Privatization is not the way to reform the city's...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 13, 2000

Privatization is not the way to reform the city's schools

A recent letter from two state legislators called the state's takeover of three schools in Baltimore "wholly appropriate" ("State's takeover of failing city schools is wholly appropriate," Feb. 27).

I vehemently disagree. There are no quick fixes or simple solutions to problems as complex as school reform.

The state board of education believes that private, for-profit vendors are the answer. I believe parents, teachers and community groups can implement programs to meet the needs of Baltimore's children.

We must attack this problem on several fronts.

We need to redouble efforts to provide sound early childhood programs to get children off to a good start.

We need to provide parents with assistance and direction to help them support their children.

We need to encourage teachers to improve and to gain access to and apply research on thinking and learning.

We must develop true partnerships with community groups and businesses to enable us to gain additional support for our children and their families.

Above all, we need to develop and build our capacity to reform our schools and rebuild our communities.

No outside vendor can engender the spirit necessary for us to reform.

The Baltimore Teachers Union has proposed to both the state Board of Education and the new Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners a comprehensive, research-based plan to create reform for our children, who deserve the best.

We encourage the state department of education to reconsider their position on outside vendors and instead explore the possibility of joining us in a true partnership to bring about real reform.

Marietta A. English, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union .

Purchasing consortium could aid schools, taxpayers

The intense debate on public aid for private schools has helped identify one area that could lead to a "win-win" arrangement for all schools, and for Maryland taxpayers.

Maryland's schools are not taking full advantage of their buying power. While some school systems coordinate purchases of textbooks and other materials, there is no statewide approach.

Accordingly, Delegates Tom Dewberry, Mike Busch, Dan Riley and I wrote to Secretary of Education Nancy N. Grasmick, asking her to look into developing a buying consortium whose services would be available to any Maryland school or school system, public or private.

We envision a "buying agent" within the department of education who would coordinate purchases and achieve volume discounts. The program would be entirely voluntary, and the more schools that participate, the greater the savings.

We are pleased Ms. Grasmick responded enthusiastically and has convened a work group to pursue this concept.

If it's made operational, all Maryland schools and students would benefit. Savings could then be made available for other educational expenses.

Dan K. Morhaim, Annapolis

The writer represents the 11th District in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Balto. County schools need leader who knows the system

Why can't the Baltimore County Board of Education learn from past mistakes?

Why can't it search for a superintendent from within the ranks -- someone who has been in the system, is familiar with the county and will instill a sense of trust and cooperation among employees?

There are so many supremely qualified individuals in the system, yet the board looks elsewhere, and does not solicit suggestions from the county executive, administrators or teachers. Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

MaryLee A. Stritch, Abington

The writer is a teacher in the Baltimore County public schools.

Insurance industry could fund city's drug treatment effort

I applaud the courage and leadership exhibited by Dr. Peter Beilenson, Baltimore's commissioner of health, in his column on the benefits of additional drug treatment funding ("How $40 million more can aid addicts," Opinion Commentary, March 6).

By offering to resign his position if the city's crime rate isn't cut in half within three years of obtaining such funding, Dr. Beilenson made the strongest case possible for the funding.

Our country needs more leaders willing to take such a tangible stand.

I'd like to see the insurance industry come up with the $40 million. The payback in decreased claims would be well worth the investment for the city's insurers.

And what a statement of commitment to the citizenry that would be: Public and private actors working together, creatively, to combat the social problems that affect us all.

This is truly the stuff that good public relations are made of.

Elizabeth J. Farber, Towson

Defensive gun use figure based on national survey

Recent letters disparaging gun use statistics John Lott Jr. used in his Feb. 25 column were way off target ("Gun advocate misses mark with statistics," March 4).

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