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Thumbs up, thumbs down

March 11, 2006

Thumbs up to all of the students participating in today's Washington County Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Herald-Mail. They've spent months studying word lists and waiting for the big day that will determine whether they win a prize or even a ticket to the national bee in Washington, D.C. Good luck to all these young scholars.




Thumbs up to the teachers, students and administrators at Hagerstown's Bester Elementary School, for the hard work they did to win recognition as a National Title I Distinguished School. Bester won the award by posting the highest achievement gains of all of Maryland's Title I schools among the student groups identified by the No Child Left Behind Act on the Maryland School Assessment in 2005.




Thumbs down to the Maryland Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee, for its decision to cut funding to make correctional officers' pay raises retroactive for six months. It would set a bad precedent, committee members said. Instead of worrying about bad precedents, we suggest senators think about all of the good people who get paid too little to staff the state's prisons.

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Thumbs up to teacher Carl Brindley and the students at South Hagerstown High School, for putting together a peer mentoring program to help close the academic gap between minority and white students and between those from low-income families and those whose families have higher incomes.




Thumbs down to the Maryland House of Delegates, for approving a return to optical-scan paper ballots after spending $90 million on touch-screen voting devices. If successful, the move could add another $12.5 million to the tab. We're not disputing the need for some sort of paper back-up in case of a contested election, but why didn't this group think about that before spending $90 million to go the other way?




Thumbs up to Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, for his bill to extend the life of the Maryland Medbank program, which serves the working poor and uninsured people by giving them free prescription drugs. Kim Murdaugh, director of Hagerstown's Walnut Street Community Health Center, said the program keeps many out of the emergency room here.




Thumbs up to the Finance Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates, for backing legislation that would give schools in the state's Eastern Panhandle $3.5 million to augment teacher pay, in hopes of preventing educators from being lured across state borders for higher salaries. Let's hope the full House is as helpful and understanding.




Thumbs down to all of the federal agencies whose slow response to Freedom of Information Act requests was cited in a recent review done by The Associated Press. Forty years after FOIA's passage, AP found that 15 executive agencies have a combined total of 147,810 requests pending, up 24 percent over the previous year. In addition, some citizens have waited up to four years for an agency to comply with their requests for information compiled with their tax dollars.

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