Letters To The Editor


November 18, 2005

Fund renovations ailing schools need

Sara Neufeld's article about the lack of computers and Internet access at Dr. Samuel L. Banks High School certainly points out the need to thoroughly plan theme-based high schools in the city before they open ("Working to get students plugged into technology," Nov. 11).

But there's another side to the story. The school system knew the wiring for Internet access was necessary and asked for state funds for Samuel Banks last year, as a part of the annual process to apply for state capital dollars.

The state initially signaled that the project was worthy, but did not put it on the list of projects to receive funding. The legislature recognized the need to increase school construction funding statewide, added funding and included funding for the Banks project.

But disputes about another project, at Dunbar High School, resulted in the state not approving Dunbar's funding until after the budget was already done. After that funding was approved, the Banks project and two others were bumped off the list.

Now, isn't it obvious that both Banks and Dunbar (as well as hundreds of other school renovation projects) needed funds? But both weren't funded.

State Treasurer Nancy Kopp's school facilities task force two years ago identified $600 million in needed repairs for city schools, which gives Baltimore the greatest need by far of any jurisdiction in the state. And the state legislature and governor last year did increase funds for school repairs statewide.

But those funds are not being directed first to schools with alarming needs or to the jurisdictions with less wealth to pay for needed repairs.

Last year, Baltimore's schools received just $21 million of the $250 million state allocation for public school capital improvements. That is, the state funded only about 3.5 percent of the school construction needed by city children.

Citizens across the state broadly support the call to increase funding for school repairs. But state priorities must also shift - so that we first bring all schools up to standards of decency, and then to excellence.

Bebe Verdery


The writer is education reform director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Can computers teach good English?

A recent Sun front page carried a feature article concerning the 40-percent failure rate on the statewide 10th-grade English test ("In Md. 40% fail test in English," Nov. 11).

On the front page of the same day's Maryland section was a feature article about Dr. Samuel L. Banks High having trouble obtaining computer equipment and support for its focus on technology ("Working to get students plugged into technology," Nov. 11).

The test-failure article lists Dr. Samuel L. Banks High as having a 15.3 percent passing rate on the English test. That is an 84.7 percent failure rate.

I must ask the obvious question: What good is an emphasis on technology and computer equipment if the students cannot communicate in English?

While the students are waiting for their new laptop computers, perhaps they could spend the extra time learning English.

Paul Bragaw


Teachers' language must be right model

Thanks for Liz Bowie's great article on the 10th-grade English test results ("In Md. 40% fail test in English," Nov. 11). I cut out the table for future reference. The numbers are abysmal in Baltimore City, but even in Baltimore County barely half the students are proficient in English.

This is unacceptable. But it is not surprising, because I believe that in many neighborhood elementary and high schools, teachers are not using proper English in the classrooms. In some cases, even principals do not speak acceptable English.

Language is learned mostly by hearing and mimicking. The English test results will not significantly improve until we require teachers and principals to model proper English.

Bernie Hayden


Work to preserve other landmarks

Perhaps the saddest thing about the loss of the Elizabeth Gardner House is how utterly unnecessary it was ("Historic preservation still a hot topic for advocates, Balto. County officials," Nov. 14).

Anyone with an imagination could see how this picturesque, lone survivor of a more elegant age could easily have been adapted for modern usage into a truly distinctive symbol for any commercial enterprise.

Imagination obviously is lacking in the leadership of BB&T, which is determined to thrust another branch bank box onto a highly visible county thoroughfare.

But whether or not the house came down legitimately is, unfortunately, moot at this point. The building is gone.

However we, as citizens of this good county of Baltimore, can and must work to make sure that our finite, historical, architectural treasures are not taken from us in the middle of the night again.

Judy D. Cohen


The writer is a member of the board of the Baltimore County Historic Trust.

Saving Rochambeau conceals the basilica

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