Letters to the Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

School budget woes sharply exaggerated

April 13, 2007

Recent news reports in The Sun describing issues in the 2008 city schools budget suggest that the budget contains inconsistencies which are substantive and far-ranging ("Schools budget full of errors," April 9, and "Sanctions proposed against city school system," April 10).

It does not.

Although, regrettably, the budget has created questions, the number of positions and dollars in the budget added up correctly.

The city school board knew the revenues available and the staff and programs to be funded. Board approval of the budget came after a lengthy open process - the longest in recent history - in which there was extensive community scrutiny and participation, including three public forums.

The budget is sound, and there is no evidence of overbudgeting or bottom-line errors.

The full budget is 270 pages with thousands and thousands of line items and numbers. Each "discrepancy" in the numbers in The Sun's articles was fully explained to the Sun reporter, who was assured that corrections were being made in the final budget to be transmitted to the City Council.

Yet the reporter blew the discrepancies way out of proportion.

The Sun's articles also created the impression that the fiscal affairs of the school system are not in proper order. Nothing is further from the truth.

The board and staff are committed to maintaining the full trust that our fiscal stewardship has earned over the past three years.

Since the fiscal crisis of three years ago, the city school system has eliminated all deficits, lived within its means and improved student achievement.

The city schools' fiscal management has passed two independent audits in the last year and earned two national awards for financial reporting.

The Sun knew these facts but printed a different story. Maybe that sells newspapers, but it unfairly damages public confidence in the school system.

It also impeaches the integrity of The Sun.

Brian D. Morris Kalman R. "Buzzy" Hettleman Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, the board chairman and the finance chairman for Baltimore's school board.

Public loses faith in school leaders

As a parent of a city school student, I found Sara Neufeld's article on the significant discrepancies in the school budget very disconcerting ("Schools budget full of errors," April 9).

School board Chairman Brian D. Morris' dismissive attitude over glaring errors in the $1.2 billion budget for the 2007-2008 academic year is unacceptable.

The only way to solve such incompetent governance is a complete overhaul of the North Avenue administration, including the city school board.

I've lost faith in what comes from the administrative offices of this obese bureaucracy.

Their so-called transparent budget process is, in reality, a shell game that tries to keep taxpayers from knowing where funds for a perpetually "underfunded" system actually go.

Daniel S. Meck III

Baltimore

Heart in right place isn't good enough

In explaining the plethora of errors in the city schools budget, the city's interim schools CEO indicated that her heart was in the right place ("Schools budget full of errors," April 9).

Perhaps. But the heads of those who prepared and approved the budget were somewhere south of where they should have been.

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

Blocking book costs kids chance to learn

The parents who successfully lobbied to have the novel The Chocolate War removed from the curriculum at Harford County high schools are surely naive if they think their ninth-graders are not already familiar with the ideas of sex, profanity, homosexuality and bullying ("Book removed from Harford class," April 10).

These parents do their children a great disservice by assuming they are not mature enough to read about controversial topics.

As a result of all the publicity, many of these students will read the book on their own.

But, unfortunately, they will miss out on the opportunity to engage in a meaningful classroom discussion about the issues raised in this book.

What a shame.

Lorraine Anderson

Timonium

Pelosi is pursuing diplomatic opening

The Sun's article "Pelosi raises rights issue with Saudis" (April 6) described House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Syria.

But it did not mention the fact that, last year, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group made three key recommendations: Draw down our combat forces from Iraq; engage in dialogue with friends and enemies in the Middle East, including Syria and Iran; and pressure Israel into serious negotiations on a two-state peace settlement with the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration rejected these proposals in their entirety.

Now, our elected officials must stand up to the powerful Israel lobby and use our tremendous leverage to get Israel to end its inhumane occupation and oppression of the Palestinians.

There will never be peace in the region and the U.S. will never be free from terrorist threats until this occupation is ended and the Palestinians have a state of their own.

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