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Opinion Letters

Dear Friends of the Theatre,

We write this letter to the community as an expression of appreciation and gratitude for your support of our creative efforts while working at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.

In the last four and a half years, we have had the wonderful opportunity to create and perform over 35 musicals and plays, dozens of special events and served as a production crew for hundreds of traveling concerts and road shows. During that time we have met and made life-long friends and have had experiences and opportunities that will never be forgotten. As with all things, however, things progress and change and each of us employed at the theatre knew we were coming to a crossroads in our lives and felt it was time for each of us to examine which path we should each take towards our own futures.

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Tired of hearing the term ‘Obesity Epidemic’

An epidemic is defined as "a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time." Obesity is not contagious. These is no such thing as an "Obesity Epidemic." Obesity, in the majority of cases, is caused by two things. One is simply a lack of self control, the other lowered self esteem. Often involved is a self-fulfilling prophesy; "I am fat and ugly, so why not eat?" It is true that there are various medical causes of obesity, but they account for a small minority of obese people. For most people, obesity is a choice.

The notion that large soft drink sizes (as in New York) or large sizes of french fries or other fast foods cause us to be overweight is ridiculous. We each control what and when we eat. While those who smoke or are alcoholics may have the excuse of chemical dependence, those who consume excessive calories can make no such claim. Most of us enjoy eating. Some of us know when to stop. Oh yes, exercise helps, but that's another story. Obesity is a choice.

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The North Carolina House and Senate have agreed on a state budget for 2013-2015. The $20.6 billion state budget invests in core services, streamlines state government, strengthens public education, and grows North Carolina's economy. I would like to speak specifically to the education portion of the state government, since there have been so many "sky is falling" letters to the editor recently.

The bottom line is that this budget spends more on education than any other budget in North Carolina's history. It increases K-12 spending when compared to actual spending from 2011- 2013. The amount spent on education programs will increase by $400 million next year. Total spending on public schools, community colleges, and universities amounts to $11.5 billion (more than half the entire state budget) and of that, $7.9 billion will go to K-12 education. That is up from $7.7 billion spent last year (an increase of 2.1 percent) and the nearly $7.3 billion spent two years ago. I would also point out that this budget spends millions more on education than the last budget passed under Democrat control.

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This legislative session is finally over and our legislators are gone on vacation. I don't know of another period in history in North Carolina when so much damage has been done in so short a time. Senate Bill 387 makes charter schools boards independent of the State Board of Education. The N.C. Constitution, in Article IX, Section 5, gives the State Board of Education the power to "supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support." Since charter schools are public schools, any responsibility to authorize, oversee or approve belongs to the State Board as the constitutional authority over public schools. If they use tax money, then they should be considered public schools.

According to Article IX, Section 6, the NC Constitution requires that all money for public education should be "faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools." There is no extensive research proving that charter schools are doing a better job than public schools.

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