Saturday, December 31, 2011

Column: Greetings from Ellie Kinnaird

Dear Friends,
I always enjoy my readers’ responses to my newsletters. What is so rewording is that readers add their own comments and experiences and often give me information I didn’t have on an issue or good ideas for future legislation. An economics reader informed me that Canada does not have a tax deduction for mortgages, therefore they avoided the bank misdeeds and meltdown. However, I think most people buy a house not because they want a tax deduction but because they want to realize the American dream, so we’re prey to the predatory lending tactics of U.S banks. According to the source I read that promoted my original comment, Canada also doesn’t have the financial instruments that led to our bank failures, and they separate their banking from investment activity which led to the pushing of questionable loans to those who couldn’t afford them, bundling them up into securities, selling them and then betting against their own customers that bought the securities. But I am always willing to have more information from readers.
Continuing with a review of programs that are funded by the legislature, Smart Start is a nationally recognized, Public Private Partnership initiative that serves children from birth to age 5. It took an $80 million cut in its budget this year, in addition to large cuts in the last two terms. But because of its outstanding track record, Smart Start was able to leverage $28 million in other private and federal funds last year. Smart Start emphasizes quality day care through a star rating system to ensure that every child reaches his or her potential and is prepared to succeed in a global community.
We know that the early years are crucial for child development that can shape success throughout school and life. Smart Start raises the quality of education and care by providing qualified, educated teachers with additional subsidized training—including college credits—that affects thousands of children in their care. About 39,000 children of low-income, working families received subsidies for child care. Around 85 percent of developmentally disabled children were screened, which helps give them the early services they need to keep up with their peers in school. All Smart Start children are provided with access to health care.
The Ready Schools program that uses literacy preparedness for children who are behind when they enter kindergarten served 29.000 children, 70 percent in low-income schools. Smart Start has been audited for financial and performance standards every year to assure its value to the community and the state taxpayer. This is one of the most important programs to serve our children and families for success.
If we want to know what elections have sadly become, The John Locke folks (part of the Art Pope empire) gave a party and insurance, banking, beer distributors, accounting firms and other corporations donated up to $10,000 each as sponsors. This is not to say they don’t do the same for both parties, just that citizens are increasingly left out of the picture because for the most part, they simply can’t give on that scale. Democracy for sale and on a scale unseen before because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to give to “issue” ads against candidates, skews and taints the democratic system.
But to end on an upbeat note, on my morning walk, I passed a fire hydrant decked out in a Santa beard and hat. Have a wonderful holiday, whatever your plans and whereever you are this season.

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