Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 28, 2005

Introduce competition to improve our schools

Partisans in the forthcoming debate about the recommendations of the Governor's Commission on Quality Education, chaired by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, would be well-advised to pay careful attention to the wisdom of Norman R. Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin and a founder of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education ("Steele pushes market-style schools changes," Sept. 15).

In recent testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Mr. Augustine addressed our nation's steady competitive decline in mathematics and the sciences.

The first of his recommendations was: "Bring the free enterprise system to K-12 education in America. This system, along with democracy, is what has made America great, and it can make our public schools great once again.

"We must introduce competition among schools, administrators, and teachers. We must lengthen the school year. We must pay teachers for performance and pay them in accordance with their important contribution to society of preparing the nation's youth for productive, rewarding lives.

"We must establish standards, standards that have consequences. This works in our companies and in our universities, and it will work for K-12."

This is not a partisan political issue. It is an issue of national survival.

This staunch liberal Democrat endorses and strongly supports Mr. Augustine's recommendation.

Donald N. Langenberg, Queenstown

The writer is chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland.

An illegal invasion of Steele's privacy

Staff members of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee admitted to wrongfully obtaining Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's Social Security number and accessing his credit report, which is against the law ("Steele urges legal action against Democrats," Sept. 22). The perpetrators of this act are not naive volunteers but rather were long-time professionals within the organization. There is simply no logical or legal explanation to justify this behavior.

Their actions display a wholesale disregard for the privacy protections of all citizens. Everyone upset over identity theft should be outraged at this abuse of personal data. I sincerely hope the authorities pursue a full criminal investigation into this matter.

Barton J. Sidle, Timonium

Changing approach to political stories?

I don't believe it. Armed with the lessons learned from the Elkridge Club "scandal," The Sun apparently has revised its policies on reporting big-time political stories.

When The Sun covered Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s fundraiser at the Elkridge Club and the racial make-up of the club's membership, it initially reported the incident as if Governor Ehrlich were the only politician to ever hold a fundraiser at the club ("Ehrlich criticized for choice of golf club as fund-raiser site," July 2). An editorial even implied that Governor Ehrlich endorsed racially exclusionary policies ("It's not about golf," July 7).

Contrast that with the thorough reporting of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's apparently criminal activity in obtaining Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's credit report ("Steele urges legal action against Democrats," Sept. 22). Instead of reporting this incident as a serious violation of the law, The Sun instead focused on the "everybody does it" angle.

Why didn't this "everybody does it" angle come to the forefront early on during the Elkridge Club incident? Several prominent Democrats, including Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., held fundraisers there.

It appears that when the opportunity arises to smear the Ehrlich administration, The Sun will report first and ask questions later. However, where events develop that portray the administration in a positive light, or its opponents in a negative light, The Sun will drag its feet in an attempt to "fairly" or "accurately" report the story.

Joseph Ryan Menning, Marriottsville

Katrina's victims should sue insurers

Jay Hancock's column "Gulf victims deluged by bad advice" (Sept. 25), which suggests that the victims of Hurricane Katrina are wrong to fight insurers in court, is extremely misinformed on the law and the facts.

First, most residents have policies that cover wind and rain damage, which contributed significantly to Gulf Coast property losses. That some insurers are refusing to pay these claims is reprehensible. In fact, consumers' rights to have such claims paid is an issue that has been litigated several times in Mississippi, and policyholders have won every time.

Second, it is well-settled that any ambiguity in an insurance contract is decided in favor of the policyholder even though he or she signed the contract. Calls to our complaint hot line suggest many homeowners were misled or confused by agents when buying these policies, thinking they had full coverage for "hurricanes" and only finding out now that they did not.

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