Opinion Roundup; No Emergency on Human Rights Bill

The Florida Times Union, February 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Opinion Roundup; No Emergency on Human Rights Bill


This is no emergency.

The number of members of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission does not call for an immediate vote before the issue can be fully discussed.

That this emergency bill, if passed by a two-thirds vote of the City Council, would catch Parvez Ahmed in its net is a happy coincidence for those few misguided opponents of his appointment.

Ahmed is a Fulbright scholar and a business professor at the University of North Florida. He is a leader in the OneJax interfaith organization and a leader in the city's Human Rights Commission.

Councilman Matt Schellenberg has filed a bill as an emergency to reduce the number of members of the Human Rights Commission from 20 to 11. Under that bill, no new appointments could be made until the number of members is reduced to the new lower limit.

If there is a legitimate debate over the number of volunteer members on a city board or agency, then it should take place during the regular committee meetings.

Because the Human Rights Commission seeks to represent the community in the broadest sense, a good case can be made for numerous members.

Schellenberg told Times-Union reporter Steve Patterson that his bill was not aimed at any particular members, but he is only seeking to improve the efficiency of boards. Yet, these board positions are volunteer, unpaid ones.

If he wants to make a difference, he should get more involved in the work of the Human Rights Commission. If he does, he surely will gain a renewed appreciation of its important role and of Ahmed in particular.

DID YOU KNOW?

It has been nearly 60 years since the end of World War II,

Yet, reports the New Yorker:

- We have 55,000 troops stationed in Germany.

- We have 35,000 troops in Japan,

- We have 10,000 in Italy.

As the nation makes tough decisions on military spending, we need to have a lively debate on the necessity for so many troops stationed overseas.

EVALUATING TEACHERS

The state of Florida is seeking to evaluate teachers by using a combination of factors, including expert observations and student test scores. The state seems to be on the right track.

Accountability is needed, as in any occupation. But we also must admit that there are many factors that go into a successful teaching experience.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been active in seeking to identify the characteristics of outstanding teachers. As reported in Education Week, it appears the recipe involves student feedback, student growth as reflected in test scores and expert observations.

A $45 million study by the Gates Foundation involved about 3,000 teachers in six districts since 2009. The results showed that relying on just one measure - whether test scores alone or observations - does not accurately predict student success. …

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