I guess that I should be thankful that the legislature and governor are looking at legislation aimed at removing the controversial part of the new auto emissions test. However, I still take exception to two items of the proposed test.
First, why does anyone have to look under the hood to see if any hoses have been disconnected if the vehicle passes the test? It seems like a complete waste of time.
Second, we are now going to pay $14 for the same test that we previously paid $8.50 for.
This, of course, has not even begun to address the issue of the money spent to close down and dismantle the old test sites, purchase new property, build new buildings, and purchase new test equipment (which won't even be used under the proposed legislation).
I guess that I have just answered my own question as to why we will be paying more for the same test in 1995.
I don't want to appear to be nitpicking, but I think that these two issues need to be addressed in the proposed legislation.
Culture in Society
The reasoning advanced by Michael J. Hurd (letter, Feb. 2), that the public should not be forced to pay for what individuals may not want, might equally be applied to defense, or road-building or public heath.
Indeed, is it not the primary function of government to provide necessary community services which individuals might be unable or unwilling to provide for themselves?
Public broadcasting, like public support for the arts, is as necessary to the community as the provision of quality education or the guarantee of clean air.
Yes, some people can send their children to private schools, but should not similar opportunities to be available to all, regardless of income?
Should one be forced to install one's own air filtration system in order to breathe freely?
Should access to the arts be limited to the rich and the already-converted?
Should the opportunity for reasoned discourse on public events be lost from the airwaves and be banished to private clubs?
Education, culture, and the level of public debate are a true measure of the health of a society, closely related to its economic and political strength.
Yet the evidence shows that culture cannot easily thrive in a climate controlled solely by commercial interests. A society which provides only the minimum which individuals are willing to agree upon is a society living in moral poverty.
Down that road lies only an arid cultural isolationism, in which individuals hole up behind security fences of their entrenched opinions, and the word "community" ceases to have any meaning.
Schools and Family Income
Education columnist Mike Bowler is right on the mark when he points out that schools in suburbs with high family incomes do better than their poorer country cousins, and better still than schools in urban areas with yet lower average family income (Jan. 24).
As the Governor's Commission on School Funding found, "The single best predictor of school results is the percentage of students approved for free or reduced price lunch.
Thus it is no surprise that Howard County, with the lowest percentage of students on free/reduced price lunch (7.7 percent), has the highest average percentage of students scoring at or above the satisfactory level on the Maryland School Performance test.
Nor that Baltimore City, with the largest percentage of students in poverty (68.9 percent), had the lowest average score.
But it needn't be that way. Garrett and Kent counties, with relatively high levels of poverty, nevertheless have relatively high Maryland School Performance scores.
Garrett County can point to an intensive parent involvement program which led to rising scores. In Baltimore City, the success of the Barclay School shows what can be done with extra resources and focused attention.
BIndeed, many individual Baltimore City schools with high levels of poverty have achieved higher scores than schools in the surrounding suburbs with the same levels of poverty -- a fact glossed over by countywide averages.
With hard work and extra resources, schools in poor communities can do remarkably well. Superintendent Stuart Berger's proposed "equity grants" to disadvantaged schools in Baltimore County is one attempt to "beat the odds."
The Governor's Commission on School Funding proposed a plan to deal with the problem statewide. But to date the General Assembly had not adopted this or any of a number of possible alternative plans.
Certainly we should expect the public schools to continuously improve, and to do their best with the resources and students they have.
But until we, the taxpayers and voters, are willing to see extra resources and attention go to these schools in poor communities, we shouldn't be surprised by poor school performance.
ZTC Until then we shouldn't blame the schools for their failure -- the odds are stacked against them . . .
The writer was a member of the Governor's Commission on School Funding.