Where to draw the line

SATURDAY MAILBOX

This month's question: Should parochial schools receive state funding?

February 26, 2000

Yes: It's only fair

Basic, secular education support for all Maryland's children should be so fundamental to the public good as to be beyond debate.

Public, taxpayer-funded education aid to all children in fully accredited schools of any variety is only good. Good for the children and good for our society.

Most states provide some aid to all schoolchildren, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the practice is constitutionally sound.

As an administrator for schools in poor neighborhoods as well as those in more fortunate surroundings, I see children whose families struggle and children in designer clothes.

Teaching them involves identical dedication and love.

I believe it is misguided to stand in the way of basic education benefits for all Maryland's children.

I also believe it is wasteful to fight an initiative that merely introduces basic fairness to state education policies that have penalized some children and their families because of the schoolhouse they attend.

All Maryland's children deserve our support.

Ronald J. Valenti

Baltimore

The writer is superintendent of schools for the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.

There are many good arguments against taxpayer support for parochial schools. Most efforts, however, such as those in Maryland, are not to support schools. They are to support students.

I believe the state's responsibility is to see that its young citizens receive the best education they can, for the resources invested.

If that means using private schools as part of the mix (which is done in special and higher education), then so be it.

Individuals have rights, including the right to practice a religion; the state is not to show favoritism.

If exercising those rights includes a choice of school, and it's a free choice, isn't that legitimate?

Can't parents best choose the type of school that works for their children, be it large or small, with a general or a focused curriculum, public or private, in their neighborhood or across town?

In an era when privatization is being tried in so many areas, let's support diversity in education. Monopolies are rarely good for the consumer.

Help all children: It will be worth the investment.

The Rev. Donald Grzymski

Baltimore

The writer is president of Archbishop Curley High School.

Non-public school students should receive public funding to assist with the purchase of non-religious textbooks.

The parents of these students are taxpayers who have been unjustly penalized by the state long enough. They continue to pay taxes, which support the public education system in Maryland, yet their own children do not receive any benefit from their tax dollars.

Non-public schools save the state more than $800 million per year. Giving them less than one percent of what they are saving the state for textbooks is not too much.

Thirty-seven other states have some form of aid to non-public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has found such aid constitutional.

I feel it is about time that Maryland joins the majority of other states to provide educational assistance to all of its students.

David Gallup

Baltimore

We are not asking for money for parochial schools. We are asking for benefits to students who are the children of taxpayers.

We private school parents are saving the millions of dollars each year. We are only asking for a small portion of the budget to assist in the purchase of non-religious textbooks for our students.

Denise Geiger

Baltimore

The parochial school system provides relief for taxpayers, but burdens the families using the system. If this burden jeopardizes the existence of these schools, the cost of educating all students will be thrust on all taxpayers.

I am not a product of the parochial school system, but I do recognize the quality of education and character development provided.

This, along with the relief it provides taxpayers, entitles the parochial school system to taxpayer support.

Michael W. Michalski

Leonardtown

I support help for the children of Marylanders who attend non-public schools.

The state of Maryland is saving millions by not having to accommodate those students in the public school system.

Providing the money for textbooks is constitutional and benefits all citizens.

Anna A. Napfel

Baltimore

This country was largely founded by people looking for a place to live their faith without persecution.

That's why the Constitution has a clause guaranteeing the free exercise of religion.

As a Christian, I have found no way to separate any aspect of my life from my faith. This includes the education of my children.

The public schools are not religiously neutral. They teach many things which are in direct conflict with Christianity and other faiths. The effort to eliminate religion has become a religion in itself.

The schools have tried to cover themselves with a blanket policy of "values education" and "multiculturalism."

But the teachings of tolerance, alternative lifestyles and safe sex are examples of the government's religion.

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