The Baltimore Sun

Although I am a graduate of Catholic schools, I oppose any form of tax aid to faith-based schools ("Catholic schools in dire straits," Dec. 5).

In referendums held in 1972 and 1974, Maryland voters rejected even minor forms of tax aid to faith-based schools, and millions of voters in 25 referenda from coast to coast have defeated proposals for public assistance to faith-based schools.

Tax aid to faith-based schools pays for separating kids by religion in institutions that discriminate in admissions and hiring in ways that would not be tolerated in public schools.

In this recession, the General Assembly would do well just to support public schools. It must not divert education funds to non-public schools.

Edd Doerr, Silver Spring

The writer is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.

I was taught by nuns from first grade through 12th grade. The principals in my schools were also nuns. My brother was taught first by nuns, then by Christian Brothers in high school.

But now Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien is convening "a summit of priests ... to consider innovative ways to combat the continuing decline in enrollment" in Catholic schools. What's wrong with this picture?

Except for priests teaching at the university level, Catholic school teachers are overwhelmingly female, including both nuns and lay teachers. But an all-male meeting of priests will meet to discuss the problem. This is one more example, among dozens I could cite, of how the Catholic Church demeans women and dismisses their importance to education and the ministry.

Maureen Mullen Dove, Baltimore

I was struck by an omission in an otherwise balanced article about declining enrollment in parochial schools: The article "Catholic schools in dire straits" (Dec. 5) made no mention of the church's ongoing child sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

Surely, more than a few parents are refusing to send their kids to Catholic institutions in an archdiocese that still opts for secrecy instead of openness and recklessness instead of prudence.

The recent scandal surrounding accused molester Father Fernando Cristancho is the latest sad example of this continuing problem.

No one likes to see any school suffer. But no one should gloss over long-standing illegal and immoral actions that no doubt contribute to this suffering.

Barbara Dorris, St. Louis, Mo.

The writer is outreach coordinator for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

The article "Catholic schools in dire straits" mentions that the archdiocese will consider solutions such as school closings to remedy a 5 percent drop in enrollment in area Catholic schools.

A study completed last year by the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., indicates that when any number of parochial schools close or are consolidated in an area, the overall enrollment in the diocese drops by more than 5 percent as parents choose public schools over the upheaval that a school closing puts families through.

Closing Catholic schools may be a way to cut costs, but it appears only to exacerbate the problem of declining enrollment.

Daniel A. Kuc, Baltimore

The article "Catholic schools in dire straits" (Dec. 5) quotes Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien as stating that the archdiocese will probably seek school aid from the General Assembly in its next session. However, before private secular schools ask for more public money, they must change the model they use. I believe that before accepting public funds, every private school must agree to:

* Accept every child who applies and keep this child for as long as his or her parents wish.

* Provide every service mandated by law to every child enrolled, including all special-needs students.

* Be held accountable for all student performance using all state-mandated tests.

* Teach a Maryland State Department of Education-approved curriculum.

* Require that all teachers and administrators hold every license and degree required of public educators.

Private schools cannot expect both to get public funds and to retain the ability to cherry-pick students. Parents deserve the right to choose a private education, but they cannot expect the rest of us state taxpayers to pay for it.

K. Gary Ambridge, Bel Air

The writer is a retired Baltimore schoolteacher.

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