Choice in Schools
Because of the diversity of people and the conflicting desires of parents as to the content they would like their children to be taught I believe we should drastically alter the form and funding of our system of education.
We should opt for a parent-controlled curriculum funded through a national tax like Social Security. The distribution of the funding would be through a system of vouchers. Schools that participate in this system would be required to accept only the voucher as payment for each student's tuition.
In other words, a school could not charge a student more than the voucher and still participate. This would not only equalize the opportunity for quality education but would allow parents oversight of what their children are taught.
A board for each school would be made up of some number of the parents of children attending the school, elected by the parents.
As a Christian, I believe in the teachings of the Bible and prayer in school, but I do not believe in forcing my views on others and respect their right to decline. But, to be fair, I am a taxpayer, too, and want my children to be taught what I consider proper.
Teachers would also be better served, since many new schools would spring up and provide more opportunity for their work.
F. Robert Johnson
Bravo to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the city planners for sharing their "disquieting portrait" of Baltimore's social problems. And bravo to The Sun's James Bock for making this a front-page article.
Until you know where you are and what the current conditions are, you cannot take effective action toward your goals. It takes courage to face these statistics but it also indicates an honest commitment to the city's goals.
I am a member of Results, a grassroots lobby that works on anti-hunger and poverty legislation. It is outrageous to know that 40,000 children die every day in the world of hunger and hunger-related disease . . . and most of these deaths are preventable. It is unbelievable to know that 40,000 children die every year in America.
One action Baltimore citizens can take now is to fully fund two programs that have been proven effective:
* Women Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food for pregnant mothers, infants and young children. Only about 50 percent of women who could benefit from WIC currently receive support. Prenatal care is the best insurance of healthy babies.
* Headstart gives children from ages three to five who live in poverty a safe and supportive learning environment before they start kindergarten so they start school ready to learn.
Keep up the good work on focusing on the issues. It may seem easier to hide our eyes to the social problems but ultimately the cost is high.
A Gentle Nudge
Regarding the state's new gas guzzler provision, Joseph Carroll of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association writes that he believes that "the issues of clean air, fuel conservation and revenue should be treated separately." I'm not so sure why, since he and his organization are consistently opposed to all three.
Over their lifetime, higher mileage cars offer carbon dioxide emission reductions measured in tons relative to gas guzzlers. Using more fuel-efficient vehicles will not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil but the savings will strengthen the overall health of the American economy.
By offering even the smallest encouragement for better mileage in its tax structure, the state is simply giving us a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Terry J. Harris
The writer is chair of the Sierra Club's Baltimore Group.
I read with interest your editorial of July 15 advocating the initiation of a handgun turn-in program as part of an overall attempt to reduce guns and violence in the community.
I share the community's, and your newspaper's, concern regarding the increasing level of gun-related violence. Your readers should know that such a proposal is being discussed among several interested groups.
I am currently examining a program developed by a fellow prosecutor in Minneapolis. Entitled "Drop Your Guns Month," the program collected 6,109 guns over a 30-day period last February. The program was financed by $175,000 in asset forfeiture funds and $175,000 in private donations.
Regardless of whether or not a handgun bounty program is initiated, I firmly believe that a much broader anti-violence program needs to be developed.
The Baltimore City Police Department has taken the lead with its "Stop the Tears" gun turn-in campaign. I sincerely hope that your newspaper and your readers are willing to become involved in efforts broader than one day or one month.
Stuart O. Simms
Mr. Simms is the Baltimore City state's attorney.
Under normal circumstances one might think that having the field of candidates reduced from three to two would make the choice of whom to vote for much clearer and simpler. But in this case, I am totally baffled.