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Gazette Premium Content LETTERS: Fracking starts to look pretty good; opting out of tests

Letters Published: February 2, 2014

Fracking starts to look pretty good

Recent articles on the fracking controversy reminded me of a visit I had from a young activist several months ago seeking my signature on a petition to restrict fracking in Colorado. I told him no thanks and he asked me why. I replied, because I care about the environment.

The answer was flippant but also true. In 2012, the U.S. became the first major industrialized nation to meet its Kyoto emissions target without having signed the treaty. The lion's share of that reduction was due to the substitution of natural gas for coal in power generation as gas prices fell by 82 percent from 2008 to 2012 and proven reserves rose dramatically. That increase in supply was entirely due to shale gas and the advent of hydraulic fracturing.

Without doubt, some of the gains in carbon reduction resulted from regulatory pressure against the use of "dirty" fuels, particularly coal. But, as Europe has discovered, regulations make little difference in the face of hard facts. The European Union's vaunted cap and trade program is failing in the face of real world demands and a coal based energy economy. The allowed carbon emissions allotted to companies by EU policymakers (referred to as "pollution permits") has ballooned, dropping the effective tax on emissions 86 percent from 2008 to 2013. In other words, it's now 86 percent cheaper to "pollute" in Europe than it was five years ago.

Through American ingenuity and fortuitous good luck, the U.S. (and the rest of the world, if it follows suit) has been given about a 30 year window of a relatively clean energy in which to develop environmentally sustainable technologies into economically sustainable realities. Obviously, there are risks and contamination issues have to be studied, monitored and rigorously controlled or eliminated. But that's doable. Given the alternative of rapidly worsening global warming or economic suicide, fracking starts to look pretty good.

Tim Beeson, Manitou Springs

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Parents can opt out of tests

A Jan. 10 memo from Joyce Zurkowski, Assessment Department, Colorado Department of Education to all Colorado school superintendents contains false and misleading information concerning parents who opt their child out of standardized tests. She quotes Colorado Statute [22-7-409(1.2)(d)(1)(A)], "as part of the school and district accountability system, every student enrolled in a public school is required to take the state assessments."

Statute [22-7-409(1.2)(d)(1)(A)]is an educational statute regulating Colorado school districts. It was written so districts would not omit students who may test low and therefore inflate their average score. This law does not pertain to parent's right to opt their child out of standardized tests. Further evidence that the law does not regulate parent's opt out rights is that there is no mention of penalties to parents who choose not to allow their children to be tested. In fact, parents are not even mentioned in the over 500 pages of the statute.

Schools may be required to test all students, but there is no law requiring the parents to allow their children to be tested. It is interesting that CDE does not even enforce the law. CDE regulations concerning TCAP tests require school districts to test at least "95% of the children."

The memo also claims, "Schools and districts not meeting the participation requirements drop one full category on the Performance Frameworks."

However, Jo O'Brien, Assistant Commissioner of Standards, Colorado Department of Education said during an interview, "The Education Accountability Act of 2009 (SB 09-163) repealed previous SAR law. Negative weights for Unsatisfactory and No Score percentages are not in effect anymore . Students who do not test, including those who do so due to parental refusal, are counted as non-participants when determining participation rates for state and federal accountability purposes. For calculating performance, non-participant data are not counted as zeroes - they are excluded from the calculation . So the calculations are performed on the basis solely of students that took the test and had valid scores on it."

The last item of the memo stated, "Since all students are required to take state assessments, schools are not required to provide alternate activities."

Since this answer is based on item number one, it is invalid, as is item number one.

George J Saiter Ed.D., Denver

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