Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 26, 2006

Property tax cut harms our schools

Unfortunately, the short-term thinking that too often plagues Annapolis during an election year seems to have trumped the long-term needs of Maryland's citizens ("Tax cut puts school construction on hold," April 22).

In 2003, the Maryland State Task Force to Study Public School Facilities conducted a statewide assessment of public school buildings to determine whether the buildings were appropriate.

The result of the assessment was staggering - it found that Maryland and its counties need to invest more than $4 billion to bring all of Maryland's public school buildings up to contemporary standards.

The revenue from the state property tax is what Maryland uses to pay back the debt it accrues by borrowing bond money - money that is used, in part, to fix and build schools.

Cutting the state property tax will save Maryland homeowners about $40 per household. But it will cost the state hundreds of millions in much-needed funds that could be used to build and repair Maryland's schools.

In every county, Maryland public school children are attending school in buildings that lack basic components needed to support their education.

Tens of thousands of children attend school in portable classrooms, thousands of children attend school in buildings where heating systems don't work, thousands more go to school in buildings that do not meet health and safety requirements.

Surely Maryland's taxpayers would prefer that our public school students have every opportunity to be successful in life - starting with something very basic, a decent building in which to attend school - to an annual savings of about $40.

Sue Fothergill

Baltimore

The writer is an education advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Unduly bleak view of dropout rate

While high school graduation rates and the academic gender gap still need improvement, the Manhattan Institute's study cited in the column "High school graduation gap more than racial" (April 19) uses flawed data to create a seriously inaccurate picture of the dropout situation.

That study claims that just over two-thirds of all students, and just 55 percent of blacks and Hispanics, graduate from high school nationally. But its authors ignore a wealth of more reliable, consistent data that reveal higher graduation rates.

More thorough data such as the National Educational Longitudinal Study, which tracks students over time and checks diplomas against transcripts, reveal national graduation rates for blacks and Hispanics closer to 75 percent and an overall rate of 82 percent.

Other data show that racial gaps in graduation rates have narrowed significantly over the past four decades but are still sizable.

We do not have an across-the-board crisis in our high schools, but we do need to do much more to make sure many more students succeed.

Lawrence Mishel

Joydeep Roy

Washington

The writers are, respectively, the president of and an economist for the Economic Policy Institute.

Technology firms two-faced on liberty

The column on Google's willingness to compromise its promise "not to be evil" illustrated how American technology companies have come to sing two different tunes about accessing information ("Google caves to China's censors," Opinion * Commentary, April 18).

How many technology ads do we see here in the United States asking us "where we want to go today" or telling us heart-warming stories about how the information revolution is improving America's democracy?

Companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have made billions by selling the possibility of freedom to us, yet they perversely stand to make billions more by robbing customers in China of that very possibility.

While I have no doubt that the founders of these companies believe in the American public's right to information, I am more than a little disappointed to find that, as far as these companies are concerned, this principle evidently stops at the border.

Tsung-chi Lee

Rockville

China exemplifies Orwell's nightmare

When I read Clarence Page's letter to the co-founder of Google ("Google caves to China's censors," Opinion * Commentary, April 18), my eyes were opened to some of the dark political realities that people experience in other countries today.

When Mr. Page mentioned that China won't allow its citizens to search for certain words, such as "democracy," on the Google search engine, my mind immediately conjured up images from George Orwell's 1984 (which I read last summer for my 10th-grade literature class).

I had no idea that there were governments in our modern world that were similar to the horrible one that Mr. Orwell envisioned in his novel.

Mr. Page's letter was a reality check. It shocked me about my own ignorance of world happenings, both past and present: an ignorance that, unfortunately, many young people share today.

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