Vouchers meet the demand for better schools Mike...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 21, 2002

Vouchers meet the demand for better schools

Mike Bowler's column "Conditions ripe for voucher bid" (July 3) correctly points out the similarity between Cleveland's publicly funded school voucher program and the local, privately funded Children's Scholarship Fund of Baltimore (CSFB). I would like to draw attention, however, to two points.

First, Mr. Bowler says "nearly everyone was surprised" by the huge demand for CSFB's scholarships back in 1998. This could be better stated as "nearly everyone, except inner-city parents, was surprised."

Not many suburbanites know or understand the daily issues faced by poor, city families. Nor are they aware of the degree of dysfunctionality of many large, urban school systems. But many city parents are truly desperate to find alternatives.

And this brings me to the second point. The CSFB experience demonstrates that many families are willing to expend portions of their paychecks on quality education rather than send their children to free schools that do not prepare them for a productive and meaningful life.

The average income for CSFB families is $24,000. Tuition at the schools their children attend averages $3,000. All CSFB families contribute something to this tuition, on average 40 percent (or some $1,200). This is proof that, as Mr. Bowler notes, there is "pent-up demand for school choice among Baltimore's low-income parents."

The recent Supreme Court decision approving the Cleveland voucher program is sure to cause much debate. But I suggest that those who say they care about educating young people -- on either side of the political spectrum -- consider that this issue is about children and their civil rights, not about philosophy and policy.

And if school choice is not currently on the political agenda in Maryland, it should be.

Suzanna Duvall

Baltimore

The writer is a former director of Children's Scholarship Fund of Baltimore.

Public schools foster freedom and unity

The writer of "Let parents choose what to teach kids" (letters, July 14) is perplexed about why there is so much opposition to school vouchers. It's really rather simple.

The vast majority of Americans value our public schools, which are not run by "Big Daddy government" but by 15,000 school boards responsible to local voters and parents.

Our country cannot afford to pay for good public schools and divert billions to a proliferation of sectarian and ideology-oriented nonpublic schools that do not have to play by the same rules.

And most Americans do not want to be forced to support religious indoctrination. Moreover, vouchers for nonpublic schools would fragment our school population along religious, ethnic, class and other lines. This could turn our country into another Northern Ireland or Yugoslavia.

Our public schools and our constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state are also the best possible protections for individual religious freedom.

Edd Doerr

Olney

The writer is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.

Leave it to parents to inform their kids

In her July 14 column "Abstinence works, but too many teens never get the message," Susan Reimer suggests that "the 82 percent of parents who want their kids armed with information about contraception ... had better get word to your congressman."

I have another suggestion for those parents: Get word to your kids -- directly. Don't expect a government-sponsored program to do it for you.

And for the remaining 18 percent, who do not want their children informed about contraception, should the government usurp their parental authority and dispense the information anyway?

Such a policy would blatantly interfere with the freedom of parents to determine what is best for their own children on this personal issue.

Debbie Marino

Bel Air

Britain shows way to saner drug policy

So the British government finally moved to reclassify marijuana after reviewing data and listening to expert advice ("Britain eases laws on use of marijuana," July 11).

How different this is from the head-in-the-sand approach we take in this country, where the perpetual drug war ignores inconvenient data.

Isn't it long since time to replace the Drug Enforcement Agency and its drug czar with people with medical credentials and a harm-reduction approach?

William Paul Jenkins

Bel Air

The truth is that we need mass transit

Wendell Cox of the Maryland Public Policy Institute purports to tell us "The truth about transit" (Opinion

Commentary, July 12). Unfortunately, his "truth" suffers from tunnel vision.

Citing figures for declining ridership as proof of a failing system is a tired rationalization for a pro-automobile stance. If we were allowed first-rate rail systems, people would flock to them in droves.

And it should be obvious by now that "making the automobile system work better" is not a viable solution to our transit problems.

Dennis Kaplan Robin Kaplan Baltimore

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