Youths choose schools over stadiums

February 24, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

In the brouhaha over the state's handing over $200 million to Art Modell for a new stadium, perhaps some new voices need to be heard. Some fresh voices. Some youthful voices, like those of some ninth- through 12th-grade students at Western High School in Baltimore.

Brian King, a health teacher at Western, had his students write letters about how they feel about Uncle Art's bonanza. Then he had them send the letters to The Sun.

"They felt the government would not listen to them because they are just kids," King wrote in a letter of his own. "They are smart kids who seem to present a more logical point of view than our fearless leaders."

Such fearless leaders are Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, chief executives unafraid of not being re-elected or flouting popular will. Polls show the majority of Marylanders are opposed to using state funds for the new stadium, but that doesn't deter city and state honchos, who all but genuflect when the National Football League is mentioned. Read, however, what these students have to say.

"I think you can guess what I'm about to say since I'm a female student and know nothing about football. Except I do know $200 million is too much to spend for a game. Life is not a sport. Education is the future. I think some of that money should be put into education." -- Shani (no last name given), 15, 10th grade.

"You would think that in 'Baltimore The City That Reads' they would want to support and improve their education system over any sport." -- Christine Wiedefeld, 16, 11th grade.

"Instead of spending $200 million on a stadium spend it on important things, like education. You want to build a stadium but teachers don't have enough supplies for themselves and students." -- Sarah Kreager, 14, ninth grade.

"With a school system in Baltimore that has low test scores so bad that the state was thinking about taking over, why build a stadium? Schools are overcrowded, teachers are getting laid off, and some schools don't have adequate books and supplies." -- Akilah Bell, 11th grade, no age given.

"I think this is a very stupid idea. We could put this money toward education. Schools need books, desks and other materials." -- Monyette Faulkner, 14, ninth-grader.

"I really don't see what's wrong with the old stadium. We are getting someone else's old football team so it isn't like they never played in an old stadium before." Sherria Owens, no age or grade given.

Annette Lipinski, a 16-year-old junior, was the lone dissenting voice. She said Oriole Park at Camden Yards brought in tourists who spent money in restaurants, hotels and shops. She feels the football stadium will be a benefit.

"A football stadium will need care-taking and management, which will open jobs to those who would otherwise have none."

That's the governor's argument: Throw money at Art Modell now and the state will reap the benefits later. In other words, put Art first and Maryland's public school students last. Other Western students noted this discrepancy and dared use the "P" word: priorities.

"The people who run Maryland seem to have their priorities mixed up. With crime, homelessness and other social menaces lingering in the state sports should not be a main concern." -- Terese Walker, 16, 11th grade.

"Our city really doesn't have an organized priority list. Education should and must come first." Tanya Ellis, 10th grade.

"The $200 million should go toward things we really need in this city, such as food and shelter for the homeless, fighting crime and drugs." Rachel Schley, 16, 10th grader.

"The money should be spent on the school system. If the governor wants Maryland schools and students to be able to compete with and excel other states, they need to be given the best education." -- Kelly Nalwasky, 18, 12th grade.

"We need to rebuild schools, help with the homeless, reduce crime and pay the school teachers what they deserve." -- Danielle Tankard, 16, 11th grade.

"The money should be used on educational things like better text books, new desks and chairs. Teachers really need to be paid more." -- Sherita Parker, 16, 10th grade.

An audacious bunch, these Western lasses, what with their insistence that education is important and that Baltimore's teachers should actually be paid a wage comparable to that of teachers in surrounding counties. The governor and the mayor probably won't listen to these students now, but by the time each is ready for re-election, most of these girls will be able to vote. And gentlemen, they know your names and they know your faces.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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