State Aid to Private Schools
Thank you for publishing Shaila R. Aery's April 13 column on behalf of continued state aid for private colleges and universities. This is a serious issue and it should be fully examined.
One of Dr. Aery's most valuable observations was to point out the naivete of those who assume the $25 million appropriation to private colleges and universities would automatically be transferred to public institutions. She is right in her assertion that all sorts of agencies and interests across the state would compete for these funds.
One cannot help feeling, however, that wherever that $25 million went, it would be going to a worthier source than the coffers of private schools.
Dr. Aery suggests that "most other states do not realize the value of private higher education and the importance of ensuring its viability." I never suspected that the state of North Carolina undervalued my alma mater, Duke University, despite the fact that North Carolina didn't give Duke a red cent; I just figured North Carolina expected a private school to be just that -- a private school, with private, independent sources of income.
That private schools contribute to the prosperity and well-being of the states in which they lie is unquestionable, but it is no more reason to put them in your annual budget than it would be to put McCormick's or Black and Decker in that budget.
Remember this about private schools: They don't charge in-state students a cent less in tuition and fees than they charge out-of-state students. Furthermore, many private colleges, in an
effort to create a broad geographical distribution in their student body, set higher standards for in-state applicants.
As Dr. Aery herself acknowledges, Maryland is indeed among a small number of states that fund private schools. Maryland is among the five most generous states in its funding of such schools; it's a lot further down the list in its funding of public schools, and it's slipping further down every year.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that public and private colleges don't play on a level field. When public schools go to this state's wealthiest sources of private revenue they are likely to be told that said sources only give to private schools. "My tax money goes to the public schools," many philanthropists say, unaware that it goes to private schools as well.
The result of this imbalance is inevitable and obvious: Maryland's private schools simply do not face the crises faced by its public schools. No one has been furloughed in the private schools. No one has missed a pay increase -- even a cost-of-living increase -- for the past three years at a private school. And, irony of ironies, no one has faced a state Board of Regents ultimatum to cut programs at a private college.
No one faces these threats at private colleges, because the state has nowhere near the degree of influence over such colleges as it has on the public schools. And that's exactly as it should be. But that independence should come at a cost.
Purely and simply put, private schools in Maryland ought to get their noses out of the public trough.
George S. Friedman
The writer is president of the AAUP/Faculty Association at Towson State University.
Comcast Charges Too Much For Too Little
The Sun and The Evening Sun are to be congratulated for their April 13 editorials pointing out the advantages to the consumer of competition in cable television. Having been a Comcast subscriber for 14 years, cable operators' duplicity and arrogance are legend around my house.
In Baltimore County, a package that includes "expanded" basic service, Home Team Sports and Disney (38 channels) costs $51.59 a month. "Expanded" basic costs $25.36, HTS $16.79 and Disney $9.44. That rounds out to $1.36 per channel per month.
Your editorial pointed out that the same package and more (53 channels, including HTS and Disney) costs $21.20 (40 cents per channel per month) in Anne Arundel County. The cost discrepancy stems from Comcast's monopoly in Baltimore County.
As any Comcast subscriber can attest, the more costly service leaves a lot to be desired. You get a faded-out picture on all channels (compared to my satellite dish), and a totally inadequate picture on others; e.g., the signal on WDCA (Washington Channel 20) is so bad that I watch the backhaul on the dish when a Caps game is on.
It almost always takes a wait of up to 30 minutes to reach the service desk, then the Comcast representative insists on coming into the caller's house first, usually in a few days, despite the fact that everybody on the street or even throughout the west side feed area has the same problem now.
As a hockey fan, I enjoy watching the Capitals' telecasts on HTS. HTS is turned on daily by a timer that is set, except for Sundays during the baseball season, to kick in at 3 p.m. However, the Caps sometimes play at noon (Super Bowl Sunday), at 1 or 1:30 p.m. (New Years Day and selected Sundays late in the season).
It's too much trouble for Comcast management to look at a schedule so they'll know when a game is on. I get the games on the satellite dish, but my neighbors who pay $16.39 a month for HTS can't.
If you spend the typical 30 minutes waiting on the phone for a live voice to respond, you're told there is no hockey game. Then you prove there is one by holding the phone so that the "supervisor" can hear the audio portion of the hockey broadcast, and it takes up to 90 minutes to get somebody to override the timer manually and turn on the game.
New Years Day 1991 I got to see the last 45 seconds of overtime after fighting with Comcast for more than an hour to get the game I had paid to see turned on. That's when I decided to get the satellite dish; it was much cheaper than a stroke.
Some years ago, the Baltimore County Council, in an misguided effort to spur expansion of cable service in the county, granted Comcast (then Caltech) a 25-year franchise that provided for no, or very little, county oversight -- in other words, a license to steal.
Rates have risen exponentially each year since. Last year, in perhaps the only thing it did right all year, the Congress overrode President Bush and passed a cable TV re-regulation bill that will soon allow, among other things, local jurisdictions to regulate cable TV. The FCC has already ordered a minor rollback of prices for systems like Comcast that have no competition.
Comcast subscribers in Baltimore County should call their council members and ask them to find a way to force Comcast to provide the same level of service as is available in Anne Arundel County for the same prices.
If Jones Intercable and North Arundel can make a profit charging reasonable prices, so can Comcast. Unfortunately, the council can't kick Comcast out of Baltimore County -- as it should -- but, by passing a few resolutions, it can make Comcast's management so miserable it will wish it could get out.
The void in a lucrative market like Baltimore County would be filled quickly and probably more cheaply.
Charles A. Frainie
If, as reported, Harvey Meyerhoff wishes the Holocaust Museum to belong to Americans, then bravo for him! Evidence of the Holocaust reminds us of past atrocities suffered by diverse peoples, including Christians and minority groups as well as Jews. The Holocaust Museum tells a symbolic message: The salvation of the world lies in man's humanity to man.
Mildred G. Blum
Although the replacement of Harvey Meyerhoff as council chairman of the Holocaust Museum has been explained, thought should be directed toward his successor, Miles Lerman.
The timing for Mr. Meyerhoff seems unfortunate, and it is hoped that his dedicated performance will not go unrecognized. The time, energy, money that he has donated to this project reflect the three generations of his family who have unstintingly provided philanthropy for the betterment of not only those in our area but also to humanity in other parts of the world.
What is disturbing is the direction that the museum might take. Mr. Meyerhoff has rightly emphasized the educational aspect. Mr. Lerner, a Holocaust survivor who lost members of his family there, might tend toward its importance as a memorial . . .
While memorials are important, such a limited purpose is non-productive. The Jewish people do not need such as exclusive feature as (heart-rending) testimony to the past. That past is seared in their minds and can never be erased. What is far more needed, and especially because it is on federal grounds, is an educational facility for our entire nation and
"Never to be forgotten" is the outstanding phrase of the Holocaust. Its corollary is, "It should never happen again." And to accomplish that, the on-going educational features should be highlighted. Man's inhumanity to man should always be studied, analyzed and work to be avoided.
. . It should be hoped that this museum would be a center for on-going seminars, international conferences and other programs. And that Mr. Meyerhoff's continuing presence as a
member of the council be promising.
J. G. Beck
Bravo for the strong and unequivocal supported offered the chairman of the Holocaust council in your April 9 editorial. The judgment that the firing of the chairman by the Clinton administration was insensitive, ungrateful and an example of incompetent government leaves no doubt as to who you believe was wronged.
The story of the events leading to the firing is told with such a sense of immediacy that the reader feels, then knows the spirit, the tireless effort, of the individuals whose leadership brought the museum into existence. The reader senses their hope that this spirit will prove transmissible and that their enthusiasm will infuse the museum. They hope it will help the museum become an institution that inspires the people who serve it so that they may in their turn inspire those they will serve long into the future.
The editorial was a description of how individual efforts and institution building come together. It was a tale that took for its meaning the fact that institutions, no matter how venerable they become, are essentially human endeavors.
This, of course, is why the story is so poignant. The injustice to the chairman reminds us what institution-building means to accomplish. It is the ultimate way we mortals reach out to those that come after to tell a tale signifying something. Everything in the editorial is heighted by this understanding of the nature of the creative impulse, of the glory of human over-reaching.
This insight is unfortunately clouded by the conclusion reached in the editorial. In the end, you neglect to call for an apology from one another, the truly human acknowledgment appropriate here. Instead, you conclude that in the long run the harm to the chairman is unimportant. Political ethics may be satisfied that behavior should be judged by results, but that standard seems inconsistent with the fervor of the editorial. It would be wonderful if, after the dedication you revisit this puzzling issue of the appropriate standard.
Statistics Show Racism, Plain and Simple
I noted with interest "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" (Opinion * Commentary April 16), in which Roger Conner expressed outrage over two studies our group released during the past year.
We, of course, stand by our findings that on an average day in 1992, 43 percent of the 18-to-35-year-old African-American males residing in the District of Columbia and 56 percent of those living in Baltimore were either in jail, prison, on probation or parole, or being sought by police.
These figures are consistent with a series of other studies from across the country, which demonstrate that the chances of a young black man negotiating the years between age 18 and 35 without being dragged into the criminal justice system are slim indeed -- 70 to 80 percent will be arrested and jailed at least briefly.
Mr. Conner's snide reference to "factoids" hardly undoes this sad reality -- one based not in serious or violent crime, but the result of law enforcement practices now so pervasive that one can only conclude that arresting young black males on mostly minor charges carries the force of an unspoken national policy and the psychological impact of a warped rite of passage. The effect has been to "criminalize" a substantial part of a generation of youths.
Mr. Conner's posturing aside, he specifically alleges that we "inflated the numerator," i.e., overestimated the number of Baltimore and D.C. residents caught up in the criminal justice system, by excluding suburbanites who come into the city to buy drugs.
His implication appears to be that a substantial percentage of those in the jails, prisons, on probation or parole in Baltimore and D.C. are in reality white suburbanites. May I suggest he take a tour of Baltimore jails and count them? They are indeed hard to find.
I cannot disagree with Mr. Conner that "half the tags in our most vibrant drug markets are from Maryland and Virginia." However, for reasons only too well known to inner-city residents, few of these mostly white offenders are processed through the criminal justice system.
Conversely however, a check of jail populations in the counties surrounding D.C. and Baltimore revealed that it was much more likely for young black men from the city to be held in neighboring county jails. We did not include them in compiling our statistics. Had we, the "inflated numerator" would have been considerably larger.
Mr. Conner also accuses us of "deflating the denominator" by not taking into account the Census Bureau's undercount of black men who reside in the cities.
In this case, its a matter of "damned if you do and damned if you don't." We used only those presently verifiable statistics. Even had we used the estimates of undercounts, they would have had minimal effect on the conclusions -- altering the 42 and 56 percent figures by no more than 2 to 3 percent -- a relatively insignificant difference.
Had we counted those Baltimore and D.C. residents confined in out-of-city county jails and detention centers, the differences would have likely been erased.
We have no quarrel with Mr. Conner's view that two-thirds of the young black men caught up in the criminal justice system are accused of lesser offenses. That is precisely our point. When it comes to arresting young black men, something else is going on beyond a simple response to street crime.
However, in a bizarre twist of logic, Mr. Conner suggests that our conclusion that there is "systemic racism" at work in the criminal justice system is misinformed in view of the fact that, among other things, "young black men in Washington are three times more likely to earn less than $15,000 annually."
What does Mr. Conner think systemic racism is about? We are certainly not suggesting that it is confined to the criminal justice system.
Mr. Conner accuses us of "comparing apples and oranges" when we point out that the drug war has been virtually totally focused in the black community -- with 80 to 90 percent of the arrests being young black men -- while 80 percent of drug usage is by whites.
He explains these disparities by noting that while most blacks are arrested for "sales," whites are arrested for "possession." He attributes this to the fact that whites sell in a private "referral marketplace" while blacks sell on street corners. He then blithely chalks up the gross racial disparities in arrests to "pragmatism, not racism." We see it as racism, plain and simple.
Finally, we have been particularly gratified by the response to our report from within the African-American community.
Curiously, the hue and cry has come mostly from white neo-conservatives, a group which designed the "lock 'em up" anti-crime strategies of the last decade and are now left to ponder and squirm over the effects of their handiwork.
No amount of semantic fog about "denominators" and "numerators" can obscure the racist patterns which now define criminal justice in America. May I suggest Mr. Conner leave his calculator and tour the Baltimore City Jail.
Jerome G. Miller
The writer is president of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.