ALTHOUGH the recently released state "report card" on Baltimore schools is cause for worry, I remain committed to public education with my involvement, with my taxes and, most important, by entrusting my daughter's education to Mount Washington Elementary School.
I am an alumna of city schools, and I know that some of what has been most critical to my development was the experience of diversity that those years provided me. I want my daughter to know that experience, too.
The recent announcement of the closing of schools in Baltimore for a week in February is most dismaying. The ideal, and I hope it is not simply rhetoric, that Mayor Schmoke has repeated often -- the emphasis on educational excellence -- is sadly abandoned when education is seen as even partially expendable.
The current economic crisis requires not only drastic but fundamentally different measures from those of the past. I work as a therapist in a sexual assault center which operates principally on public funding, and of course, my job and the services I provide are on shaky ground now.
The point is that we are responding to the economic crisis by trying to cut the very fabric of our humanity. Only a rational, equitable, total revamping of the system of taxation will address the deficit in a meaningful and sustaining way. Cutting into any of those structures that provide sustenance and nurture for our children and our future -- and all citizens of Baltimore represent its children and its future -- is suicide.
All citizen services are interrelated, and to diminish one and imagine that the effects will not reverberate is folly. For example, the closing of the schools will certainly mean lost wages or increased child-care costs for parents, lost wages for school personnel and, most disturbing, increased risk of harm to unsupervised children whose parents cannot or will not provide care during the furlough week.
These costs are paid in part with the same currency supposedly saved by this measure. In another kind of currency, we will pay for the messages children will receive about the low esteem in which we hold them and the low priority we give their schooling.
I encourage the mayor to keep the schools open. We cannot afford to close them: The costs are much too high. We must insist upon a comprehensive and rational policy of taxation at all levels, one that supports the kind of society in which we want to live and in which our children will be nourished by example -- the example of what it is we value.
Sharon Spector writes from Baltimore. )