March 21, 2009

A better approach to school reform

The more I hear and read about President Barack Obama's declarations about our public schools, the more concerned and confused I become ("Obama offers education plan," March 11).

Therefore, may I suggest that the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan work to better organize the nation's public school systems instead of announcing proposed programs of grants, incentives, rewards and merit pay?

Since the international ranking of the performance of U.S. public school students is relatively low, real changes must be instigated to ensure our students become more competitive.

This should involve improving school curricula by including courses that help students meet the worldly demands of our highly technological society and our complicated economic system.

And since most teachers unions are not in favor of merit pay, I recommend we institute a fair and efficient system of evaluating all educators annually through a standardized form completed by their immediate superiors.

This report would become a permanent record that could be used in determining future placements, promotions and other professional decisions.

And if at any time these reports should show that a teacher does not measure up to quality standards, that employee should be demoted or discharged.

Quinton D. Thompson, Towson

Cutting services could be costly

As the legislative session nears its end, the state faces greater deficits than expected ("U.S. aid falling short in Md.," March 2). This forces lawmakers to make tough decisions about cuts to agency programs. However, there are some programs that fund services we simply cannot afford to cut.

For instance, the state's Mental Hygiene Administration provides services to people with serious mental illness who often do not have other ways to obtain services. If we cut services to this population, we will see overcrowded emergency rooms, more homeless people and higher incarceration rates.

It is simply not a cost-effective decision to cut services that will ultimately result in more spending.

Chava Sheffield, Baltimore

The writer is a graduate student in health policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Malpractice caps no boon to business

Like other small business owners, the writer of the letter "Damage caps protect payers" (March 12) has every right to be concerned about the cost of insuring her employees.

But by claiming that fair treatment for injured patients will increase "health care insurance premiums for everyone," the letter writer unfortunately shows a misunderstanding of the facts.

Every health insurance contract requires the injured patient who receives a malpractice award or settlement to reimburse the health insurance company for the expenses paid by the carrier to treat the injuries. The same principle also applies to workers injured on the job who are treated negligently.

Consequently, rather than increasing the cost of health and workers compensation insurance to small businesses, raising the cap on malpractice damages so that injured patients are treated under the law in the same way that people injured in automobile accidents are would probably lower (not raise) insurance costs for small businesses.

Wayne M. Willoughby, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Association for Justice.

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