Maine’s first two charter schools recently passed reviews by the Maine Charter School Commission (“Commission gives first two Maine charter schools passing grades,” Oct. 31) – a hopeful beginning with room for improvement.

Both schools showed increased attendance (which positively impacts graduation rates) and strong parent involvement. These schools are small, and as such it is difficult for students to fall through the cracks in such personalized settings. Regular public schools can do this, too.

Research in recent years has shown that small, nonselective public schools of choice demonstrate the same benefits as charter schools.

According to “Sustained Progress,” a study by the education think tank MDRC, principals and teachers at 25 of New York City’s small high schools “with the strongest evidence of effectiveness strongly believe that academic rigor and personal relationships with students contribute to the effectiveness of their schools. They also believe that these attributes derive from their schools’ small organizational structures and from their committed, knowledgeable, hardworking, and adaptable teachers.”

In an Oct. 29 blog post titled “In Praise of Smaller Schools,” the Freakonomics website echoes these research findings, noting the value of small schools in boosting student achievement and graduation rates.

Regular public schools in Maine, with support from their communities and district leadership, should be encouraged to create the small-school climate that the charter schools implemented. If done well, the efforts and the investments will pay off in higher achievement and higher graduation rates.

Anne W. Miller


Writers of the Declaration put ‘life’ first for a reason

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. It gives examples of the various “unalienable rights,” which the Declaration says all human beings have been given by their Creator and for the protection of which they institute governments.

During a time of congressional deadlock over our fiscal well-being, our country was held hostage by some who oppose the current health care system.

I believe that in a document as significant to the foundation of our country, the order of these words are no accident. Before personal happiness, before “liberty,” the word is “life.” The protection of life is the primary function of our government.

Think about it: Would the Founders of our country have wanted people to profit off the weak? Yet we have let ourselves be duped into believing it’s okay. Not just okay, but we should be militant to make sure a despicable profit stream can continue.

It strikes me if all the money that funnels into health insurance were paid to the government instead, shouldn’t we be better off?

After all, wouldn’t we be getting all of the profit dollars over the actual cost of health care to work with, too? Think of it as Medicare for everyone. Let the insurance companies fight over Medigap policies.

Oh, well, I’m sure it is all open to interpretation and I’ve got it wrong, but profiting off the weak doesn’t sound like a good thing, and using health care to hold up the budget was inappropriate.

Mark Rediker


Public unaware of true cost of revealing all on Internet

There is a lot of crying in one’s Coke nowadays about “breaches” of supposedly secret communications.

When are users of person-to-person communication channels going to realize that there is not, and never has been, any such thing as secrecy there?

Individuals, including national leaders, seem to think that the “gentlemen (and, presumably, ladies also) do not read other gentlemen’s (or ladies’) mail (or diaries)” rule really holds.

Actually, the only real secret is one that no other person knows about. The nearest thing to it is found where very few persons know of the item.

However, it seems as if in modern times only al-Qaida has practiced that well, and even that group lost some of its understanding of that principle since its success of 9/11.

The U.S. national security complex itself also lost much of that when it began to provide too-wide access to too much of its sensitive material, leading to both the Chelsea Manning and the Edward Snowden affairs. And apparently a big segment of the public doesn’t appreciate what spilling their guts on the Internet can mean.

But don’t tell anyone that I told you this. I’m sure that you won’t.

Richard B. Innes


Supporters of Obamacare present off-base arguments

Adding to the debate on the Affordable Care Act, recent comments published on this page deserve a response.

John Graham of Woolwich (“More objectivity needed in discussion of insurance,” Nov. 4) objects to the assertion that the government is stealing from the young to give to the elderly and asks how the Affordable Care Act is different from life, auto and homeowners insurance.

The answer is easy: We are not forced to buy those other forms of insurance unless we drive or live in homes that we do not yet fully own.

As for the assurances from John Manderino of Buxton (“Obamacare is the most misunderstood law,” Nov. 5) that we will not be forced to change doctors or our existing insurance plans:

There are already several instances that have been reported in which people have been notified by their insurers of cancellation on their policies and the subsequent requirement that they find new plans.

Further, the writer chooses to forget the late-night gerrymandering in Congress that resulted in the bill’s passage.

In his letter, also published Nov. 5, Tom Foley of Cumberland Foreside hit the nail on the head when he expressed the sentiment that the Affordable Care Act may be “the most misunderstood piece of legislation in recent history.”

After all, was it not Nancy Pelosi who told us that the public would not know what is in the law until it was passed?

Michael A. Smith