Editor's note: A Sun editorial characterized Baltimore...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 06, 2000

Editor's note: A Sun editorial characterized Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's removal of Edward J. Brody from the city school board as something you might expect from a schoolyard bully ("O'Malley's pettiness shines through again," Jan. 4). Here's the mayor's response: "The Sun's editorial of today's date was unkind, unwarranted and untrue," he writes in the note above. "-- furthermore, my mother says none of you can come over any more, and I'm not to go near you at recess."

Private schools deserve a share of state's surplus

It continues to amaze me that the editorial staff of a newspaper such as The Sun can write on a major issue while ignorant of the facts. I am referring to the editorial on state aid for children attending private schools ("Unwise school aid," Dec. 29).

To claim that such funding would breach the wall of church and state shows no knowledge of the issue.

In 1947, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prohibit state funds from being used to provide bus transportation for parochial schoolchildren as long as it provides the same for public schoolchildren.

In 1968, the court ruled that states can provide textbooks to all students, including those in private, parochial schools.

In 1969, Maryland's attorney general found providing school lunches to all children, even those attending nonpublic schools, does not violate the First Amendment.

Finally, in 1974, the attorney general ruled that providing secular textbooks, equipment and transportation to nonpublic schoolchildren is constitutional.

Thirty-nine other states have been providing various forms of aid to nonpublic schoolchildren -- and none of them have gone down that so-called "slippery slope" the editorial mentioned to providing tuition aid.

State aid and vouchers are completely different. History has proven that just because the state provides one, it doesn't mean the next is coming.

With a $1 billion surplus, the state has more than enough money to increase public school funding and provide a small amount -- less than 2 percent of that surplus, to the 140,000 children attending Maryland's nonpublic schools.

Larry Cohen

Baltimore

The writer co-chairs Advocates for Leadership in Educational Funding.

The Sun's editorial "Unwise school aid" (Dec. 29) perpetuates the myth that providing minimal public funds to private schools leads to full public funding of private schools and a direct assault on the separation of church and state.

But reverence for the First Amendment and a desire to see children benefit educationally from public funds, in an environment that also teaches religion, are not mutually exclusive.

The fact that religious instruction occurs at a school should not itself preclude its children from receiving the same benefits of materials, transportation or other services provided to public schools.

The fact that public schools are woefully underfunded should not be a justification for denying private schoolchildren the funding that is rightfully theirs.

School systems' budgets ought to be addressed independently from the debate about public funding for private school programs: One is an issue of money; the other is about inclusion and fairness.

Kevin Corbett

Towson

Funding private schools is a good investment

Shame on The Sun for journalistic hype in the editorial "Unwise school aid" (Dec. 29). Maryland surely cannot be accused of the message its opening sentence suggests, "Once you start, you can't stop."

Private schools have hardly received an equal share of public dollars.

Parents who choose private schools, especially religious-oriented schools, are following their conscience. And, given the sad state of public education, it is also a matter of what is best for the child.

The state would actually be making a wise investment in using surplus funds for private schools.

The list of funding needs in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County and Carroll County seems to speak to the mismanagement in those jurisdictions.

Why throw more money after bad management practices?

Why not invest in time-proven schools that work?

Jim Antal

Baltimore

Use public funds for public education

With Maryland's public school students, particularly in Baltimore City, testing so poorly in reading, how dare the state consider giving aid to private schools.

If we are serious about giving our children the tools they need, let's concentrate on getting that done first -- before we give handouts to the private sector.

Public schools' classes should be smaller and teachers better qualified and better paid.

Inexperienced teachers should be monitored and extra pay offered for teaching in difficult schools.

Social promotions should be stopped and summer school and tutoring given to those who need them to keep up.

All of these things cost money. So if there's a surplus, how about using it for the public schools?

Jobs are what Baltimore City needs. The only way companies will locate in Baltimore is if we have a trained workforce.

Phyllis Sachs

Baltimore

Citizens are required to pay taxes to support public facilities. And people are free to donate to the support of religious and private schools of their choice ("Private school aid considered," Dec. 22).

But the governor and state legislators are not free to use public money as if it were their own, and donate it to private schools (secular or non-secular). To do so would be unwise and unconstitutional.

The governor should attend to the needs of crowded, dangerously deteriorated, under-equipped and understaffed public schools.

That's what he's paid to do.

Marian N. Cowen

Baltimore

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