letters to the editor 4/9

April 09, 2002

Campaign finance reform needed in Maryland, too

To the editor:

Congratulations to United States Senator John McCain on the passage of landmark campaign finance reform legislation! While much of the discussion on campaign finance has taken place in Washington, there has been a lot of activity here in Annapolis as well.

As a member of the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, which has jurisdiction of campaign finance laws, I have consistently sought to reform our state's election laws to encourage a more responsive legislature to the people's interests.

I am one of the original co-sponsors of House Bill 538 - Election Laws - Study Commission on Public Funding of Campaigns in Maryland. This bi-partisan group has worked for four years to pass this bill which will investigate the "clean money" system for financing elections. Both the States of Maine and Arizona have successfully implemented this method in which participating candidates agree to voluntary spending limits and are able to focus more on debating policy issues as opposed to raising money.


Another bill that I have co-sponsored is legislation that will increase campaign financing disclosure requirements. This bill will require that all contributions made prior to the start of the legislative session in January be made public by the opening day of the session. This way the public will have timely access to this information. Currently, this information is made public almost a year after the session ends.

Last session, I was very honored to join United States Sen. John McCain in Annapolis when he lent his support to our efforts to reform the campaign system in Maryland. Campaign fund-raising is a necessary part of American politics. However, we must ensure that legislative decisions are based on what is best for all citizens. When there are reasonable limits imposed and full public disclosure, democracy benefits. Ensuring that our electoral process is fair and that it offers citizens real choices between candidates is our goal. I am pleased to report that the General Assembly is making good progress towards that end, but we have much work yet to do.

Christopher B. Shank

Delegate, District 2B


School standards are needed

To the editor:

Parents of students in Washington County's public schools should be aware that WCBOE's decision to drop the MSPAP test for eighth-graders and substitute the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) continues to obscure from view whether "your" student is progressing toward meeting state graduation standards in English, government, biology, algebra and geometry.

MSPAP is a badly flawed test, but a "standards-based" test, meaning it measures what kids know and are able to do, measured against a set standard.

MSPAP's major flaw was the decision to publish results school by school, (which is critical information) but it should also have published results student by student.

Today, parents simply don't know whether Washington County's local curriculum is affording students the mastery of subject matter required to pass Maryland's upcoming assessment tests. These are the standards a student must master in English, government, biology, algebra and geometry to graduate.

What's wrong with the CTBS test? It's a norm-referenced test that tells parents nothing about their child's mastery of subject matter. Your child could score in the 99th percentile compared with peers nationwide and that data only means your child is above average compared with peers nationwide.

Bottom line, until the "governance" (superintendent/board) of the Washington County public school system puts in place an assessment system - a standards-based testing program in elementary, middle and high school aligned with state/national grade level content standards - "accountability" for individual student performance is an impossible dream.

Absent timely, accurate and relevant data on the progress made by individual students and groups of students in every classroom, in every school in every grade, in all subject matter Washington County students will continue to leave school minimally prepared for a career or college and, beginning in 2007, absent a diploma.

Harold L. Phillips

Clear Spring

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