Should state funds purchase textbooks for private schools?
As a public school teacher, it is disappointing to see desperately needed funds diverted to schools that are subsidized by private funds ("State aid should go to public schools first," editorial, March 27).
Unlike private schools, public schools depend on tax dollars to survive. And it is difficult to develop educated and well-prepared students when no funds are available to replace out-of-date textbooks, add to the school library or even offer the basic comfort of heat in the winter.
Computers that are older than the students are no real use. Classrooms with broken desks and seats are not conducive to learning.
Begging for basic supplies, such as pencils and paper (many of which are paid for out of teachers' own pockets) should not be necessary.
Six million dollars may not seem like much compared to the school budget.
However, if it paid for one computer, two sets of textbooks, and three new reference books for each public school, wouldn't we be serving the greater number of students and working toward our goals of education and preparation?
I, for one, think so.
The writer is a teacher in the Baltimore County public schools.
As I read with dismay that the Maryland House and Senate approved $6 million of state funds to buy textbooks for private and parochial schools, a question came to mind: How many senators and delegates send or have sent their children to our public schools, where more than a few students go without current materials or a book to take home?
Perhaps The Sun could do some research or survey our legislators? The results might help explain why elected officials voted as they did.
As a staunch supporter of public education and the separation of church and state, I normally say, "amen" to strictly prioritizing public funds for public schools.
But now I have relaxed a bit on the issue and am in favor of a one-shot $6 million textbook deal for the state's private school students.
One reason for this is that many private school students are financially strapped refugees from our public schools.
And how about the money city schools have wasted developing systems to keep track of school business ("$5.2 million contract to cost $7.4 million," March 29).
Evidently, managing this information properly can be as elusive as raising reading levels.
One can't predict the cost-effectiveness of deals to upgrade city schools' computer systems.
But one can fully expect a worthwhile educational return from one $6 million textbook gesture for Maryland's private school students.
Gov. Bush's record shows he can reform education
As an undecided yet informed young voter, I was disturbed to read The Sun's article "Validity of Texas tests questioned" (March 28). Reporter Jonathan Weisman compares apples and oranges with his data from state and national tests.
The Test of Academic Achievement Skills (TAAS) is an exam based on the school curriculum.
Texas' Hispanic and African-Americans students have made a huge leap on this test during the five years George W. Bush has been governor.
Mr. Weisman shows that Texas' SAT scores in public schools have failed to rise as dramatically as the TAAS scores. But this is not because of a poor education system, but because the SAT is not part of the state curriculum.
National examinations, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), as many people know, are culturally biased. SAT questions are geared to college-bound, suburban, white students.
Students can become productive citizens without doing well on the SAT, but not without a basic education.
As a senior attending public high school in Catonsville, I see how much improvement is needed in our education system. I wish we had a governor such as Mr. Bush to bring about much-needed reform.
David Emil Schwartz
'Core Knowledge' works at Catonsville Elementary
I was surprised that Mike Bowler's article "Getting the facts about education" (March 29) overlooked Catonsville Elementary School, which began implementing "Core Knowledge" in 1994.
Since that time the school's composite index, a measure of student performance in the six content areas assessed on the MSPAP test has increased from 41 percent in 1994 to 70.9 percent in 1999.
This achievement demonstrates another example of how "Core Knowledge" compliments MSPAP.
The consistent success of Catonsville Elementary's talented staff and hardworking students should have been recognized in Mr. Bowler's article.
The writer was principal of Catonsville Elementary School from 1993-1997.
Milk doesn't do bodies much good I'd like to thank The Sun for publishing Milton Mills' column, "Got Milk? You may wipe off that mustache," (Opinion Commentary, March 28)
Growing evidence supports Dr. Mills' conclusion that the increased intake of animal protein that comes with the calcium in dairy products is associated with higher rates of bone disease and osteoporosis.
Evidence shows people in countries that consume the most dairy products also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. The risk of osteoporosis can be decreased by reducing sodium and animal protein in one's diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, exercising and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as leafy green vegetables.
The National Dairy Council has invested a lot of money to make people believe "milk does a body good."
But since other sources of calcium lack the risks of dairy products, this seems more like a marketing slogan than sound nutritional advice.
It's wrong for Gore to use Elian to win votes
I really feel Vice President Al Gore should not have made his unfortunately timid decision about the little boy, Elian Gonzalez ("Let him stay, Gore says of Cuban boy," March 31).
It really looks like little Elian is a political football for the vice president to obtain votes in Florida.
The boy should be with his dad.
Judge Grimm deserves credit for highway settlement
I noticed with interest The Sun's reporting of the agreement settling the dispute between residents of the Jersey Heights community in Salisbury and state and federal highway officials on the long-proposed U.S. Route 50 bypass ("Deal clears way for bypass," March 22).
Certainly, all the parties mentioned in the article deserve credit for their ability to reach an amicable settlement.
I wish, however, to point out that Judge Paul W. Grimm of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland served as an indispensable catalyst in bringing about the settlement of this case, for which he should receive public credit.
Frederic N. Smalkin
The writer is a federal district court judge.