School choice is the American wayI believe the time has...

the Forum

January 09, 1992

School choice is the American way

I believe the time has come for the abolition of the geographically discriminatory and completely inefficient, process of school districting (by appointed, not elected, officials, no less), and its replacement with open districting. The current system unfairly restricts the freedom of parents to choose the public school their children attend. All public schools are equally supported by tax dollars, and thus should all be as easily accessible to citizens as public library branches.

Under the current system, there is no competition; therefore, there is no incentive for the board of education to make each school the best it can be. Each school is guaranteed a student population regardless of its performance. A simple comparison of student test score averages among various schools in a jurisdiction dramatically shows the differences in quality of education, with the greatest differences between schools in wealthy areas and those in poorer areas.

As things stand, only well-to-do parents have educational choice. Equality of educational opportunity is a basic right of Americans, demonstrated most notably in the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision. The very fact that the quality of public schools varies in a jurisdiction indicates that our children are being denied that right under the present system.

Under an open districting system, public schools would be competing for students (as private schools do now), and would thus be forced to offer quality education and programs or lose students (and government money) to schools doing a better job. Competition is a basic premise of a capitalist system. Why are public schools exempt?

The final outcome of this change should be improved education for all children. All concerned parents should have the option of deciding which tax-supported school their children should attend, as long as they are willing to provide transportation to the school. Citizens shouldn't be forced to move to a different school district to acquire the best public education.

Alan Hess


Official arrogance

The Board of Estimates approved it. The taxpayers financed it. The comptroller gets to use it.

A recent report in The Evening Sun focused on the purchase of $19,000 automobile, intended for discretionary use by the newly elected Baltimore city comptroller, Jacqueline McLean. McLean smugly justified the purchase, stating that she needed the car to get around "to see what's going on." In case she hasn't noticed, financially, Baltimore is limping along.

Her disdainful approach to this issue has me concerned. McLean asked the press not to focus on a "lousy little $19,000 car." She termed the expenditure a "drop in the bucket." This type of attitude seems pervasive among public officials. If one considers the army of city, county, state and federal public servants across this country, those "drops in the bucket" now equate to a lake. If a drop equals $19,000, then what can be said about the value of a lake?

Would it be presumptuous of me to assume that McLean and other officials receiving similar compensation ($53,000 a year for McLean) could afford their own automobile purchases?

Consider our family budgets. When money is "tight," chances are the luxuries go first. Yet our government representatives opt to cut back on necessities in a futile attempt to retain the luxuries. Reductions in educational spending, library funding, and other vital services are proposed while expenditures on dinners, trips, and new cars continue en masse.

It was my understanding that one sought public office because she or he possessed a genuine interest in people. However, in observing the manner in which our public servants fight to preserve the perks, I am no longer sure. Consequently, what we have are governmental splurges notwithstanding taxpayers' sacrifices. I call it incomprehensible arrogance.

Anthony J. Mack

Glen Burnie

The suing game

Lucrative remunerations are waiting for opportunists who straddle the honesty fence. In deference to the legitimate lawsuits, our society, encouraged by avaricious lawyers, offers big bucks for questionable cases that burden the courts.

Example: two people who sued a lawn mower company after severing a number of their fingers while foolishly holding a power mower skyward to trim a hedge.

Folks, there are bundles of moola within reach, and if you relentlessly pursue the suing game, eventually you hit the jackpot. It sure beats the work-a-day treadmill!

Kelton Carl Ostrander


Funny money

What is the most cheerful money to travel with? Russian, of course! Wherever you show it, everybody laughs.

Vladas Pilius


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