Elected school boards have to listen
I have been and continue to be a proponent of an elected school board. An elected school board is part of the democratic process.
Although I have had doubts about elected school boards in general -- the recent war of words in Baltimore County, for example, -- Anne Arundel County has solidified my belief beyond any shadow of doubt.
Michael K. Burns' article "The compelling argument for elected school boards" (Other Voices, June 24) proves my point. Mr. Burns, an editorial writer for The Baltimore Sun, has brought forth a compelling, realistic argument for elected school boards.
Mr. Burns debunks the concept that appointed school boards are nonpolitical. For example, he writes that in Maryland the governor has the final say over school boards -- even though he may know very little about the appointees.
Further, with localities paying 60 percent or more of their school budgets, the time has come to have people responsible for school policy respond to the demands of their communities. Mr. Burns makes clear that appointed boards are political, that they have autonomous power and that they may not reflect the needs of the community.
The Baltimore County school board and superintendent are not reflecting the concerns of their community. In Anne Arundel County, the school board at first turned a deaf ear to the community when reports surfaced that teachers had sexually harassed students. An elected school board in either of these counties certainly could do no worse than the present appointed school boards.
ohn A. Micklos
Life goes on
Maybe we shouldn't be so ready to criticize the state troopers observed tending the gubernatorial greenery.
True, the troopers were gardening on state time with their backs to the governor, the man they were being paid to protect. But they did not open fire on him, or, for that matter, on any of the shrubs.
Considering some of the trigger-happy incidents our law enforcement officers have been involved in lately, their show of self-restraint deserves some recognition.
rank W. Soltis
Several weeks ago, on the Other Voices page, there was an article by Craig B. Schulze from Silver Spring about his childhood friend -- his brother -- dying of AIDS.
Every time I read the end of it, I get goose bumps, a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.
Several others who have read it agree that it is a beautiful and moving tribute.
Thanks for publishing it, and thanks to Craig Schulze for opening his heart and sharing his love for his brother. I hope it softened a few hearts along the way.
Patricia A. Hurley
Not too cool
Regarding your June 21 editorial, "Chill out, Forgers," it is my opinion that we should take crime seriously.
Neighborhoods are becoming battlegrounds. They are no longer idyllic places where one can keep one's doors unlocked.
No longer can one walk through a park late at night. No longer do police officers walk a beat in every neighborhood. No longer can one feel safe in and around his or her home.
To claim that a neighborhood is "usually safe" or that it is "not that bad" does not address the problem. The problem is that crime has reached epidemic proportions, and Baltimore is right there in the thick of it.
No neighborhood is immune to crime. Regardless of the amount or degree of crime in any area, to downplay its effect will only lead to desensitization.
Crime is our nation's black eye. Unless effective measures are taken to address this problem, everyone will be at the mercy of villains, rapists and murderers.
I say act up and be a squeaky wheel. Only then will crime be taken seriously and adequate measures be taken.
Name's the same
Regarding Mike Royko's commentary endorsing the nicely bound, $34.50 "same name" books ("A fascinating glance at the origins of a family," June 23), these volumes may not be a scam, but the pitch to buy them can be misleading.
The books are composed of computer-generated name and address lists of people with your last name. The promotional letter Royko quotes does little to inform the buyer that these books are not complete family histories.
In addition to the computer list, they merely include "how-to" type information on genealogy, a marketing practice that I believe is deceptive and adds to the confusion.
I have found these books to be of limited use in identifying one's relatives. Same-name books can be interesting, but know what you are getting if you spend the $34.50.
As an amateur genealogist, I feel that nothing replaces the long and very satisfying process of doing the research oneself.
Money won't fix education problems
Public education in this country isn't working, and yet it continues to take more and more of the taxpayers' money, handed out by vote-seeking, timid politicians afraid to eyeball the status quo-protecting, so-called educators and demand of them the return we expect from our involuntary investment in what seems to be just a huge money machine.
Educators dance all around the real problems. Change the grading. Lengthen the school year. Put uniforms on the students. Reduce class size another notch. As for the latter, Japan turns out literate high school graduates who have known average class sizes of 45 students per teacher.
Despite the sometimes vicious stone-walling of the public education lobby, with its verbose and threatening teacher unions out in front, things are a-changin' over much protesting of every little step taken.
Baltimore has Tesseract, and early signs please city School Superintendent Walter Amprey. Dr. Amprey departed Baltimore County for the city and that loss may prove to be far more serious than first thought.
But Baltimore City isn't the only jurisdiction changing its approach to public education. The tide is sweeping across the entire nation. High tech is in the vanguard, followed by privatization and voucher choice. Literate high school graduates are our goal, and the push to that end can be slowed but temporarily.
But let me get to 53 versus 47 percent and what it means, and it means "good".
Take a trip with me to our famed dairy state, Wisconsin.
It has been reliably reported that a female Shakespearean public school teacher there coveted the job of state superintendent of schools and so ran for the office. She didn't choose the wrong platform on which to run, just the one unpopular with the status quoer's of the state's educational bureaucracy.
Guess what. She lost, but only by the six measly percentage points that separate 53 from 47. Know what this brave lady's platform was? Genuine school choice by voucher as between public and private schools. Considering what she wanted and the roughness of her opposition, the losing margin was almost victory.
Let me quickly cite what this poor woman was up against.
A local school superintendent, backed by a bevy of howling teacher union members, led the charge. (So what's new?) The most powerful of these unions, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, allegedly poured an estimated $200,000 into the fray. Spurious ads began to appear, like this one: "[The lady's name] wants to use your tax dollars to help rich parents pay tuition at private schools."
Her opposition further charged that it cost $450 million dollars a year to send Wisconsin kids to private schools, and if this "choice" candidate were to win, property taxes would have to be increased by this same amount, when actually the taxpayers would save a lot of money because vouchers cover only a portion of private school tuition and private schools produce their products for just about half the cost of a typical public school.
This narrowing of the gap between those who want change for the sake of literacy, and those who want the fat-cat, non-performing system to remain in place is good news to be sure.
By the way, have you seen the latest public school national performance ratings recently published? Maryland rates ninth in the country in how much it spends per year per pupil, $6,184, while it ranks 32nd and 25th, respectively, in SAT and NAEP test scores.
Want to know what last place Utah spends per pupil? Only $2,993. Want to know its test score rankings? Fourth in the nation on SATs and eighth in the nation for NAEPs. So money's the answer, is it?
William L. Lickle Jr.