LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Towson needs a new school

As concerned parents of a Rodgers Forge Elementary School kindergartener, we would like to express our appreciation for The Sun's coverage of the overcrowding of Towson's schools ("Board decries political pressure," March 30).

It is becoming quite clear that County Executive James T. Smith Jr. (a lame-duck county executive) is more concerned with securing his own future as a state politician than with addressing the needs of his current constituents.

Rodgers Forge, Hampton, Stoneleigh and Riderwood elementary schools are 451 students over their total collective capacity.

Our son's school is intended to educate 396 students. But today, as a result of the dedication of its teachers and staff, more than 625 children are taught and cared for with energy, enthusiasm and professionalism at that school. The community is grateful for this, but we recognize that it shouldn't be this way.

It is abundantly clear that Towson requires an additional school to properly serve the increasing school-age population.

Just 30 years ago, the Towson area had six elementary schools, but then-dwindling student numbers dictated closing two of them.

Now, the demographic tide has turned, and Towson needs at least one school back - a real school, not tacked-on additions that demonstrate short-range thinking and fail to fully address the needs of our students.

Beth Foster Mike Foster

Baltimore

What is happening in Baltimore County? School board members tell The Sun they felt pressured by County Executive James T. Smith Jr. to vote for an addition at Ridge Ruxton School as the one and only possible measure to relieve school overcrowding.

Board members were allegedly told last month that if they didn't support an addition to Ridge Ruxton, a school for children with special needs, Mr. Smith wouldn't fund any other plan to relieve overcrowding, including building a new school.

Thankfully, school board members tabled the vote on Mr. Smith's plan, which has been criticized for its potential impact to Ridge Ruxton's medically fragile children.

But this atmosphere of political pressure cannot continue.

The county executive and school board need to act now and do what's best for our children - open a new elementary school in Towson.

Heather Benassi

Towson

The writer is the parent of two children at Rodgers Forge Elementary School.

As The Sun's excellent article "Board decries political pressure" makes clear, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is playing political hardball to prevent the county school system from building a much-needed elementary school in Towson.

Today, Towson-area public schools are 451 students over capacity, and that number is only expected to grow in the coming years.

We don't need cheap, patchwork additions to existing schools. What we need is a new elementary school.

But, sadly, Mr. Smith is shirking his responsibility to provide effective leadership for all the people of Baltimore County, even its youngest.

Brian W. Simpson

Towson

The neighborhoods of the Towson area are some of the most desirable, stable and prosperous neighborhoods available to middle- and upper-middle-income families in the entire state. But if the overcrowding problems at our schools are not corrected, the neighborhoods will not continue to be so desirable.

The county executive needs to stop playing politics with our children's education.

My family has recently been given a new, higher tax assessment for living in Towson.

We deserve to have our tax dollars reinvested to strengthen our communities.

Dod Poe

Towson

Liquor lobby power influences our laws

Thank you for the article "Liquor lobby holds strong" (March 30). It is time that this special-interest group's power was exposed.

Despite their protestations to the contrary, it is obvious that some legislators' votes are influenced by campaign contributions from this lobby, especially when they support contradictory positions that favor the interests of this industry.

On one hand, the lobby argues that Internet wine sales will promote underage drinking (although studies show that in states allowing Internet sales, this is not the case) but, on the other hand, it argues for lowering the tax on sugary alcohol products and allowing wider marketing of them, which would make them more available to underage drinkers.

But the liquor lobby apparently can have it both ways - as long as it pumps in the campaign money.

Lamont Heppe

Pasadena

Thanks to The Sun for keeping the public informed about the stranglehold the liquor lobby apparently has on some elected officials.

I applaud The Sun for keeping this topic in the public eye and for publishing the list of the top 10 recipients of alcohol-industry money in the Assembly.

The transaction involved here is obvious. And, to add insult to injury, several legislators on key committees own bars and won't admit to a conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Marylanders face rising taxes as the liquor industry stuffs the campaign war chests of elected officials.

Geri Schlenoff

Towson

Immigration study just ducks the issue

Our representatives in Annapolis have done it again: Instead of passing legislation that addresses the issue of illegal immigrants receiving tax-funded benefits, they voted for another study to be conducted ("Panel to study immigration OK'd," March 25).

This is just another example of our representatives being gutless about making the tough decisions they were elected to make.

Since benefits such as public housing, food aid and in-state tuition are funded by our tax dollars, I have no problem with a requirement that someone prove his or her citizenship to receive such benefits.

Conducting another study is just taking the easy way out.

John Wilin

Towson

Practicing on pigs protects human life

I disagree with those who wish to stop the use of pigs in surgical training ("M.D. group protests Hopkins' use of pigs," March 27).

Medical errors remain a leading cause of death and injury at hospitals nationwide. By some estimates, there are 225,000 deaths per year from iatrogenic causes; this makes medical errors the third-leading cause of death in the United States, after deaths from heart disease and cancer.

Doctors kill more patients than automobile accidents (42,000) or murder (100,000).

We should encourage medical schools to use any measure that can improve our chances of surviving a hospital stay.

Surely preserving human lives should weigh more heavily in the scheme of things than the lives of pigs.

K. Gary Ambridge

Bel Air

Better ways to learn than by cutting pigs

As a physician, I see no reason why the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine should continue to conduct training on live animals ("M.D. group protests Hopkins' use of pigs," March 27).

The American College of Surgeons no longer uses live animals in any of its own education programs or training exercises.

Medical students can learn technical and teamwork skills by practicing on suturing and laparoscopy trainers and using other simulation-based methods to prepare for their operating room experiences.

This is how students at most medical schools around the country learn. And schools like Duke University and Harvard Medical School continue to produce top-notch doctors without using live animals.

Cutting into live, anesthetized animals is simply not a logical way to teach the basics of human surgery or of any other medical specialty - especially given all the educationally effective and humane teaching tools now available.

Dr. Marion Balsam

Bethesda

Apathetic students didn't cause the war

I find it interesting that Dan Rodricks all but accuses 20-somethings of being somehow responsible for the unending war on Iraq. ("Spring break or bleak spring," March 20)

After all, college students are among what Mr. Rodricks calls "the elites who have sat this one out."

Mr. Rodricks should lighten up on the college students.

Most young people are chiefly concerned with their day-to-day lives. Some are activists trying to end this endless war; some are less involved politically.

But I would point out that the volunteer military, and the American people, have been lied to by politicians and generals about the nature and necessity of the pointless invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.

Would the war become justifiable if a broader cross-section of the population were involved in the carnage?

Would reviving the military draft somehow fix the inequities in our society?

No, that would involve doing things like paying all civilian workers a living wage and providing all Americans with single-payer health care.

And if we really wish to honor those who have joined the military, provide them with decent pay and benefits - and the truth about the mission they've been asked to perform - it is the architects and supporters of this war who need to be held accountable for doing so, not college students.

Lee Lears

Annapolis

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