March 07, 2009

Let schools nurture both body and mind

On Feb. 24, our governor laid out a spectacular agenda for taking Maryland's schools from best in the country to best in the world ("O'Malley sets goals for schools," Feb. 25).

To his "seven key goals," however, I would add an eighth: Better prepare students for achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Throughout their lives, children should be physically active, eat a healthy diet and refrain from smoking. All of these are learned and controllable behaviors, but they have to be taught early in life and there must be opportunities provided for children to practice and reinforce the learned behaviors.

The American Heart Association and its partners in the Maryland Healthy Schools Coalition urge Gov. Martin O'Malley, the State Board of Education, the state superintendent of schools and the General Assembly to work toward the goal of providing every student in prekindergarten through grade 12 with a daily comprehensive physical education/physical activity program of one hour or more and ongoing age-appropriate health education courses that include segments on diet and nutrition and tobacco-use prevention and cessation.

Childhood obesity has become an urgent and expensive health problem in Maryland. It leads to adult obesity and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death in our state.

For Maryland schools to become the "best in the world," we all must remember that there is a direct relationship between mind and body.

We cannot afford to nurture one at the expense of the other.

Michaeline R. Fedder, Baltimore

The writer is Maryland director of government relations for the American Heart Association.

Too late to rebid slots initiative

I'm a slots proponent, a horse racing fan and a faithful Democrat. And for those reasons, I am not a proponent of Magna Entertainment Corp., Comptroller Peter Franchot or the Maryland Jockey Club ("Magna loan due today could trigger bankruptcy," March 5).

But in recent weeks, we have all read about the limited success the state has had in the bids for slots parlors.

One can cite a number of factors for the mediocre bid response, but the lousy state of the economy has to be given the yeoman's share of blame, along with a financially crippled operator of racetracks in Maryland.

Because certain politicians haven't been pleased with the results of the slots bidding, or may actually have been relieved to see the bids come limping in with less than the expected results to flatter their initial anti-slots positions, they now seem compelled to blabber about with comments to reduce the state's "take," the amount the state would receive from any slots revenues, or to rebid the slots issue, or, most ridiculous of all, to rewrite the authorizing legislation.

Plainly put, the Senate president and the speaker of the House need to clam up and let the chairman of the slots commission, Donald C. Fry, do his job.

Both legislators should know that one does not negotiate business on the front page of the newspaper and that multiple public voices speaking on behalf of the state cannot successfully represent our best interest in this situation.

My view is that we should take the bids we have received and run with them.

All those bids will generate revenue. And it's just possible that after exhibiting some success with slots, a few more players will want to get in the game or the bidders we have will want to expand their facilities.

Neil M. Ridgely, Reisterstown

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