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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Deficit morass may ruin gains of city schools

The current plight of the Baltimore public schools raises fundamental questions about the degree of oversight and direction provided by the city school board and the administration of the previous city schools CEO and her staff ("Schools deal may hinge on state funding," Feb. 16).

As the state increased its role in the management of the city school system and as the leadership positions changed to reflect a more businesslike organizational structure, student achievement improved, particularly in the lower grades.

There was progress, albeit measured, and there was renewed optimism that maybe, at long last, the system was on the verge of a promised renaissance.

However, the $58 million budget deficit and resulting layoffs of noninstructional staff and threatened layoffs of the teachers who are the backbone of the city schools will have a profound negative impact on city schools.

Clearly, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is correct to undertake a thorough investigation to understand when and how this deficit occurred.

Where was the school board when this deficit first reared its ugly head? Where were the previous schools CEO and chief financial officer when this problem began to develop? Why were steps not taken early on to address the deficit?

And, ultimately, who is to be held accountable for the gross mismanagement that has brought the city school system to a financial morass that threatens to undermine all the gains of recent years?

Robert L. Walker

Pasadena

The writer is a former president of the Baltimore school board.

Administrators cause city schools deficit

I know that The Sun's position is that the Baltimore teachers should have accepted pay cuts to help resolve a financial problem within the school system they work in, but I wonder why the editorial board should take such a narrow view ("Pitching in," editorial, Feb. 15).

The Baltimore school system is controlled by both the city and state governments, which are funded by and represent the citizens of this city and state. So why should city teachers be the only citizens who have to pay to resolve this problem? Why not cut the pay of every policeman, fireman and other civil servant, not only in Baltimore but across the whole state?

If that doesn't create enough money to erase the deficit, why not impose a tax on every citizen of Baltimore and Maryland to help solve the problem? What? Do I hear people saying that they didn't cause the problem and they shouldn't have to pay to fix it?

Well, that's exactly what we, the teachers of Baltimore, said in our vote Thursday and what we will continue to say until the inept, irresponsible and perhaps criminal decision-makers in this school system, both past and present, are taken to task for the mess they have made of an already struggling system.

Jason M. White

Baltimore

Mayor must confront city's selfish teachers

I don't know which is more frustrating, the self-serving vote conducted by the Baltimore Teachers Union which put 1,200 of their colleagues in harm's way or the behavior of Mayor Martin O'Malley, who usually has all the answers but is now attempting to abdicate his responsibility in this matter to the state ("Schools to get state money, Ehrlich says," Feb. 17).

The selfish vote by the teachers' union shows blatant disregard for the well-being of the students of Baltimore.

And after spending nearly five years as the city's chief executive, one would think Mr. O'Malley would have demanded accountability from the school system by now.

A state bailout will not fix this problem. The mayor needs to stand up to the teachers' union and demand systematic reforms in the city's school system.

Sean M. McGraw

Odenton

Grasmick deserves onus for school woes

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick needs to be accountable for the mistakes committed since the state took over the city school system in 1997. It is her lack of judgment that has caused this deficit ("Schools to get state money, Ehrlich says," Feb. 17).

In sports, whenever anything happens with a team or franchise, the coach is held accountable. Ms. Grasmick has been head of state schools since the state took authority over city schools. Why hasn't anyone questioned the actions that she has and has not taken?

It is time for a re-evaluation of not only of the city school board but of Ms. Grasmick herself.

Delke Crouthamel

Catonsville

School board needs some business sense

The Sun's photo (Feb. 11), of the W.E.B. DuBois High School teacher at North Avenue with her sign: "Wanted: New School Board" surely struck a chord with me.

For years, I have exasperated my friends and relatives with my relentless criticism of the fabulous waste in the Baltimore school system, especially the gross overstaffing at North Avenue.

So the partial axing of the inflated North Avenue bureaucracy, following the recent spate of huge headlines about deficits was a good start. But the teacher in the photo is right: We need a board whose members can set priorities, recognize profligate waste and relate to serious negative cash flow before it becomes a disaster.

I know, their job is not just about saving money. It's about educating children. But to do the job requires cash to pay the best people to do the best job in the best way.

Baltimore could afford to do this, but its pockets are not bottomless.

If it continues to squander its money for education, the job won't get done, and the children will be the sacrificial lambs.

It's a simple business proposition. So let's get some people with good business sense on the board.

Jack Wickham

Glen Arm

No reason to rescue city schools system

Why is everyone so intent on prolonging and saving the collapsing Baltimore school system ("Schools to get state money, Ehrlich says," Feb. 17)?

The current system is an abysmal failure. And yet, the clamoring to spend more good money after bad to keep the failing system on life support is deafening.

We are witnessing the expected knee-jerk reaction of the unions and local politicos who are trying to save face and preserve their self-interest with little regard for the real victims -- the 90,000 students who have been robbed of learning opportunities.

The time has come to admit with honesty and chagrin that we are working under a fatally flawed model of educating Baltimore's children and we have lost nearly a generation of young minds to horrible mismanagement. We cannot get that back -- or quantify the impact that it has on our community.

This crisis demands a complete recasting of what public education means.

The current system is so far afield from the true mission of compulsory education that it would be more effective to shut it down, revamp it and start anew.

Peter Shafer

Baltimore

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