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Probe confronts key issues for state employees

In his column "Firing probe starts calmly; let's see if that lasts" (Aug. 23), Michael Olesker discussed a meeting of the state legislature's Special Committee on State Employee Rights and Protections, and Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus' objections to the testimony of terminated state employees.

Mr. Stoltzfus said he was "concerned about the emotional appeal of people who have been terminated, and coming in here." He further said, "We don't want a freak show."

This statement is an incredible slap in the face to hundreds of state employees who have had their positions eliminated without cause.

Many of these employees dedicated years of service to the state and received exemplary evaluations. They are not "freaks."

It is in the public interest to ensure that state employees are hired and fired based on merit, not politics.

After all, state employees serve the citizens of Maryland from morning to night. State employees make sure state roads are passable in the snow, that drinking water is pure, that elevators meet standards, that inmates are secure and that those in need receive vital social, psychological and other services.

Unfortunately, the "merit" in the state's merit system has eroded significantly in recent years.

Because of changes in the law, state employees can be summarily terminated when funding for a position is eliminated by the governor or the legislature. Job performance and seniority are not even considered. In addition, more than 6,000 nonmanagement employees have become classified as "special appointments," making them, in effect, permanently "at will" employees who are on probation.

The work of the Special Committee on Employee Rights and Protections is important and deserves serious consideration.

If employees are emotional because they have been thrown away by an unfair system, so be it.

Ron Bailey


The writer is executive director of AFSCME Council 92.

Maryland impedes charter alternatives

Gina Davis was correct in describing Maryland's charter school law as "tightly" written, but failed to reinforce that point when she stated, "Charter schools, by contrast, have been slow to take hold in Maryland" ("Teachers' school of thought is foundation of new facility," Aug. 26).

Maryland's charter law received a D from the Center for Education Reform for the total lack of flexibility and independence it affords school operators.

And it's not that charter schools have been slow to "catch on" or "take hold." It's that charter schools have been thwarted in almost every corner of Maryland.

Efforts to start charters in Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Montgomery, Prince George's and other counties have been turned down by local school boards, which have the final say.

The schools that are opening now are opening against all odds.

Maryland parents are clamoring for options, and the Sun's article on the new North Carroll Community School underscores the desire to deliver just that to Maryland's kids.

Jeanne Allen


The writer is president of the Center for Education Reform.

What can Bush know of military sacrifice?

The distasteful hypocrisy of President Bush and the rest of the war-supporting Republicans knows no bounds.

This "war-time" president offers up Tammy Pruett as a shining example of patriotism because she is ready and willing to allow her entire family to sacrifice itself for his "noble cause" ("Bush quotes military mother on war," Aug. 25).

If the cause is so noble, why aren't the president's daughters leading the march of all the children of pro-war elected officials to the nearest military recruiting office?

And if I were the parent of a soldier serving in Iraq, I would be incensed by Mr. Bush's comment: "There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war." How would he know? His daughters aren't going. He didn't even go himself.

Rob Lance


Settlers didn't belong in Gaza in first place

As I watched the Israeli evacuation of Gaza, I felt compassion for the Israeli families who had to leave the homes in which they have lived for a number of years and see them torn down. I also felt sorry for the Israeli soldiers who had the job of evacuating them and suffered much verbal and physical abuse.

But I found myself also disturbed by the fact that, at least for the first few days, little was said about the Palestinians who were forced out of their homes in a similar way some years ago.

Thousands of Palestinians have been homeless for a very long time - without much news coverage of that fact.

I was very much gratified, therefore, by G. Jefferson Price III's column "Images of life in Gaza reveal reasons behind lingering tensions" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 23), which I believe offered a fair picture of what has happened in Gaza.

And I believe the Israeli settlers who built their homes in Gaza should never have been allowed to do so.

Jack Mote


Israel must keep its borders secure

Trudy Rubin's column "To show good faith, let Palestinian goods flow across border" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 26) is an example of fuzzy thinking.

Israel is a sovereign state entitled to inspect goods crossing its borders. Given the record of smuggling by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel has an absolute responsibility to its citizens to inspect all goods crossing its borders.

The avowed policy of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah is Israel's destruction. Allowing these organizations to transmit goods without inspection would be the same as handing them a gun.

Josef E. Rosenblatt


Dictatorship works very badly in China

I was deeply distressed to read Gary Hogan's column "In China, democracy equals disaster" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 29).

He skips over the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution without noting that they took millions of Chinese lives.

It is highly doubtful that a democratically elected Chinese government would have embarked on such policies, yet Mr. Hogan argues that communist authoritarianism "works for China."

Mr. Hogan's logic leaves a lot to be desired.

Robert O. Freedman


The writer is a professor of political science at Baltimore Hebrew University.

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