Saturday Mailbox


February 08, 2003

Schools merit more credit and funding

Kalman Hettleman is right on the mark when he says that the continuing shouting about the city schools' budget deficit has become overblown and unnecessary ("Don't let budget blunder sidetrack city schools," Opinion* Commentary, Jan. 24).

What would be constructive is recognition of the city schools' progress in academic achievement over the last four years and a lot stronger political and public support for our students and teachers.

While it is true that the school board and administration seemingly took their eyes off the financial management ball, they can recover. And even their missteps do not warrant the disingenuous rantings of state politicians who knew for more than a year of the state's own budget woes and did nothing except to leave it to a new governor to make the hard choices.

And city elected officials ought to hang their heads in shame. City schools are getting better, marginally, despite the fact that practically no new city monies have gone to the schools' operational budget in years.

By contrast, the Police Department received an approximately 33 percent budget increase over the last three years, has run up multimillion-dollar deficits each year and received supplemental city bailouts each year. Yet the city government's contribution to our children has not increased even 1 percent.

Baltimore schools CEO Carmen V. Russo and her team's decisions on how to spend money have not been wrong - class size has been reduced and reading curricula have been aligned, which has resulted in higher achievement as teacher salaries have gone from 17th- to third-best in the state. But the board has not had enough money to push its reforms to the next level.

So, slap their wrists for not making tough, if not nearly impossible, choices for our children, and raise our voices at them for not telling us about budget problems sooner. But give them the support and resources they need now.

Let's give as much of our voices and resources to books and pencils as we give to bullets and pistols.

Carl Stokes


The writer is chairman of the Maryland Education Coalition and a former member of Baltimore's school board.

Cutting child care is a step backward

As an early care and education professional, I read about the budget cuts for child care initiatives with great interest ("Funding in peril for child care network in Md.," Feb. 3).

From 1984 until 2002, I directed child care facilities in Baltimore, and for the past year I have worked with the Child Care Network at the Baltimore City Resource Center. At national meetings I have always been proud to say I was from Maryland - because all my colleagues knew I was from a state that sincerely understood the issues of working families and cared about the welfare of its youngest citizens.

But by deeply cutting funding for child care initiatives, Maryland will take a gigantic step backward that will prove to be unwise and harmful to the welfare of young children.

If it is a state priority to achieve the goal of having every child come to school ready to learn, we must realize that this goal will never be achieved if we allow our excellent system of child care to be dismantled.

Nancy Pelton


The writer is training director for the Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center.

Slots boost treasury and neighborhoods

Many articles and letters in The Sun have outlined a multitude of reasons why Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s proposal to place slot machines at Maryland racetracks is a bad idea.

How about some reasons slot machines will be good for the citizens of Maryland?

Maryland racetracks are heavily taxed and represent a major source of income for the state. By helping the racing industry we would be helping the state collect more taxes from this ailing industry.

Slots don't represent a new tax, but a tax on a new industry. People can elect to play the slots or not to play. People who elect to play will pay the new tax, but those who choose not to play will leave the tax payment to others.

Neighborhoods close to the racetracks will benefit from slots, because some of the revenue from slots can be earmarked to improve these neighborhoods and increased business at the tracks will lead to more jobs.

Those who argue that it will be mostly poor people who play the slots seem to be saying that poor people are too stupid to know that throwing away their income on gambling is a bad idea.

I think poor people are smart enough to know excessive gambling is a bad. And that the benefits to the state and its neighborhood will be a good thing for the taxpayers of Maryland.

Murray Spear


Gambling revenue comes at high cost

When the creation of the Maryland Lottery was under debate in the General Assembly, I could not fathom why any rational person would oppose such a simple and painless way for the state to raise additional revenue. After all, people are going to gamble anyway, so why not give the state a piece of the action?

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