- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

Schools, not government, should select textbooks

I read with great interest the Aug. 8 story "School standards boost test success." As a publisher, I have a suggestion that I feel will further improve test scores: deregulate the state textbook selection process. Presently, twenty-one states have state-level textbook selection processes. Publishers must jump through hoops to get their books on the states' approved lists. I know of no state in which textbooks must show evidence of efficacy in order to be approved. For this reason, publishers will design the books to superficially meet the state standards. These untested books are then used in the classrooms, often with abysmal results.
In the recently released 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress state rankings for math scores, there is only one state listed in the top ten that has a state textbook selection process. Of the ten states at the bottom of the list, however, nine have state textbook selection processes.
I often have to remind textbook committees that "books don't meet standards, students do." My suggestion is to set clear expectations of accountability and let individual schools and teachers decide which textbook to use.

Saxon Publishers, Inc.
Norman, Okla.

Despite financial crisis, Argentina is stable democracy

Regarding Max Bergmann's Aug. 16 Op-Ed piece "Argentina's future," I would like to make the following comments.
As you know, Argentina is going through a serious economic and financial crisis. However, the administration of President Fernando de la Rua is committed to and engaged in actions to overcome this situation, through the implementation of sound economic policies that should put Argentina back on its path to growth and prosperity. In this context, the Congress passed a zero-deficit law and a competitive act, which are unique tools toward that end.
Argentina has a very solid institutional framework, and its democracy is healthy and fully functional. Since recovering its democratic institutions in 1983, Argentina has emerged as an example of democracy, respect for human rights, political and civic freedoms and free trade. We are committed to continuing maintaining these qualities.
Some of the comments in Mr. Bergmann's column seem unfair and unfounded. President de la Rua was elected in free, fair and undisputed elections. World leaders are recognizing the decisions made by him and his administration, with the support of Congress and governors representing different political parties, in managing this crisis.
Argentina is a democratic asset to the Western hemisphere. It has a significant political value which should be recognized. The country has played and shall continue to play a key role in promoting stability, the values of democratic rule and the shaping of a peaceful and just international environment.
I am glad to share these ideas on the political and economic situation of my country, and I look forward to a continued dialogue.

Embassy of the Argentine Republic

Proposed ID cards bad for D.C. students, parents

Thank you for Deborah Simmons' timely Aug. 17 Op-Ed column "Apartheid on the Potomac," on the D.C. Council's proposed youth identification card resolution. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons agrees that the proposed ID cards and resulting governmental database would severely threaten the individual liberties of both students and parents.
Frankly, we do not believe that the rationale for the system is to help find lost children. How would fingerprints help in such cases? They might, of course, be useful in identifying a child who, once found, could not give his name. For this purpose, however, parents can voluntarily go to a police station and have their children fingerprinted. But even this would only be useful if nothing could be found that already had the child's fingerprints on it. The chances of that happening are very slim.
Perhaps the government wants to use the database to find youthful criminals. If this is the case, why don't advocates just honestly state their purpose? Perhaps they could suggest an even more effective method, such as forcing everyone to give a DNA sample just in case he ever were to become a criminal suspect.
In truth, if the plan were explained honestly, people would reject it. They really don't trust government, now or ever, with that kind of power. The fact that the proposal is being promoted disingenuously is all the more reason to reject it.
It's refreshing to see a member of the media who is concerned with privacy rights. AAPS, a non-partisan professional association of physicians in all types of practices and specialties across the country, strongly supports privacy rights. This month we are filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services to halt implementation of the new medical privacy regulations written under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. These regulations facilitate the formation of a nationalized database of medical records and gives government unprecedented access to sensitive medical information. These "midnight regulations" will severely damage the confidential patient-doctor relationship by forcing physicians to risk criminal penalties if they fail to release records upon governmental demand. Such demands could be based on a mere whim, and no search warrant would be required.
Again, thank you for the excellent column.

Executive director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons Inc.
Tucson, Ariz.

A tax relief bill for Joe Six-packs everywhere

Your Aug. 17 news story "English drafts bill to cut beer tax in half: Backers say keeping 1990 level unfair," really brought to light the unfairness of the current tax situation for beer drinkers. There are more than 90 million Americans who like to drink a beer every now and then, often as a well-deserved reward for a hard day's work. It wasn't fair to these ordinary working men and women to see federal excise taxes double on beer in 1990 from $9 to $18 per barrel. While the 1990 tax increase for costly fur coats, expensive yachts and fancy jewelry have been reduced or phased out, the 1990 federal excise tax hike on beer has stubbornly remained.
Fortunately, Rep. Phil English, a Pennsylvania Republican, and 187 co-sponsors are pushing for a tax relief bill for Joe Six-Packs everywhere. It will provide needed tax relief to those Americans who count their dollars and cents very carefully. In addition, lowering excise taxes on beer will send the right message that fairness is still the most important consideration in tax policy matters.
Bravo for bringing increased attention to this important issue.

Beer Institute

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