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Everybody's Column / Letters from our readers

School funding is at the crux of educational inequalities

The mantra of "No Child Left Behind" by the Bush administration is a cruel lie. Under the act, schools are cited for low standardized test scores. I found it farcical when a suburban superintendent in a wealthy district was quoted in The News as saying his students had high scores because of great teachers. As long as school district funding is based on property taxes, wealthy districts will continue to have higher test scores when compared to poor urban and rural districts. Unequal education is exacerbated by the fact that only 60 percent of children in urban areas attend Head Start, so they are already three years behind when they enter kindergarten. This educational apartheid will only be broken when the federal government guarantees the constitutional right of equal education through equal funding for every child.

Education for poor and middle income children is historically test based, not an attempt to teach the art of the utilization of knowledge. Given the No Child Left Behind Act, many officials desirous of better scores encourage the most needy students to drop out and take the high school equivalency exam so they do not lower the schools' scores. It is time to end isolating and then labeling educational victims.

Ross Runfola



Candidates failed test of campaign efficiency

So many of the candidates who promise to run local government more efficiently have failed the first test. In the weeks before the primary election, my wife and I -- both Democrats -- have received duplicates of every candidate's literature. It would seem relatively easy in this time of computers to send only one copy when both of us live at the same address. We are usually very good at sharing. To send two is not only financially wasteful but environmentally irresponsible.

If a candidate cannot run his or her own campaign efficiently, dealing with a budget in the thousands of dollars, how can I expect that same candidate to efficiently run a government whose budget is in the millions?

Gordon Crock



Criticism of Israel has been silenced before

The Sept. 6 News report regarding attempts by various groups, including the American Jewish Committee, to stifle criticism of Israel on the UB campus reminded me of a snowy, winter evening in 2002. A publicly advertised forum at UB's Center for Tomorrow, sponsored jointly by the AJC, UB Law School and League of Women Voters, featured Reps. John LaFalce, Jack Quinn and Tom Reynolds. Arriving early, I stood peacefully in the lobby with others distributing fliers representing various causes. Mine plead for sympathy for the Palestinians.

Suddenly, the moderator appeared, loudly demanding that I (and only I) stop. I expressed doubt that the LWV and the Law School would concur with such a demand. She left and returned to state, very grudgingly, that I could stand outside. Shivering alone in the cold, I distributed my remaining fliers. Upon re-entering to attend the forum, my way was physically barred by the AJC president, who said, "We don't want you here." Thanks to the intervention of UB's director of public safety, I was able to attend.

Fortunately there are more democratic groups, such as Jews for Justice in the Middle East.

Marcia Williams



Radon devices provide lung cancer protection

On Sept. 6, The News printed an article regarding the lack of support that lung cancer victims receive due to the fact that many of them brought it on themselves through the poor decision to smoke. It went on to talk about the number of lung cancer victims who have never smoked including Dana Reeve, the widow of actor Christopher Reeve. The story left the reader dangling without answers.

The public needs to be aware that the second-leading cause of lung cancer is radon gas. Erie County's radon levels are among the highest in the nation -- 17 out of 28 towns have average radon levels over the EPA's safe limit. The good news is that radon levels can easily be reduced in any home through the installation of a radon mitigation system. This can be installed by the homeowner or a certified radon abatement firm. Since radon gas is colorless and odorless, the EPA encourages all homeowners to test their home for radon.

Karl Koniarczyk

President, Radonaire



Dressing up for art is a flawed concept

Mary Kunz Goldman's recent column, "Whatever happened to dressing up?" mentions that the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is the home of Pablo Picasso, and that we should show a little respect for his work by dressing up. Yet, according to a Web site for famous quotes, it was Picasso who said, "Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness."

Also, if I remember correctly, several years ago the billboards around town promoting the Modigliani exhibit at the Albright-Knox showed the stylish artist dressed casually in a V-neck sweater big collars out, of course. I wonder if it would have drawn record crowds like it did had he been pictured in a staid two-button sport coat. I guess we'll never know.

Chris Stucchio



Lack of probation staff is causing havoc on area

The levees have already broken in Erie County. There are criminals in our neighborhoods committing more crimes because they are not being adequately supervised by probation officers, who are each monitoring over 350 people. The Holding Center and Annex are jammed with prisoners waiting for up to six months to be sentenced because there are only seven probation officers writing the necessary presentence reports. The county pays the costs of these prisoners and will soon pay even more when the prisoners are sent to neighboring counties because of the overflow conditions.

The levees in our county weren't just neglected. Five months ago, 35 probation officers were cut. Many more are retiring and the jobs aren't being filled. I wrote each of the legislators and the county executive then, predicting exactly what has happened. I've been in the courts for 36 years and my pleas were ignored. All these jobs, not just five or six, must be restored immediately before some horrendous crime is perpetrated.

The most fundamental duty of government is to protect its citizens. That is not being done in our county. I don't mean to minimize the devastation caused by Katrina, but we have our own Katrina now in Erie County.

Timothy J. Drury

Erie County Court Judge



White House must stop its destructive behavior

An article in the Sept. 11 News, "Pentagon Spells Out First Use of N-Weapons -- Proposal Describes Pre-Emptive Strikes," makes me very afraid. It represents the Pentagon's first attempt to revise procedures to reflect the Bush pre-emption doctrine.

The first example for potential nuclear weapon use is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use" weapons of mass destruction. Where have we heard that before?

We are feared and hated in much of the world now. We are the bully! Can nothing be done to stop the egomaniacs in the White House and Pentagon before it is too late? Absolute power destroys.

Mary Barnas


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