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The Baltimore Sun

Give teachers input on school reform

Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.'s column on mayoral control of city schools lists several key points with which no one can disagree. Our schools do indeed require safety, integrity and fortitude ("Principles for a mayoral-controlled school system," Commentary, Sept. 8). Mr. Mitchell omits, however, two key factors necessary to make the Baltimore school system function effectively: financial resources and the input and involvement of educators.

As the only Maryland subdivision whose schools function under a partnership with the state, Baltimore schools receive an extra state subsidy of some $254 million and the mayor and City Council are required to maintain the school system under a specified master plan.

Serious consideration of a mayoral-controlled school system must address the way state law would be modified and how our schools would be affected financially.

It would also be a mistake for Mayor Sheila Dixon to believe she can simply impose changes in education policy and practice without serious involvement from those on the front line of the education process - teachers and paraprofessionals.

We've seen, in the controversy over teacher planning time, what happens when changes are attempted from the top down without any acknowledgment of the value of input from practitioners.

One can only imagine what other policies might be instituted without consulting those who actually have to implement them.

If indeed there are principles for a mayoral-controlled school system, first among them should be consultation with teachers, paraprofessionals and other members of the education staff.

Lorretta Johnson, Baltimore

The writer is president of the American Federation of Teachers of Maryland.

What if Social Security had been put in market?

After the financial meltdown on Monday, I dare anyone to suggest privatizing Social Security ever again ("Feds put their foot down," editorial, Sept. 16). We should count our blessings that this flawed concept never saw the light of day.

As I watch the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, I'm thankful that the financial sector never got its hands on the trillions of dollars in the Social Security trust fund.

More financial institutions are likely to falter, and the U.S. Treasury or the Federal Reserve may eventually seek more taxpayer-funded bailouts. But I am convinced anyone who suggests privatizing Social Security will be laughed out of the room.

What a disaster that would have been in light of the recent Wall Street debacles.

Rosalind Ellis, Baltimore

California tax pledge an idea to embrace

California is noted for setting some trends that have swept the country. Now it may have found a new one.

Monday's Baltimore Sun reports that the California legislature has reached a deal on a no-new-taxes state spending plan ("Calif. legislators reach deal on the budget plan," Sept. 15).

Who knows? That trend may even reach the Maryland legislature by January.

John Ray, Baltimore

Focus on solutions to save Market House

Last week, we once again witnessed more tenants vacating the Market House, leaving only three vendors in our historic treasure ("3 more vendors vacate Annapolis' Market House," Sept. 9).

The mayor blames Site Realty Group for poor management, and Site Realty blames the city for many of the problems. What a surprise.

While the blame game and litigation continue, we the people watch what seems like another act in a very long and tragic opera.

I was astounded at Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's quote in the Baltimore Sun last week, in which she stated, "Hopefully the manager of the market will get the message and do some things that will make sense to vendors" ("Arguing a future for Market House," Sept. 11).

The purpose of this letter is not to perpetuate the blame game, as that does not bring us any closer to a solution; however, I cannot help but marvel at this administration making such blanket statements given its history of mismanagement of this situation.

It is time to move beyond the finger-pointing, litigation and partisan bickering and focus on how we can save Market House and preserve the future of downtown businesses.

M. Scott Bowling, Annapolis

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