Choice in education would benefit public and private...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 12, 1998

Choice in education would benefit public and private students

Defenders of the status quo who run out of new ideas are often left with no option but to question the motives of their opponents. This is evident in Carl Rowan's May 1 column, "School vouchers no answer for poor."

Mr. Rowan refers to legislation recently passed by Congress that would provide scholarships of up to $3,200 for 2,000 low-income parents in the District of Columbia so that they have the option of escaping one of the most violent and destructive school systems in the country.

Mr. Rowan's main argument is that the legislation is designed to hurt public schools by taking away their funding. But the facts prove otherwise. My bill would provide $7 million in new money on top of the existing D.C. school budget.

The columnist can't decide whether private schools might benefit children. Sometimes, he acknowledges that a private education would help (as he acknowledge it has benefited his own child).

Shouldn't we let parents decide? More than 7,500 low-income parents recently applied for 1,000 privately funded scholarships in Washington. We want 2,000 more children to benefit.

Our legislation will also help children in public schools by introducing competition and accountability. Competitive forces helped turn around at least one Albany, N.Y., school. They would help turn around D.C. schools, too.

Parental choice is good for everyone. The "sham" is continuing to defend a system that is failing to educate our children.

Dick Armey

Washington

The writer, a Texas Republican, is majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Starr has too much power; Congress has too much time

Former members of Himmler's Gestapo would be green with envy if they had possessed the unbridled power of an American independent counsel.

Since the person currently holding that office has been pursuing the "cold" trail of the president, nothing whatsoever has been accomplished in Congress.

It only proves that our founding fathers had the correct formula for legislators. They only need be in their official seats for three months of the year. Those other nine months behind a plow and mule should provide the bounty of insight and inspiration for legislators to be useful citizens. Their sense of smell should also be improved.

Robert L. Reynolds

Bel Air

State overcoming shortfalls cited in child-welfare report

The findings of the Annie E. Casey Foundation study on the state of Maryland children as of 1995 ("Maryland children said lagging in the good life," May 5) are disturbing but, unfortunately, not surprising.

Improving how we care for our children has been one of the Maryland legislature's and the Glendening administration's highest priorities in the past 3 1/2 years.

We have taken a number of steps that have made a difference:

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has signed legislation guaranteeing health insurance for 60,000 children in low-income families and thousands of pregnant women. This will help reduce infant-mortality and the problem of low-birthweight.

Immunization rates are higher than ever. The vaccination rate for 2-year-olds is higher than the national average -- Baltimore's rate is the highest of any urban area in the nation.

We have brought the infant-mortality rate down somewhat, from 8.9 deaths per 1,000 to 8.4. Expanded access to health care for infants and pregnant women should bring more progress.

We continue to attack teen pregnancy aggressively, and the teen birthrate has now dropped to the 1985 level.

Too many young people in Maryland are being arrested for juvenile violent crime, although the Department of Juvenile Justice reports that referrals are down 10 percent since 1995. The legislature passed a number of juvenile justice reforms that will help.

And Maryland, under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stuart O. Simms, is working with the U.S. Department of Justice on a comprehensive strategy pilot program, strengthening both prevention and punishment.

Howard P. Rawlings

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the House of Delegates' Appropriations Committee.

Reporter had nose for news outside the beaten D.C. path

In this newspaper's report on the death of James B. MacNees ("James B. MacNees, 81, telegrapher, reporter," May 5), a member of the Washington bureau of The Sun before he retired in 1973, his son was quoted as stating that Mr. MacNees was greatly moved by Rachel Carson's landmark book, "Silent Spring," a wake-up call for an environmental movement.

James B. MacNees said his father "was the first guy I ever heard talk about pollution in those years."

Please permit another remembrance from an old friend and colleague of Mr. MacNees.

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