Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 17, 2006

Passing standard isn't the key issue

As a teacher in the Baltimore schools, I really don't think changing the grading standards will matter ("Passing easier in city schools," Aug. 15).

Students will continue to receive social and age-out grade promotions. When you have middle-schoolers who are almost ready to drive, well, what do you do? Keep them in suspension and limbo in the eighth grade forever?

The problem isn't with the grading system. The problem is the lack of places and programs in which to put students who are failing -- and keep failing again and again.

It doesn't matter what the baseline becomes. There will still be too many students who can't meet it and too many students will keep slipping away, without moving on to a positive future.

R. Beitler

Owings Mills

Will lower standards dumb-down region?

The Sun's front-page articles on Tuesday included "Marylanders older, educated, diverse" (Aug. 15) and "Passing easier in city schools" (Aug. 15).

I wonder if, several years from now, a headline will read, "Baltimore City school graduates illiterate, unemployable and on welfare" because of the stupidity of the city school board in lowering the passing grade in key subjects from 70 to 60.

Chuck Marks

Perry Hall

Prescription plan saves seniors plenty

The Sun's recent editorial on Medicare offers an incomplete picture of the savings seniors in Maryland are experiencing through the Medicare prescription drug program ("Of doughnuts and holes," Aug. 9).

For the first time in history, more than 38 million Medicare beneficiaries, including 550,000 beneficiaries in Maryland alone, have insurance coverage that provides access to life-saving medicines that help them live healthier, longer lives.

In addition to increased access to medicines, millions of Medicare patients qualify for subsidies for low-income beneficiaries and are receiving comprehensive drug coverage at little or no cost.

Unlike the Veterans Administration's system mentioned in the editorial -- under which the government sets mandatory drug prices as it offers a limited drug plan to patients that excludes some necessary medicines -- the Medicare prescription program offers seniors many prescription plan options and involves negotiations with the private sector that have helped seniors experience significant savings.

In fact, seniors across America are seeing average savings of up to $1,100, according to federal estimates. Additionally, seniors who face spending in the coverage gap can continue to save by purchasing drugs at the discounted prices negotiated by their prescription plans.

In short, the Medicare prescription drug program is working: Competition between plans has resulted in better benefits at lower costs and beneficiaries have peace of mind knowing they have prescription drug coverage in the event of a medical emergency.

Ken Johnson

Washington

The writer is a vice president of PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Doctors can't afford reimbursement cuts

I could hardly believe my eyes as I read "Medicare cuts for doctors proposed" (Aug. 9). And I sincerely hope that our legislators will vote down these cuts in reimbursement rates.

Medicare recipients have only to read their "Medicare Summary Notices" to know that their doctors already are not being amply compensated.

Do our legislators understand that doctors, in addition to ministering to their patients, also have to pay high malpractice insurance fees, maintain offices, purchase and maintain expensive equipment, staff their offices, etc?

Why do insurance and drug companies continue to get the brass rings while doctors get the shaft?

Barb Kellam

Baltimore

Rising tides threaten coastal development

After reading the review of Mike Tidwell's book, The Ravaging Tide ("A practical, urgent call for change in America's environmental policy," Aug. 13), and seeing the picture taken after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 on page 4F of Sunday's Sun, I find it hard to comprehend that any development would be allowed in the area of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge or any other low-lying, coastal land.

Anne Hackney

Parkton

Contaminated sand poisons our beaches

A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that in 2005, U.S. beaches experienced 20,397 days of closings and advisories, with 14,602 of those days (or 72 percent) attributed to "unknown sources" of pollution ("Report criticizes EPA as beach closings rise," Aug. 4).

Increasing evidence is pointing to contaminated beach sand as the likely culprit for unexplained beach closings.

According to studies cited in the Clean Beaches Council report "State of the Beach: Bacteria and Sand," bacteria survive in beach sand longer than they do in water.

Beach waters become contaminated as they lap across shores rich with bacteria. The report cites a United States Geological Survey study showing that bacteria levels in sand are, on average, five to 10 times higher than those in adjacent swimming waters.

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