Don't shortchange special education students who need...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Don't shortchange special education students who need help

Kalman Hettleman started out with a very good point in his article ("Special-ed funding isn't fair to all students," May 17). Since 1975, there have been laws that mandate a free, appropriate, public education for students with disabilities.

Mr. Hettleman's first line used the word "entitled." It would be real nice if all students received an appropriate education. Just because a student is entitled to an appropriate education, doesn't mean it always occurs. This is the reason for the special-ed lawsuit that Mr. Hettleman speaks of.

I wish that Mr. Hettleman were right that "federal law has been strictly enforced as a result of lawsuits brought by advocates for children with disabilities."

Many of these so-called "advocates" are parents of students with disabilities who had no choice but to challenge a system that truly didn't appear sincere in its quest to find programs for students with disabilities.

Many students, including my child, have been sent home with no program. Others were placed on waiting lists to be evaluated or placed into educational programs. What should these advocates" and parents do? I thought that Mr. Hettleman was an advocate himself.

Mr. Hettleman said the school systems have been "robbing regular students to pay for special education students." That is grossly untrue and seems to be Mr. Hettleman's attempt to ruffle the tail feathers of parents with "regular" students.

I believe that Mr. Hettleman was horribly insensitive when he used that statement because my child is a "regular" student. He goes to school every day and does classwork and other things students do. My child also has a severe disability.

Mr. Hettleman's insensitivity shows me where his loyalties really lie. Is he a mouthpiece for the school board, which appears to want all students with disabilities to go away? Is he merely trying to feather his own nest by playing regular education parents and students against special education parents and students.

What a way to be a real hero to the school board. Perhaps he can get more "educational consultant" jobs this way.

Mr. Hettleman should remember that but by the grace of God, he could be a parent of a student with a disability.

Robert A. Ward Sr.

Dundalk

I am the parent of twin daughters who are learning disabled, and I resent the implications by Kalman Hettleman ("Special-ed funding isn't fair to all students," May 17) in the Perspective section.

The article seems pretty confusing. If Mr. Hettleman is an educational consultant, who does he consult for? I pray that it is not Baltimore City Public Schools, the system that is supposed to provide an appropriate education to my daughters.

When he was a school board member, what did he do to ensure that special educational services were provided in an appropriate manner?

Nowhere in his rantings did Mr. Hettleman suggest instruction, the one thing that my children desperately need to succeed. Mr. Hettleman continually berates students, who are the victims in the politically driven nightmare of special education. It's easy for him to play judge and jury, but what happens to students who are forced through the system, unable to read, fill out a job application or do even the simplest of everyday tasks, like following a recipe because they can't read?

He uses the word "disadvantaged" in his tiring articles. Special-education students who are passed through a dysfunctional system often don't get high-paying jobs.

If my child had cancer or some other life-threatening medical problem, she would be far more costly to treat than someone healthy. Perhaps if the system got its act together and provided services students really need, such as a reading teacher, Mr. Hettleman could find a real cause -- like teaching students.

Diana Cook

Baltimore

People like Mr. Hettleman have far more opportunities to really make a difference in the lives of these students. He seems to have the ears of certain school board members. Perhaps Mr. Hettleman could make sure that students are identified correctly.

As an educational consultant, surely he knows of individuals or agencies that can properly identify the students' needs. The system doesn't appear to be able to do this. The system fails the students, spends more money and Johnny still can't read.

Perhaps Mr. Hettleman can find folks to teach children to read, as reading teachers seem to have disappeared. Many of Mr. Hettleman's associates are aware of programs that help students to overcome disabilities or learn things a different way.

Why cry about services that are costly, but ineffective? Parents and students do not identify disabilities or provide the services. Baltimore City Public Schools appears to be blaming parents and students for a job they can't or won't do.

Based on Mr. Hettleman's article, it appears that the system could save lots of money. All they need to do is get rid of "educational consultants" like him and spend money more wisely by hiring reading teachers and evaluators who know what a disability is and is not.

Valerie Chase-Little

Baltimore

Public housing should give shelter to the poor

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III asserts that advocates for the poor are confused about the purpose of public housing ("Public Housing Seeks Diversity," May 15).

We think it should house the those who can't otherwise afford housing. The many social service agencies that desperately seek affordable housing for the tens of thousands of Baltimoreans with with worst-case housing needs (those on the verge of eviction or already homeless) are eager to learn about alternatives. Very few seem to exist at present.

The commissioner also challenges us to ensure adequate funding for affordable housing. We seek opportunities to work with all those interested in ameliorating the affordable housing crisis. We offer some suggestions to the commissioner and others interested in this effort:

Urge members of Congress to adopt a fiscal 1999 Housing and Urban Development budget greater than the one proposed by the president, who would provide $14 billion for subsidized housing, less than half the amount available in 1980.

Ask senators and representatives if they supported the recent rescission of more than $2 billion in HUD dollars to pay for military spending.

Quiz prospective gubernatorial candidates on their willingness to increase the woeful amount of state dollars currently spent on affordable hosing.

Seek a commitment from local government to match dollars allocated to hotel construction with a similar sum for affordable housing.

Help expand the work of the People's Homesteading Group and other "sweat equity" programs to turn vacant houses into homes. Homeless individuals engaged in this work can learn useful skills.

There is certainly more than enough work for all of us in the struggle to provide "affordable housing that is decent, safe and sanitary." Policies that prevent homeless individuals from accessing subsidized housing merely make this job more arduous.

Jeff Singer

Baltimore

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Heath Care for the Homeless.

In his Opinion Commentary article "Public hosing seeks diversity," May 15, Daniel Henson states that the homeless "usually have problems beyond the lack of housing," such as unemployment, substance abuse and physical and mental health problems. He is correct about these difficulties, but his solution is dead wrong.

Why should homeless people with multiple problems have to waste their time in transitional housing when they could be adequately housed and receive transitional services? An alternative to "warehousing the poor" could be infusing some public housing with services to meet these needs on-site -- by using funds to provide addiction counselors, social workers and nurses.

A similar model, providing mental health services, case management and a food program already exists in Housing Authority of Baltimore City senior housing. It works nicely.

If the HABC "recognizes the need" to provide housing assistance to those in need, why not design the housing to meet the needs of the poor rather than creating barriers to keep them out?

Lauren Siegel

Baltimore

Slots would interfere with vibrant economy

Applying slot machine gambling to subsidize Maryland's schools will erode our state economy. This action diminishes the finite commodity of disposable income and diverts billions to the gambling industry and away from the traditional areas that make Maryland great. Among the areas affected would be the mountains of Western Maryland, Baltimore's many attractions, and the beautiful bays, beaches and the ocean of our Eastern Shore.

Through diversity, industries such as sales, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, service and technology form the solid foundation for a strong Maryland economy. Casinos and slot machines cannibalize much-needed revenue from these businesses. A sustained vital economy is realized through an aggregate of industries. Legalizing additional gambling activity is a strategy that would jeopardize sound industries contributing to our economic success; therefore it would be grossly irresponsible.

Four million Marylanders, and an additional four million visitors from other states choose to have family vacations in Ocean City. They chose Maryland over states offering slot machines and casino gambling. Let's keep it that way.

Maryland possesses strong, intelligent citizens and leadership. Shape our future by pursuing our goal of excellence in education while responsibly growing a stable, healthy state economy. This challenge is well within our grasp. Let's reach for the solution together.

James N. Mathias Jr.

Ocean City

Mr. Mathias is the mayor of Ocean City.

I am so sick and tired of the right-wing populace touting casino gambling as evil and destructive that I could scream. The fact of the matter is that the racing industry is going down the toilet in this state and unless something is done, it will soon disappear.

May I ask Gov. Parris N. Glendening what he thinks racetrack betting and the state lottery are? Has the state of Maryland gone to hell because of them? Of course not.

If you honestly believe that gambling of any kind is truly evil, then I have three words for you: Don't do it. But don't shove your beliefs down the rest of our throats.

Richard Bryan Crystal

Baltimore

Cartoon's memory of Sinatra was cheap shot at icon

I was stunned by the insensitive, unconscionable cartoon published on May 18 after Frank Sinatra's death. I've heard of kicking a man while he's down, but this sinks to a new low.

Mr. Sinatra, whose coffin was draped with the American flag because he received our country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, would spin in his grave if he could see your cheap, stereotypical cartoon.

"Ol' Blue Eyes" could arguably be considered the most influential performer of the 20th century. For more than 50 years, he has been the voice of American popular music. He truly, greatly enriched the lives of millions of Americans.

Throughout his life, he used his success to help less fortunate individuals. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charities, particularly those that aid children. It is reported that he bequeathed some $100 million to continue this work. President Clinton duly noted that Frank Sinatra dedicated himself to humanitarian causes.

Mr. Sinatra was also proud of his Italian roots. He was an icon in our community. He lived the American dream in its most classic sense: He was the son of immigrants who attained unparalleled success.

For The Sun to take a cheap swipe at Mr. Sinatra does a disservice to his memory and illustrates an unfortunate shortsightedness and ignorance that causes strife and furthers ethnic division in our society.

On behalf of Italian Americans and all Americans who love Frank Sinatra, shame on you. You can certainly do much better, but you can't do much worse.

Joseph R. Cerrell

Washington

The writer is chairman of the National Italian American Foundation.

Mike Lane's cartoon May 18, depicting Frank Sinatra's coffin being carried by gangster types proves Mark Antony's statement that the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. Too bad.

Betty White Garthe

Baltimore

Shame on The Sun for the cartoon on the editorial page May 18 concerning Frank Sinatra. Totally unnecessary. My respect for your paper and your so-called cartoonist has fallen to below zero.

I've stopped watching TV news, and I may have to stop reading the papers. Too bad.

Lucy Pickering

Baltimore

Just when you think Mike Lane can't be more mean-spirited, he proves you wrong. The cartoon he drew after Richard Nixon's funeral was an all-time low, so I thought. His cartoon of Frank Sinatra's death was unbelievably mean-spirited.

Much has been written about Frank Sinatra over the years. If one-fourth of it is true, he was surely no choirboy, even though God gave him the gift of a beautiful voice. He did not protect that gift as we would have liked.

God has given Mike Lane the gift of being able to draw. Is he abusing that gift? If you can't say something nice about someone when he dies, perhaps you need to be silent at the drawing board.

Where were the editorial page editors when this was submitted?

Myra S. Barlow

Parkville

Your cartoon in the May 18 editorial page was the ultimate in crudity. Why?

Ned W. Schoonover

North East

Perhaps if The Sun would have included a more complete obituary it wouldn't have been necessary for Mike Lane's cartton depicting Frank Sinatra's pallbearers as Mafioso. I welcomed it, and I don't see how showing something that was true so long ago is an insult to anyone. Mr. Sinatra was a wonderful entertainer. Like all of us, he had his downside.

Phyllis Sachs

Baltimore

The egregiously abominable and tasteless caricature of Frank Sinatra featured in The Sun May one day following his death and in the midst of family mourning and funeral planning, speaks to the basest of human behavior: insensitivity and hatred driven by jealousy.

The Sun in this instance manifested all the characteristics of a third-rate contender, rejoicing in a final triumph over the fallen hero in whose shadow he has spent his entire life.

All things, and certainly a person's life, must be taken and measured in their totality, The Sons of Italy Foundation was proud to honor Mr. Sinatra posthumously, with its 1998 Humanitarian Award on May 21. We did so on the basis of Mr. Sinatra's unquestioned, if quiet, generosity, wherein he has given or raised in excess of $1 billion for worthy causes.

On behalf of our half-million members, and the 26 million Italian Americans in the nation, we also celebrate Mr. Sinatra's life and phenomenal talent and achievements, the singularly innovative influence he has had on American music and popular culture, and, simply, the remarkable passion and zest he had for everything living. Indeed, to Italian Americans, Frank Sinatra epitomizes the tenacious, ongoing struggle to overcome life's trials and tribulations.

And there's so much more: For the record, Mr. Sinatra is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor our nation bestows on civilians; and of the Congressional Gold Medal, the Republic's oldest medal, pre-dating our Constitution and first given to George Washington. Mr. Sinatra is known for his academy award-winning role in the motion picture, "From Here to Eternity," but, even more significant, in the 1940s, he won an Oscar for the documentary, "The House I Live In," which espoused racial harmony and equity.

You have poorly served Italian Americans and yourself. You used the passing of a national treasure -- flaws and all -- as a gratuitous opportunity to mock and cause pain.

We condemn The Sun's surrender to its darker instincts in this instance. Sadly, it reflects the opposite of what, ultimately, Mr. Sinatra's life stood for: consistent excellence at the highest level, sustained over a six-decade career. For The Sun, it says one thing: third rate, at best.

Philip R. Piccigallo

Washington, D.C.

The writer is National Executive director of the Sons of Italy Foundation.

My letter is in reference to Mike Lane's reprehensible drawing in The Sun (cartoon, May 18), which depicts six stereotypical mobster-like characters carrying a coffin marked "FRANK." This is obviously Lane's crude attempt to associate mobsters with the deceased Frank Sinatra. I must remind Lane that Mr. Sinatra was never convicted of ties to organized crime.

Further, this drawling is insensitive and inconsiderate to Mr. Sinatra's family and friends. Lane should learn respect.

Richard Weber

Randallstown

Pub Date: 5/23/98

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