Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

April 14, 2007

Patronage passing as aid for college?

After reading The Sun's article "College grants under attack" (April 4), it occurred to us that this issue has been debated for several decades. Yet no one seems to discuss the fact that the legislative scholarships are an unnecessary duplication of other state programs.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission has overseen the administration of the Guaranteed Access Grant and the Educational Assistance Grant for many years.

These programs provide help to needy students who want and deserve to attend colleges in Maryland. Their funds are distributed equitably, based on financial need, and all state citizens are eligible, not just those who reside in a particular legislative district.

Colleges work closely with the state to assist in verifying the income for thousands of these grant recipients each year.

These programs also allow a student to petition for assistance based on family hardship. And, of course, the student and his or her family must provide documentation to substantiate the special needs.

No such documentation is required for the legislative scholarships, which some people have described as patronage.

The only people who really benefit from this outdated legislative scholarship practice are our legislators - but they happen to be the only ones who can change it.

While efforts to reform the program failed this year, it is time for Marylanders to demand that our representatives eliminate this antiquated scholarship system and allow the Maryland Higher Education Commission to administer the $11 million in student grants controlled by the legislative scholarship program.

Frank R. Cutko

Barbara T. Cutko Baltimore

Smarter school sites better communities

Community development trends in Maryland and across the United States indicate that school locations have a significant impact on land use and community development ("Sprawl monitor," editorial, April 2).

During the next decade in Maryland, more than 100 school facilities will be built, undergo renovations or have additions constructed. As we build these facilities, we need to better integrate urban and regional planning principles, Smart Growth ideas and public health goals in facility planning and funding.

State and local school construction dollars can be used to enhance community growth and public health goals. And increased efforts to steer public school construction funding to optimal school sites, within community growth areas, should be considered.

School sites should be integrated into neighborhoods rather than used to relocate cows and corn.

To do this, improved coordination between public schools and local planning and zoning departments will be important in all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland.

The state has a vested interest in seeing that this occurs.

Location of other public functions on school sites should also be encouraged in the school planning process.

Therefore, state incentives to reward flexible school configurations that meet a variety of needs should be explored.

Research also indicates that energy-efficient "green school" technology not only provides better indoor air quality, lower chemical emissions and natural daytime light but also makes schools cheaper to operate.

Making schools a part of a walkable community has also been shown to decrease toxic emissions and help create more vibrant communities.

Better coordination in incorporating schools as part of existing or planned communities is clearly warranted.

And the increase in school construction funding offers Maryland an unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of schools and improve the communities where they reside.

David T. Whitaker

Baltimore

The writer is deputy director of infrastructure planning for the Maryland Department of Planning.

Time to abolish Electoral College

Alan Natapoff is defending an indefensible institution - the Electoral College ("Stop plan to diminish Marylanders' voting power," Opinion

Commentary, April 5).

The new state law under which, if the law's conditions are fulfilled, all of the state's electoral votes would go to the winner of the national popular vote is not a good idea. Trying to fix the Electoral College is not a good idea.

It should be abolished.

Mr. Natapoff's suggestions about changing the way the electoral votes are distributed and counted are an attempt to fix a broken system.

His plan might be better than the current ridiculous setup, but it is not the right way to go.

The national popular vote total is the only sensible way to decide national elections.

And his baseball analogy is way off base. In 1960, the Pirates won four games to the Yankees' three. This is a majority.

The runs in each game counted equally for each team. The fact that the Yankees scored more runs in lopsided victories meant nothing.

The candidate who garners more popular votes in an election should win. The Electoral College has prevented that fair result four times.

This is a travesty.

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