Saturday Mailbox


April 10, 2004

Low standards are an insult to black students

I commend state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and the state Board of Education for inviting Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to address standard-setting ("A call to raise the standards," March 31). I join him and countless other black educators and parents who believe that minority children can achieve at higher levels than those that are expected by many who are charged with directing their education.

How demeaning it is to say to any group of students that they are not able to perform well in certain curriculum areas simply because of their ethnicity and that the standards will be lowered so that they can meet with success.

Parents from any racial or ethnic group should take issue with education standards being lowered because their children are not expected to be able to perform at the level of other children.

There is a moral imperative for boards of education to have expectations for each learner that are very evident to the child, his or her parents and the community.

I suggest that the following practices might assist in achieving that goal:

Higher standards must be set in employment practices. School systems should be about the business of hiring scholars to facilitate the learning of potential scholars. No longer can we continue to fill classrooms with warm bodies who don't have a clue as to how children grow and develop or, worse, indicate by their performance that they don't respect children as individuals.

The job performance of these scholars (the school staff) needs to be regularly monitored on the basis of individual improvement plans that lead to excellence.

Staff development, as a key ingredient in education, must be adequately funded.

There must be a plan for parental involvement at every tier of the education system. Participation by the child's first and most important teacher has to be evident in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of his or her education.

A sincere display of a strong parent-school partnership ultimately raises the bar for the system as the system raises the bar for its students.

Leah Goldsborough Hasty


The writer is a former principal of Matthew A. Henson Elementary School in Baltimore.

Teamsters represent Costco employees

I am writing to correct an erroneous statement attributed to Charles Craver, a George Washington University law professor, in "Grocery workers expected to ratify Md.-D.C. contract" (March 30). Costco is not a nonunion operator that is undercutting union wages.

I am the principal officer of Teamsters Local 311 in Baltimore. Local 311 represents approximately 800 store employees at four Costco stores in Maryland. In addition, Costco stores in California, metropolitan New York City and Richmond, Va., are unionized.

These workers are some of the most highly compensated in the retail food industry. Clerks represented by our union earn up to $18.07 per hour plus substantial bonuses ($2,000 to $3,500, depending on years of service) twice a year.

Our contract requires the company to pay more than 90 percent of employees' health insurance premiums. Our contract also requires that a large proportion of the work force remain full-time.

The byproduct of the high wages and benefits and excellent working conditions that the Teamsters have been successful in securing for our members on the East and West Coasts is, naturally, that Costco applies nearly the same terms and conditions to the employees in its nonunion stores.

Thanks to the Teamsters, Costco workers are solidly in the middle class.

Kenneth T. Kelm


Many states have lower sales tax rates

I read in Michael Olesker's column "It's time for some grown-up politicking" (March 30) that state House Speaker Michael E. Busch said, "The last time I looked, Maryland was 45th or 47th in the country in sales tax."

He also said that the surrounding states all have higher sales tax rates. And that Maryland hasn't raised the sales tax rate since 1977.

I just checked on the Internet and found that 17 states have lower sales tax rates than Maryland. Several have no sales tax. Another 11 states have a rate from 5 percent to less than 6 percent. And Delaware, which on my map is a surrounding state, has no state sales tax.

I don't even want to explain that a rate of 5 percent in 1977 yielded $500 in sales tax for a $10,000 car and yields $1,500 for a $30,000 car in 2004. Thus the fact that the tax rate hasn't been changed in many years does not mean that more sales taxes are not collected.

It's probably a futile argument to point out that taxes have been squandered year after year, as The Sun has repeatedly documented.

But our elected leaders should at least use accurate data when they push for tax increases.

Gerald Glaser


Md. needs to invest in affordable housing

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