We are parents of students in the Portland Public Schools.

We have been reading daily coverage of the drama surrounding the new charter schools, video learning and teacher accountability.

What we haven’t been reading is how drastically the state funding of our schools has been slashed and how deep the cuts will be.

The loss of $1 million in state funding, additional expenses of $1.4 million in state-mandated employer contributions to retirement plans and $500,000 transferred to a charter school, and more, have left our schools in a difficult position.

The Finance Committee of the Portland Board of Education is recommending more than 50 staff cuts and other tremendous reductions in programming. Entire programs, including essential ones such as reading instruction, are going to be wiped out at some schools.

Our politicians often criticize educational achievements, graduation rates and college matriculation. However, year after year, our public schools suffer incredible budget cuts.

Portland has the largest school system in the state and is a driving force of Maine’s economy. Are we investing in our children so they may grow to lead this city and this economy? No, at times we are just barely able to meet their minimal educational needs.

It is time for voters to let our politicians know that we will not stand for the systematic destruction of our public education system.

And it is time for the Portland Press Herald to advocate for our students by bringing attention to this massive budget shortfall and highlighting the devastating cuts we are facing as a result of the mandates and lack of promised funding from our state government — a state government that is well-supported by the people and economy of Portland.

Jessica Marino

Longfellow School parent

and 39 additional signers

Portland

MaineCare expansion boon to people fighting cancer

As a cancer survivor, I urge the Legislature to accept the millions of dollars of federal funding being offered to Maine to increase access to health coverage through MaineCare, our state’s Medicaid program.

Hardworking, low-income families managing a chronic disease like cancer need the security of knowing they have quality health coverage so they can see a doctor regularly and get life-saving care when they need it, without facing huge medical bills.

The Legislature should leverage the federal funding to provide life-saving health coverage to nearly 70,000 low-income individuals and families in Maine.

In 2013, an estimated 9,190 Mainers will be diagnosed with cancer, and more than 3,240 people will die from the disease.

Improving access to MaineCare coverage will increase the probability that diseases like cancer are found early, resulting in lower medical costs and an increased likelihood of survival.

I’m one of the 13.7 million people living with cancer in this country. Simply having access to care most likely saved my life. Everyone deserves the same.

I strongly encourage our state lawmakers to accept the federal money to cover more people and save taxpayer dollars.

Jeff Bennett

volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Portland

Never again, musician urges as genocide commemorated

“Genocide should not discourage Rwandans. It should motivate them to reaching a great positive future.” — David Diyen

David Diyen, a Rwandan-American musician and artist based in Maine, has released a message to all Rwandans all over the world, encouraging them to strive for self-reliance.

In his words, David Diyen says, “During this period of the 19th commemoration of the genocide against Tutsi, I welcome this opportunity to remind everyone that the Rwanda of the past no longer exists. There is a completely new Rwanda which every single Rwandan is proud of. I encourage everyone to stand up and prove to the entire world that our symbol is not genocide.We learnt from it, but it will never happen again, and everyone should do what it takes preventing such a thing from happening again in this world.”

David Diyen embraced the opportunity to spread a message of love to the entire world through his song “The One.” Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxDWYlVRDdM.

Obed Musafiri

Rwandan writer

Portland

USM singers’ performance dazzles with ‘sheer beauty’

A few years ago, I heard from a local clergyman that a sign of the reality of God is the existence of beauty. How simple; how perfect!

The night of April 2, I was reminded of that wisdom when I attended a concert in downtown Portland by Robert Russell conducting the University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers.

I’m not clever enough to adequately describe the experience, but it involved being surrounded by sheer beauty!

My heart was still warmed as I walked home in the chill of the evening, and the memory of that music’s beauty will stay with me.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You gave me a gift of such beauty that it could only have come from God. (I cry as I write this.) Again, thank you.

Elliot Burton

Portland

Timing of elver law change should raise some questions

I read with great interest “Maine official: Tribe’s defiance imperils elver fishery” (April 3). I assume that that headline was a quote, but since there were no quotation marks, it also seemed to lead the reader toward a bias against the Passamaquoddy Tribe.

Although the article was informed and well researched, I was left with one unanswered question:

Why, just before the start of the highly lucrative elver season, did the state Legislature remove the “Passamaquoddy exception” put into place by then-Gov. Angus King in 1998?

Who was responsible for deciding to remove the “Passamaquoddy exception” and why?

I am aware that the Legislature passed the bill, but I can’t help thinking that the whole story sounds fishy.

Rachel Schwartz

South Portland