Heroin & Opioid Epidemic"

“A 21st Century Approach to Combating the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic”

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

Addiction is a heartbreaking disease sweeping across our island, state and nation at a rapid rate and leaving behind a terrible wake of devastation and suffering — taking lives, tearing families apart, and destroying communities. 

As addiction and overdose deaths continue to climb, specifically as a result of the recent rise in heroin and prescription opioid abuse, it’s essential that we take a 21st Century approach to combat this growing epidemic that is plaguing our country and taking hold of our loved ones. Through a three-pronged approach, focusing on treatment, enforcement, and education, we can overcome this crisis.

Increasing funding and accessibility for treatment and recovery services is critically important to assist Americans coping with addiction. Incarceration alone is not the answer. Targeted and individualized treatment programs are essential to solve the addiction epidemic. We must also increase access to affordable treatment and recovery options through healthcare reform to treat addiction as a disease. Unless we systematically restructure our existing healthcare options, individuals will not be able to shoulder the significant financial costs that result from treatment.

Second, we must focus on targeted enforcement to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into our country in order to keep drugs out of our communities and off our streets. Since previous efforts to solely incarcerate low level drug pushers have proven inadequate, we must change our approach to focus the efforts of law enforcement on those individuals in charge of trafficking drugs into the United States illegally. Allowing law enforcement entities to target drug kingpins and international narcotraffickers will destabilize global drug rings, making it easier to eliminate the local impacts of these dangerous drugs, while local law enforcement entities simultaneously target local drug pushers.

Finally, we must provide funding for education and awareness in our schools and local communities to prevent experimentation and addiction. Without properly educating America’s youth on the realities of drug addiction, we will never be able to stem the tide and overcome this reoccurring nightmare. Education breeds confidence. Bringing the dangers of drug addiction out of the shadows and educating all Americans about the dangers of drug addiction is the only proven solution to a crisis of this magnitude. As we have seen with similar health risks, such as smoking and alcoholism, educating the public on the inherent dangers associated with addiction is essential to truly solve this challenge.

There is so much that can and must be done on many different levels to combat the drug epidemic, and over the coming weeks, Congress is expected to take up bipartisan legislation to help fight against this growing crisis through treatment, enforcement and education.

In addition to these legislative efforts on the federal level, I also believe this must be a community effort as well. I have hosted multiple drug task force round tables locally, to bring together local elected officials, law enforcement, health professionals, community groups, parents, concerned residents and recovering substance abusers, to discuss and develop a more localized solution to address this crisis. I look forward to continuing these efforts to combat heroin and opiate abuse.

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York. The Congressman serves as a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in the House of Representatives, which focuses on finding solutions, spreading awareness and increasing educational efforts.

Monday
Mar282016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "Helping Stop The Movement Of Foreign Fighters Abroad"

“Helping Stop the Movement of Foreign Fighters Abroad”

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1)

Too often in today’s world, we are reminded globally that we must all do more to protect the innocent and defeat those who threaten peace in the name of Islam. The recent terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, that left over 30 people dead and over 300 wounded, is one more brutal reminder that the threat posed by Islamic terror groups is not just a threat to the Middle East - it’s a threat that is growing all around the world.

Just hours before the attack in Brussels, the House passed my Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016 (H.R. 4314) with strong bipartisan support in a 371-2 vote. In the wake of the attack, I’ve been continuing the push to advance my bill to help stop foreign fighter travel to protect America’s security at home and abroad. Stopping foreign fighter movement is a top effort of mine and must be a highest priority for our country. 

Foreign fighter movement is a very serious challenge. The horrific terror attack in Paris, France that killed over 100 people was largely carried out by European nationals - many of whom traveled to train and fight in Syria and then later returned to Europe and were able to move across borders without detection. This is why we need improved border security globally and better information sharing between governments.

Under my bill, international border security standards would be established to close security gaps that currently exist that allow foreign fighters to travel internationally. Another important component of my bill is that it would ensure U.S. resources are utilized in the most efficient way possible, focusing on high-risk and medium-risk countries to boost security, while also putting in place a reporting system that would monitor the efforts of foreign governments to combat terrorism and foreign fighter travel. Foreign assistance would be suspended for countries that do not make significant efforts to comply.

The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels remind us that we must confront ISIS’ unlimited ambition with our unlimited resolve. There is no limit to the desire terror groups like ISIS have in waging violent jihad against us. This is an unconventional fight and a never before been read chapter that must end with the cancer boldly, aggressively attacked with unlimited determination and resources from a global community that will not be run out of existence by those who terrorize the innocent.

The Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act is a bipartisan measure to keep Americans safe that was long overdue to not only protect our homeland from terrorism, but also ensure the that we as a country are always prepared to combat the spread of any infectious diseases. Under my bill, a monitoring system would be put in place to screen for infectious diseases to contain and prevent any potential outbreaks. Under my bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security would be authorized to provide the necessary equipment and supplies to mitigate the risk or threat of infectious diseases, which will help quarantine viruses, such as Zika, a disease that continues to spread and was recently declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization.

There are many facets to this effort and stopping the movement of terrorists is essential. Whether we are helping stop the movement of foreign fighters or boosting intelligence and military capabilities wherever appropriate and necessary, America and our allies must win each day on behalf of our families, our countries and the free world. I will continue pushing to advance my Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act until it is signed into law.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, and Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

Monday
Feb222016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "Counterterrorism To Fight Zika And Other Infectious Diseases"

“Combating Zika and Other Infectious Diseases”

 By Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-01)

The mosquito borne Zika virus has spread at rapid rates across South America, Central America and the Caribbean – infecting individuals in more than 25 countries.

Zika has caused widespread alarm across the global community after Brazil reported a rise in the number of cases of microcephaly, a disease that leads tragically to a baby being born with an unusually small head and brain damage; affecting thousands of small children in Latin America.

The awful birth defects associated with the virus, and the lack of preventative treatments, have resulted in authorities taking drastic measures in several Latin American countries, including El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, where women are being urged to stop having kids altogether. What is so concerning about the Zika virus is how easily it can spread. The virus is spread not only through a mosquito bite, but also by contact with infected blood or sexual contact. Furthermore, there is currently no vaccine to prevent, or any medicine to treat, the virus. All of these factors have led the World Health Organization to declare the Zika virus a public health emergency.

Confirmed cases of the Zika virus have been popping up across the U.S., including at least 3 confirmed cases here in Suffolk County. Recent estimates show that 200 million Americans live in areas that could see Zika spread through mosquitos during the warmer months.

With the recent outbreaks and the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a wide spread epidemic right here at home. As evidenced with the Ebola virus epidemic in 2013, which decimated populations across Western Africa, if the proper infrastructure and funding is not put into place before an outbreak hits, the consequences can be truly devastating. That is why we must act now.

I recently introduced legislation, the Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016, H.R. 4314, which passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with bipartisan support on January 7, 2016. 

One critical aspect of this legislation is that the bill would put in place a monitoring system that would screen for infectious diseases abroad in order to contain and prevent any potential outbreaks. The bill also helps quarantine the virus, authorizing the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide the necessary equipment and supplies to mitigate the risk or threat of infectious diseases, such as Zika.

In addition to screening for infectious diseases, my bill would also establish a plan to close security gaps that currently exist that allow terrorists and foreign fighters to travel internationally, as well as establish international border security standards. Furthermore, a reporting system would be established to monitor efforts of foreign governments to combat terrorism and foreign fighter travel and to suspend foreign assistance to countries not making significant efforts to comply. Moreover, U.S. surplus equipment and supplies would be sent abroad to boost security.

The Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016 is a measure that is long overdue to not only protect our homeland from terrorism, but also ensure the U.S. is always prepared to combat the spread of any infectious diseases. 

I will continue to push for the full passage of my Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act in the House, and urge my colleagues to bring this bipartisan bill to the House floor for a vote. Protecting America’s security at home and abroad remains one of my highest priorities in Congress.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, represents the First Congressional District of New York.

Saturday
Feb202016

Op-Ed - Trump Another Red Faced Belligerent Guy At the Bar

By Allison Cafferone

At Thursday night’s town hall, Donald Trump tried to walk back some of his outrageous statements from the last debate and soften his remark that the Pope’s earlier comment that Trump was not Christian was “disgraceful.” Based on the South Carolina primary results, however, it appears that no matter what Trump says or does, his followers are going to continue to support him.

For the first time in this election, over the past week, we heard substance from Trump.  That substance was enlightening and if possible that Trump can still shock us, shocking. It allowed us to see beyond the persona of the entertainer and gain insight into Trump’s true political beliefs. 

For the first time we heard more than simple assaults on character and vulgarities meant to evoke emotional responses.  We heard more than mere shouts to “Make America Great Again.”  Up until now, the attacks on Trump have been that he has no real political beliefs; he changes his views to pander to his audience; when asked for particulars, he responds “believe me!”  But at last Saturday’s debate we heard Trump articulate his political beliefs; and we learned that those views and beliefs line up with the furthest left-leaning democrats—the Michael Moore’s of the world.

First, Trump claimed that President George W. Bush knowingly and intentionally lied to the American people by pretending to believe weapons of mass destruction existed in order to disingenuously lead our American soldiers into war.  Speaking about whether he thought Former President Bush should have been impeached, Trump said, “They lied.  They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none, and they knew there were none.

Second, Trump adamantly argued the left-wing, Michael Moore talking points that Bush was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  Addressing Jeb Bush, Trump began yelling, “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that. That’s not keeping us safe.”  

He continued by interrupting Marco Rubio’s defense of then-President Bush, by again bellowing, “How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down…The World Trade Center came down during his reign.  He kept us safe?  That is not safe.  That is not safe.  That is not safe!”

Take away his fancy suit and his name and he’s the red-faced, belligerent guy in the bar that, at best, Republican primary voters are rolling their eyes at and at worst, throwing a punch at—not the one they’re generally wishing would run for president. 

Both the audience and the candidates got under Trump’s skin on Saturday’s debate and he slipped up. It may have been the voters’ only chance to hear what Trump truly believes, beyond what he espouses while shouting, interrupting, and tweeting in the middle of the night.  

Indeed, at Thursday night’s town hall, he appeared to have realized that the American people weren’t so willing to let those comments go and he tried to pull back.  He refused to repeat that Bush had lied in order to send our young men and women to war.  He also tried to soften his earlier remark that the Pope’s comments were “disgraceful” by saying he didn’t really believe that he and the Pope were in a fight. Notably, these softer stances followed the first national poll results showing Trump had lost his lead as the Republican front runner. 

Yesterday, South Carolina voters had their chance to weigh in.  And although the margin of victory did not meet expectations, Trump still walked away with around 33% of the vote.  Soon it will be New Yorkers’ turn.  Their turn to consider whether their political beliefs align with Trump’s. Consider whether he really “tells it as it is” when until the last debate when he lost his composure and strategy went out the window, he had failed to reveal his true beliefs.  Consider whether they believe “telling is like it is” includes changing his stances when he realizes he’s fallen behind in the national polls.  Consider whether they want to cast their vote for a man that tells the nation and the world that the atrocities of 9/11 are the fault of George W. Bush.

Trump has become known as “Teflon Don.”  It seems he can say anything he wants and nothing sticks to him. And he’s proud of that, going so far as to say he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”  He seems to believe—and as of now he appears to be right—that he can manipulate people into voting for him regardless of his beliefs or actions, as long as he can invoke their anger.  

Allison Caffarone is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Allison.caffarone@hofstra.edu

Wednesday
Feb172016

Op-Ed - Congressman Lee Zeldin - Defending the LI Sound Against President's Budget Proposals

“Defending the Long Island Sound against the President’s Budget Proposals”

Op-Ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-01)

Congressman Lee ZeldinLast year, President Obama presented Congress with a proposed budget that completely ignored one of the nation’s most populated and popular watersheds— the Long Island Sound. Here we are now in 2016, President Obama’s final year in office, and we must relive last year’s fight in order to protect our waterways.

Today, the Long Island Sound, which borders the states of both New York and Connecticut, provides a diverse ecosystem with more than 170 species of fish, over 1,200 invertebrates and many different species of migratory birds; however, the Long Island Sound is not just a cultural and natural treasure, but also essential to the everyday economy and livelihood of millions of Long Islanders. The Sound is home to more than 9 million people living in the coastal communities around the Sound, and over 24 million living within 50 miles of the Sound. Revenue generated by the Sound contributes to the overall and much larger Long Island Sound Basin. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the economic value of the Basin’s natural capital is estimated to be anywhere from $17 billion to $37 billion in one year. From activities such as sport and commercial fishing, boating, recreation and tourism, it is estimated to bring in over $8 billion a year for the Long Island region. Furthermore, reports that detail the economic value of the Sound estimate that at least 191,000 jobs stem from this valuable estuary; either directly or indirectly. Moreover, our local schools and colleges work in the Long Island Sound, studying ways to improve its cleanliness and helping to preserve its countless benefits. The Sound is also our gateway to New England and a crucial means of transportation for thousands on any given day.

While the Great Lakes and Chesapeake get special attention in the President’s budget, the Long Island Sound, a true Long Island treasure, is nothing more than an afterthought. This is unacceptable; especially since over the years, the Long Island Sound has suffered severely from issues such as pollution, overdevelopment and the dumping of dredged materials. Currently, restoration for the Long Island Sound is funded at $3.94 million through the Long Island Sound Program; however the Obama administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 would cut that number by over $1 million. The Long Island Sound will not be able to overcome the many challenges it faces with such a dramatic reduction in essential funding.

Last year, when President Obama proposed a 22% cut to the Sound, I successfully fought on a bipartisan basis to reverse the proposed cut. I’ve also continued to oppose the misguided plan to dump Connecticut’s dredged waste into this critical waterway. Long Island cannot be a dumping ground for any questionable waste dredged out of Connecticut rivers. Additionally, I joined with Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) to introduce bipartisan legislation in the House, the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act (H.R.2930), to ensure the Sound is protected and restored for generations to come. Our bill proposes $65 million in funding per year through 2020 for a water quality and shore restoration program and additional focus, oversight and coordination of federal activities related to the restoration of the Sound. In addition, I was proud to support $27 million in funding for the National Estuary Program last year to protect Long Island’s natural estuaries, including the Long Island Sound. 

With valuable natural treasures like the Long Island Sound, comes a great responsibility to protect them. We must all work together to ensure our waterways are preserved for generations to come.

 

Congressman Lee Zeldin, a member of the Long Island Sound Caucus in the House of Representatives, represents the First Congressional District of New York. Congressman Zeldin is the lead Republican sponsor of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act in the House of Representatives.

Tuesday
Jan122016

Editorial - Yes We Are Weary But ....

Legislator Trotta along with other Republican legislators at Dec. press conferenceeEven though we are only a few days into 2016 the public appears weary. They, we, are weary of political debates, politicians who pander, stupid questions asked to candidates, but mostly we are weary of political scandals. That is not to say we are weary of crooked politicians being tossed into a prison cell. We are weary of hearing how people who have betrayed our trust are entitled to taxpayer funded pensions, health care and whatever else elected officials have determined they are entitled to receive. 

Newsday has done an excellent job of informing the public about government corruption. Those who are paying attention are almost unanimous in their support of United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.* “Come to my neighborhood”, is a phrase that can be heard all over Long Island. Again they, we, are weary.

Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos and the others involved in Albany’s scandals are last year’s news. 2016 appears to be about happenings closer to home. 

Locally, Ed Walsh, chairman of the Suffolk County Conservative Party and a lieutenant in the Suffolk County Sheriff Department is heading to trial for theft of services in which the government alleges that Walsh misrepresented the hours worked and the compensation he was entitled to receive. 

Then there is James Burke, Chief of Police in the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) until December when he was handcuffed and jailed. For years Robert Trotta, legislator in the 13th LD, has been vocal about problems within the Suffolk County Police Department hierarchy. The December arrest of Burke has provided Trotta with the opportunity to take a victory lap. 

Mr. Trotta, retired from the SCPD, was aggrieved by James Burke when he was part of the SCPD/FBI task force. Burke removed Trotta from the task force. Trotta never forgot.

Currently Burke has been incarcerated without bail for over a month.  

Legislator Trotta is calling for the Suffolk County Legislature to begin a legislative hearing on law enforcement operations. Not all the legislators are supportive of his propsal. Good for him.  It would be easy to discount his actions as revenge seeking. Revenge does not explain Burke’s incarceration. Certainly James Burke’s imprisonment and denial of bail may be gratifying for Trotta, the fact remains that if federal prosecutors didn’t believe Burke engaged in criminal activity he wouldn’t be sitting in a jail cell.  

A hearing would be a double edge sword for Trotta. If the hearing is bumbled Trotta will look at best foolish and at worse vindictive and inept. If the hearing is successful residents may hear what has been happening in our police department for which we pay dearly. 

Yes we are weary but not so weary that we won’t support investigating questionable behavior …..Preet Bharara please visit us and stay as long as you feel it’s necessary.

Pat

* correction was made to Preet Bharara’s title. Mr. Bharara is U.S.Attorney for the Southern District of New York

Tuesday
Dec292015

Op Ed - Teachers Deserve Thanks, Not Blame

TEACHERS DESERVE THANKS, NOT BLAME 

by Dr. Tom Staszewski 

It’s time to stop blaming and criticizing teachers and start thanking and acknowledging them. 

Our schools reflect society, and society has undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations. A typical classroom today consists of many students with severe behavioral problems, limited knowledge of English usage, emotional and psychological difficulties, learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders. And many suffer from abuse and other adverse home and socioeconomic conditions. 

Unlike previous generations, many parents today send their kids to school unfed, unprepared and with little or no basic skills nor social skills. In many neighborhoods, it’s the school building, not the child’s home, that provides a safe, secure and predictable haven. Despite these societal problems, we need to focus on the success stories of what’s right with our schools rather than what’s wrong with our schools. 

In my previous work as a motivational speaker and professional development trainer, I have personally worked with thousands of teachers nationwide. I have found them to be caring, hardworking, dedicated, industrious and sincerely committed to the success of their students. 

Teachers’ duties have now grown to the added dimensions of counselor, mentor, coach, resource person, mediator, motivator, enforcer and adviser. Instead of acknowledging that teaching is a demanding profession, critics will often focus on the supposedly shortened workday of teachers. Still others claim, “Yes, teachers are busy, but at least they get a planning period each day to help get things done.” In reality, the so-called planning period is really a misnomer. A typical teacher is so involved with the day’s activities that usually there is no time to stop and plan. Those minutes that are supposed to be devoted to planning are often filled with endless amounts of paperwork, meetings, interruptions, schedule changes, extra assigned duties, phone calls, conferences, gathering missed work for absent students, completing forms, submitting required data and on and on. Maybe they call it a planning period, because there’s NO time left for planning…period! 

Most teachers leave the building long after the students’ dismissal time and usually with plenty of paperwork and tests to correct. Evenings are spent reviewing homework assignments and planning for the next day of teaching. 

In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate/license, once teachers begin to work in the classroom, they need to immediately continue their own education. During summertime, they are constantly updating their education, earning a graduate degree or two and making sure their teaching certificates are active and valid. 

Too many people have the mistaken notion that anyone can teach. They think that they could teach because they have seen other people teach. Yet, when looking at other professions and occupations, these same people understand that they can’t perform those jobs. They may have briefly seen the cockpit of an airplane, but they don’t assume they can fly it. They may have spent an hour in a courtroom but don’t believe that they can practice law. They certainly don’t think they are able to perform surgery. 

Every day, teachers are making a significant difference. At any given moment, teachers are influencing children in positive and meaningful ways. Many societal problems exist, such as violence, drugs, broken homes, poverty, economic crises and a variety of other woes. Teachers struggle with the turmoil of society while trying to offset the negative influences outside of school. As they roll up their sleeves and take strides to improve the lives of their students, teachers are the real heroes. 

Today’s teacher is more than a transmitter of knowledge; the demands of the profession are ever-increasing. Many parents and taxpayers have an expectation that a school system should be the do all and be all in their children’s lives. Some parents have a notion that they can drop off their child at the schoolhouse door, and behold, 12 years later, they will be able to pick up a perfect specimen of a human being — well-rounded, academically proficient, emotionally sound, physically fit and ready to meet the next phase of life. 

But we know that teachers cannot do it alone. A sound, safe and secure home life is essential. An effort on the parent’s part to prepare the child for school is vital. And parental involvement that results in a partnership in the child’s development is necessary. When that doesn’t occur, then it’s easy to scapegoat the classroom teacher. 

As the school year begins, our  public schools welcome everyone.  The individual classroom teacher is  faced with dozens and dozens of human beings who come to school in varying  degrees of ability, potential, maturity, motivation levels, and readiness to  learn.  Students arrive with a tremendous amount of baggage, with various  health and nutrition factors, family issues, neighborhood influences and  differing socioeconomic levels.  

In today’s climate of high  stakes testing, business leaders and politicians continue to demand better  results with data driven assessments and test scores.  It is important to  realize that the classroom is not a factory floor where uniformity and precise  precision can be molded into just one final finished product. Unlike the  manufacturing arena, teachers don’t select the raw materials (students).   All are welcome as teachers strive to meet and serve all levels and all kinds  of students. Test results will always vary from low to high ranges because  schools are dealing with human beings with varying degrees of potential.   The school is not an assembly line that can mass-produce exact templates of  finished products meeting the same exact predetermined standard. 

Instead of bashing our teachers, we should be conveying recognition, accolades, tributes and positive acknowledgments. Teachers deserve a sincere thank-you for the tremendous benefits they provide society. And that’s why my all-time favorite bumper sticker offers a profound and important declaration: “If you can read this … thank a teacher!” 

In our schools today, there are thousands of success stories waiting to be told and there’s a need to proclaim those successes proudly and boldly. Teachers should stand tall and be proud of their chosen profession. Critics should not judge them unfairly. Together, let’s become teacher advocates and show admiration for the inspiring and important life-changing work they do. 

Dr. Tom Stasweski, a former middle school teacher, lives in Erie with his wife, Linda.  He recently retireed after a 35-year career in higher education administration. Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and is the author of “Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes it Happen”. tomstasz@neo.rr.com

Wednesday
Dec162015

Op Ed- "Hit The Reset Button" On Education Reform Efforts

LET’S LET EVERY CHILD SUCCEED

Gary D. Bixhorn and Susan A. Schnebel

After years of legislative gridlock in Washington, President Obama has signed the “Every Child Succeeds Act” into law and called it a “Christmas miracle”. The bill had strong bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Educators across the country have eagerly awaited the passage of this bill, which replaces the 15-year-old Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind Act” and the subsequent Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” program.  In combination, these two initiatives significantly expanded the federal government’s role in educational matters traditionally subject to state and local control. It’s been New York State’s implementation of these overreaching federal initiatives that’s generated so much dissent within the educational community and ultimately resulted in a public revolt in the form of the opt-out movement. 

It appears, based on the new federal legislation which scales back federal involvement and restores state and local control, that our leaders have learned an important lesson- a parent will not let their child’s education become an academic research project or a campaign platform. Parents expect schools to provide a safe, secure environment where teaching and leaning is fostered and protected.  Given the new federal direction, it’s now time for the state to work with local school districts to give parents what they expect and students what they deserve; schools meeting high standards, with outstanding teachers and rich program offerings.

Clearly, now is the time to “hit the reset button” on reform efforts. Many of the more controversial provisions of the State’s effort to reform education were put in place to align with federal requirements that are now changing.  Accordingly, key members of the state legislature are beginning to voice support for a moratorium on new State legislative requirements involving testing and teacher evaluation in accordance with recommendations of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and others.  In addition, both the Governor and the State Education Commissioner have established advisory councils to help sort out the tangled web of issues that has been created.

Mr. Gary Bixhorn is the executive director of Suffolk County School Superintendents Association(SCSSA), Mrs. Susan A. Schnebel is president-elect of the SCSSA

 

Sunday
Oct042015

Editorial - Make Election Day About Your Priorities

Approximately 1,700 people voted in the September Republican primary. Over 33,000 people are registered as Republicans in Smithtown. Blame the rain, blame the candidates or blame apathy, but the fact remains that less than 6 percent of those eligible to vote did so. Primary voting is normally low but this was a hotly contested election, the stakes were high and few people thought it important enough to vote.

Low voter turnout is demoralizing to candidates, disrespectful to those who have died in service to our country, and problematic for the future of our young people.

We are a republic. We empower our elected officials to make decisions on our behalf. Once elected an official will make decisions that impact on your wallet and your quality of life. Winning an election gives them that authority. Not voting gives others power over your future and sends the signal that you don’t care. 

At the town level elected officials appoint people to the Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals. They will vote on the budget, replacing department heads, whether or not we move forward with commissioners. Decisions that impact your wallet and your quality of life. How do you want your tax dollars spent? 

What do you think is important? Is it downtown revitalization, traffic, taxes, is protecting the environment important to you, maintaining zoning, increasing the tax revenue, maintaing property values, parks or something else? Ask questions. Make this election about your priorities.

Make elections mean something. Make this election personal and vote.

The League of Women Voters of Smithtown is hosting a candidate debate Monday, October 5. Candidates for local offices will take questions. It is a great opportunity to listen and learn about the candidates positions.

Election Day is November 3.

Pat

 

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