Discussion by our readers can get pretty fierce — people are passionate about their streets, their schools, their choice for mayor and so on.

This year, the stories that provoked the most comments were about education and changes to Balboa Park. Check out the 10 most-commented articles, with a comment from each to sample some of the debate.

1. In Landslide, City Teachers Approve Deal to Restore Jobs

James Speros:

Our students’ education is our social responsibility. The teachers made pay concessions to preserve small class sizes and teacher jobs. It’s on the rest of the public to approve the November tax initiatives and prevent the furlough days. It’s almost silly (and definitely sad) that there are still people shaming the teachers for not solving this problem on their own without the help of the taxpayers. We all need to contribute.

2. In Final Weeks, Opponents Float New Balboa Park Plan

Helen Weals:

Those who think the parking garage “will pay for itself” are delusional. Most San Diegans will not pay for parking when there is ample free parking on the street, in the existing parking lots, and on the other side of Park Boulevard. Museum goers and Old Globe patrons might be willing to pay for conveniently located parking, but the proposed site behind the organ pavilion is MUCH farther away than free parking that is available in the various lots accessible from Park Boulevard. It is the taxpayers who will be stuck paying the interest on the bonds issued to pay for the parking garage. And there is no provision for the cost of security for the underground garage, which will be a crime magnet.

3. Public Ignored in Balboa Park Debate? Fact Check

Erik Hanson:

You are in the wrong side of this, VOSD. Most of the things you mention, such as widening a disabled path, are things that people warned them that the thing did not meet building codes and standards. This is not really a “design change”.

Any time you say “NO” changes were made, I guess you are asking to be contradicted. But this plan was a done-deal; certainly compared to other things like Petco Park that Coons has worked on and real changes were made.

4. Where Borrowing $105 Million Will Cost $1 Billion: Poway Schools

Charlie Jackson:

Absolutely amazing. I live in Poway and this is the first I’ve heard of this. This is the biggest “kick the can down the road” I’ve ever seen. This is typical of current elected officials: take the easy way out now — forget about future consequences.

And to EconProf above, who claims that if there is big inflation this will work out fine: I understand the numbers, but do you notice that Japan has been trying for 20 years to create big inflation and has not been able to? It is not a given that we will have big inflation. Then what? Reminds me of Ben Bernanke in July 2005 answering a question on CNBC about housing, saying that it had never gone down everywhere in the country at the same time.

When making good decisions, all scenarios must be considered to be possible.

5. Tie: Letter: Rate Teachers on Merit

Erik Bruvold:

I have always thought …

A) Test scores a pretty blunt tool when it comes to evaluation and I am NOT convinced at all that a system which incentives teachers to raise test scores is in the best interest of kids. Drilling on worksheets all day and learning how to fill in bubbles sounds like a recipe for training a generation of lemmings.

B) I have always been amazed that schools can’t figure out a way of empowered site principals and holding THEM accountable for REAL reviews, mentoring and staff development. The horror stories of rotten principals are legion but we know that it is possible to have successful management structures in other white-collar professions so I am still amazed why not at schools.

C) Fellow conservatives often fail to understand that many of the protections offered to teachers (tenure, reviews of limited import, summers off) should be considered other forms of non-monetary compensation. IF you want to do away with all these then expect to pay … because we know that teaching is one of the LOWEST white collar, BA or higher professions there is. Public K-12 can get away with that because of all the non-monetary perks. Take those away and expect either teaching quality to drop lower or wage pressures to increase.

S.D. Unified Bringing Back All Laid-Off Teachers

Andy Zafuto:

Hooray 🙁 As a laid off teacher, I’m happy to have a job. As a professional, I’m unhappy that I’ll never have the chance to move up the economic ladder of success. I love my job; I love the kids. However, I have invested considerable amounts of money in my education so that I could earn degrees in order that I may improve my life chances and this is what I get. I thought that I did everything right. I have major amounts of student loans that I have to pay off. Can I, we, get a bail out!! Brilliant job of bargaining on the union’s part. Not!!!

7. The Teachers Union Gets Tough, and Isolated

Mary Ellen Berumen:

Most troubling to me was the part about the unprofessional behavior by the current union leaders and executive director. The heading of “You’re Either With Him or You’re Against Him” says it all. I can’t think of anything less union than that. A union is one of the highest forms of democracy. It gives everyone a voice without fear. Union leaders with any other kind of approach don’t have a clue. Paranoia is not a union value. Working together for the betterment of all is what should be happening inside and outside the union.

8. One of Every Five Teachers to Be Laid Off at City Schools

Meri Jo Petrivelli:

I’m a parent, not a teacher. I work in the private sector, in a non-profit that provides health insurance to me and my family, a plan in which I pay 100 percent of the premium to cover my kids. My youngest child is a junior at a SDUSD high school. This news gives me a stomachache, but I cannot for the life of me understand the point of view of those vilifying the board for this action. $120 million is not chump change. Changing the way the union’s health insurance benefit is structured is not “stealing” your health benefits. Increasing an office visit or prescription copayment is not the same thing as taking the benefit away. Requiring you to pay a portion — or a greater portion — of the premium to cover your family is not the same thing as taking the benefit away. Giving up a pay raise that was based on unrealistic revenue projections is not the same thing as a pay cut. Those things, while not a pleasant reality, are reality nonetheless for thousands or millions of people who work outside of a union job. The state has failed the school district, the union has failed its members, and my child will be one of many who suffer because of this. I support public education. I support teachers. I even support unions sometimes — but not today. Today the teacher’s union can pat itself on the back for not budging on the contract, while using their other hand to wave goodbye to 1500 teachers who won’t be back next year. You played chicken with the livelihoods of 1,500 people, and you lost. And now my child loses. Good job. You should be very proud.

9. ‘Our Union May Be on the Verge of Accepting Deep … Cuts’

Richard Dittbenner:

I continue to wonder why key K-12 stakeholders (boards, CEO’s, faculty and staff unions) have not come together to develop an aggressive legislative district-centered grassroots strategy targeting those legislators whose actions undermine quality K-12 education in California. What is occurring in the SDUSD seems to me to reflect a need to think differently about how to address the problem — not fall back on the old style management-union conflict. A different, more imaginative, frame of reference is needed. There is a lot of bad blood between the parties and difficulties galore. But that is an excuse, not a reason to seek broader common ground. The largest urban community college stakeholders (the same diversity as the largest urban K-12 districts) in the state, for example have come together for common state legislative political purposes. Is this beyond the reach of the K-12 districts to do the same thing? … just saying.

10. Concessions or Not, Teachers Will Get Raises Next Year

Rachael Tarshes:

The discussion here is really about SDUSD teachers and we do not make a salary comparable to others across the nation. I am a teacher in SDUSD. I work 10-hour days and then take home work to do at night and on the weekends. I work all summer to develop new lessons, attend professional trainings, and prepare for the following year. I have a bachelor’s, a masters, and a doctorate. I have been a teacher for seven years and I make $55,000. That is the point — teachers do NOT get paid what they are WORTH. I would be shocked to find out you have had any children go through the education system to make comments so flippant about people who help raise children for 13 years of their life and play a HUGE role in their development. I am not special, I am a teacher. What is different about my DNA is that I want to be a teacher and I am willing to do so FOR THE CHILDREN while accepting less pay and more hours. SDUSD teachers also don’t get cost-of-living increases like most of other employees.

Comments have been lightly edited for typos and spelling.

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Dagny Salas is the web editor at Voice of San Diego. You can contact her directly at dagny.salas@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5669.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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