- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 1999

Clinton bashes own 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy

In your Dec. 14 edition, the headline " 'Don't ask, don't tell' gets review; Pentagon's gay policy under fire" needs a bit of clarification. The story says, "Defense Secretary William S. Cohen yesterday ordered a review of the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy after Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized it and President Clinton followed suit… ."

If my memory serves me correctly, President Clinton signed onto the policy in 1993 and essentially forced the Pentagon to comply with it. If Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the policy, that's one thing, but if Mr. Clinton followed suit, he is thereby criticizing his own policy. It is up to him (and not the Pentagon) to take any action on his own policy. The Pentagon is subservient and subordinate to the commander in chief and takes its direction from him. If Mr. Clinton thinks he was wrong about it, he should say so to America. Revise it if need be, but don't make it look as if the Pentagon came up with it and he suddenly thinks officials there should change their policy. That's the kind of bogus spin control we all have become much too accustomed to with this administration.

Please tell the full, accurate story. Unfortunately, most Americans have short memories and need to be reminded what we have in the White House for the moment. The past is prologue.

TOM ORRELL

Bowie

Uncle Sap can't afford to pay other countries' way

We used to be referred to affectionately as Uncle Sam, but a more fitting name today would be Uncle Sap. I am referring to the Dec. 14 article by Ben Barber with the headline "Israel asks for billions in U.S. aid for peace."

Have the American people and our government forgotten that we are a debtor nation? As of Dec. 15, our national debt stood at a staggering $5,703,808,425,630.65, Each citizen's share of this debt is $20,799.46, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The national debt has continued to increase on an average of $257 billion dollars per day since Dec. 31, 1998.

Haven't our government and its people gone beyond the call of duty to help promote peace in the Middle East? Now Israel has the unmitigated gall to ask us for billions of dollars so it can relocate 17,000 Jewish settlers from the Golan Heights and relocate military bases. This is Israel's problem, not the United States'. Oh, let's not forget the foreign aid we pump into Israel each year as well.

I also would like to bring to the attention of your readers an article that appeared in the Oct. 9 edition of The Washington Post, "GOP's Bachus Makes Debt Relief His Mission." Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican from Alabama, along with his liberal supporters, is begging America to forgive its loans to 42 Third World nations that owe us money. What does this mean? Once the debts are written off, the slate is wiped clean and these corrupt governments can start the process all over again?

All taxpayers in this country should contact their representatives and voice their opinions on these ludicrous ideas. The United States of America does more for people throughout the world than any other nation on the face of this earth. As the old saying goes, charity begins at home.

There are thousands of people in our country who are destitute, who can't afford medical insurance, living in poverty and wondering where their next meal is going to come from, and yet we give billions of dollars to countries overseas that hate us, burn our flag and bomb our embassies. Let's start to act like Uncle Sam again, not Uncle Sap.

DOUGLAS GOODGION

Falls Church

Editorial overlooked concerns about charter school conversions

Regarding your Dec. 21 editorial "More school choice for D.C.," the prospect of charter school "conversions" within District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) causes grave concern and warrants a full public discussion on this matter of important public policy.

The Board of Trustees, which was appointed to oversee and support systemic educational reform, has established four key goals: improve the academic performance of all children; promote equity throughout the system; promote sound management; and provide safe, healthy, cost-effective facilities and environments for all children. The elected Board of Education recently joined the trustees in expressing our concern that a failure to carefully examine and manage the creation of charter schools and conversions will destabilize the system and threaten the attainment of these goals.

A conversion such as that proposed by Paul Junior High School parents and faculty would be a first in the District, as no other public school has fully converted to a charter school. Therefore, how this is handled in the coming weeks will have long-standing consequences. Charter advocates' demand that they take over the entire school building is dividing the Paul community. Children and their families who want to remain in the core District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) program are pitted against those who favor the conversion.

Therefore, the questions are: What happens to those who choose not to go charter? What are the equity issues? An unexamined, unmanaged conversion as exemplified in the Paul proposition would take us down the road to an officially sanctioned, tiered system of education not unlike a resegregation process.

Most recently, the D.C. Agenda, a nonpartisan organization, held several sessions related to DCPS governance and the role of charter schools, and there was a clear consensus that the DCPS core programs and charter schools should not be pitted against each other. The consensus favored an integrated, systemic and managed approach toward education in kindergarten through 12th grade. Accordingly, charter schools should be aligned with educational reform initiatives now under way in DCPS. Simply put, how can we continue the educational reform process when a conversion process has the potential to dismantle our entire public education system?

Incredibly, this process potentially could mandate that we transfer a public school building currently being used for educational purposes to a nonprofit entity for virtually the same purpose. The recent proposal from Superintendent Arlene Ackerman allows the Paul charter school group to share space at Paul Junior High School with non-charter students. This proposal is reasonable, equitable, generous and practical.

As we work together to resolve the space issue at Paul Junior High School, we must avoid a winner-take-all process that divides our community. We have a long history of that in our nation in general and in this city in particular, with the unfortunate legacy of both racial segregation and academic tracking.

The charter movement and the school reform act were passed before the initiation of a systemic reform agenda that is well under way in our public school system. Now that our school system is on the path of systemic educational reform and making demonstrable progress, let's not destabilize it.

Public officials supporting charter school conversions of public school property should not lightly give away functioning assets and school buildings that belong to the entire community. School buildings should not be turned over to essentially quasi-public-private entities that would assume ownership under financial arrangements yet to be determined.

The elected Board of Education and the appointed Board of Trustees are united in opposition to charter school conversions that begin a process of disrupting educational reforms and potentially dismantling our school system.

As policy-makers, we want to assure that our educational system remains unified, focused and dedicated to systemic reform that results in increased student achievement.

MAUDINE R. COOPER

Chairman

Emergency Transitional

Educational Board of Trustees

Washington

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