The Baltimore Sun

Vouchers open up opportunities

Opposing President Bush's school voucher plan, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick states, "We support public education because it is the crucible of our democracy" ("Vouchers revisited," Feb. 3).

In principle, I agree with this patriotic philosophy. However, one important clarification is needed: We must support quality public education.

And the sad truth is that in many big cities, including Baltimore, thousands of children are trapped in poor-performing public schools. Many of these students will fail their classes and drop out long before they graduate.

In such districts, families that are able to do so often send their children to private or parochial schools. Others move to another district, and still others resort to home schooling.

And a few students receive tuition assistance from nonprofit organizations such as Children's Scholarship Fund - Baltimore that give lower-income families scholarships so their children can attend the school of their choice.

The thousands of children without any of these options are left behind to suffer as they sustain this "crucible of democracy" while we struggle to correct its flaws.

Quality non-public schools raise the bar for all educators.

Voucher or scholarship programs for children to attend these schools can help provide the incentive needed to spur changes within the public school system.

These programs might not solve all the schools' problems, but it is a mistake just to dismiss them as diverting resources.

City children getting a quality education and graduating is the best possible use of our resources.

Paul Ellis


The writer is executive director of the Children's Scholarship Fund - Baltimore.

If politicians are concerned with raising achievement among children currently in government-run schools, one important thing they could do is to give parents the option to enroll their children in a private school of their choice.

This could be done, for example, by giving parents tax credits to be spent for their children's education.

The tax credits could be equivalent to what the government spends per student in its schools.

With tax credits in hand, parents would be able to shop around for the best private schools. They would be able to get their kids out of failing government-run schools and transfer them to schools they believe would give their children a much better education.

This freedom of choice would not guarantee a good education for their children (even private schools can do a poor job).

But it would at least give parents control over their children's education. And it would also put pressure on government-run schools to improve the quality of the education they provide.

David Holcberg

Irvine, Calif.

The writer is a media specialist for the Ayn Rand Institute.

Condoning speeding may imperil others

Michael Dresser's article "Up to speed" (Feb. 3) exposes the great variation in speed enforcement among Maryland jurisdictions.

In counties such as Montgomery County, police often write speeding tickets that cite speeds of one to nine miles over the posted limit when drivers were going far faster.

Why give them a mere slap on the wrist?

Cpl. Jimmy Robinson, a police spokesman, explained: "We are very proud of the caliber of the citizens" of Montgomery County. He deems it unfair to penalize such drivers with a three-point citation and a fine of hundreds of dollars.

Fair to the speeding drivers? How about to the other citizens of Montgomery County, whose lives are jeopardized by speeders? Is this policy fair to them?

Speeding is a major cause of crashes, especially fatal crashes. Speed increases the likelihood of a crash because a driver has less time to react.

In a crash, higher speed increases the severity of injuries and the chance of fatalities.

I hope counties that make a practice of trivializing speed infractions will begin to consider the rights of other road-users, who deserve protection.

Susan P. Baker


The writer is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Turbines help create renewable energy

I can't help but think that Constellation Energy Group CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III must have gotten a good chuckle reading in The Sun about opposition to wind power ("Mixed views of wind farms," Jan. 31).

Not only is his company threatening to sue Maryland ("Utility to sue Md. over credits," Jan. 31), but many Marylanders are opposing an alternative source of energy that could cut some of his company's profits.

We are not talking about strip mining a mountaintop or building a nuclear reactor in the middle of Garrett County.

So come on, Maryland, we need to wake up and join our neighboring states in taking the first steps toward becoming less dependent on non-renewable energy.

No, the 100 wind turbines won't solve the energy crisis we are facing. But we have to start somewhere. I'd gladly take a turbine in my backyard to help reduce my utility bill.

John Lantz


Leaders must help fight warming trend

My family and friends really hope that the General Assembly listens to state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky and Del. Kumar Barve and acts now to prevent some of the more devastating effects of global warming in Maryland by passing the Global Warming Solutions Act ("Why state must fight global warming now," Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 30).

With the lack of federal leadership on energy conservation and alternative energy, we could end up watching our shoreline recede and wildlife disappear as the Earth's temperature rises and the polar ice caps melt.

Grass-roots efforts for responsible energy use are springing up around the state, including the Climate Change Initiative of Howard County, the Environmental Coalition of the Howard County Citizens Association and the Alliance for Global Warming Solutions.

But we need continued leadership from Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Assembly to move us forward on a larger scale.

Elizabeth H. Singer


The writer is a former member of Howard County's Commission on the Environment and Sustainability.

Senator Clinton faces media bias

Given the media bias against her, it's a wonder that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has done as well as she has in the primaries.

This week, the media elite were giddy with predictions that Sen. Barack Obama was cutting sharply into Mrs. Clinton's lead in California and might win that primary. When it turned out Mrs. Clinton won by a significant margin, her victory was downplayed ("Calif. to Clinton," Feb. 6).

Her victory in the Massachusetts primary - which she won by a 15 percent margin despite the endorsement of Mr. Obama by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry - was similarly downplayed.

So I would ask a couple of questions:

First, does this illustrate what has often been said - that a woman must work much harder than a man does to prove herself?

And second, do we really have a democracy in this country when the mainstream media can get away with spinning so strongly in favor of one candidate over another?

Mary Toler


Anger at immigrants sullies campaign

It is amusing to see archconservative state Sens. Andy Harris and E. J. Pipkin calling each other "liberal" in their TV ads.

But it is truly frightening to see the growing use of political demagoguery to scapegoat immigrants and stir up resentment and fear of them.

This kind of rhetoric can easily escalate into ethnic strife such as we have seen in Bosnia, Rwanda and 1930s Germany.

Scapegoating of one group takes attention from real problems caused by systemic greed and misused power and appeals to the worst in listeners.

It pollutes the public dialogue and clouds the real issues in elections.

Denise Barker

Montgomery Village

Glad governor ended fight with Grasmick

I'm glad Gov. Martin O'Malley put on his big-boy pants and dealt with the situation with state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick ("Grasmick deal 'a nice exhale,'" Feb. 6).

Ms. Grasmick has performed her duties well.

And there is no need to change a state law regarding the way the superintendent is chosen that has been working well for many, many years.

As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Vivian Vann

Glen Burnie

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