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The podium

Excerpts from the Globe’s ‘Voices of New England’ blog

CLEAR WAY FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS

A CHILD’S destiny should not be determined by her zip code. Massachusetts has been a leader in public education reform for nearly two decades, but persistent poverty- and race-based achievement gaps in low-income communities are reminders that we have not done enough to meet our commitment to offer educational opportunity to every young person in the Commonwealth.

A new proposal in the Legislature would eliminate the enrollment cap on Commonwealth charter public schools in the lowest-performing school districts. . . . If we are to provide urban students with a realistic path to prosperity, we need to give them a solid educational foundation. That means building on reforms we have already implemented and providing more access to high-quality charter public schools.

Barry Finegold, State senator

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Paul Sagan, Akamai Technologies

TAKE OFF THE TIES AND RINGS

WALK INTO a hospital in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and much of Scandanavia, and take a good look around. No physician is wearing a tie. No one is wearing a lab coat. No one wears rings, not even a lone wedding band. No stethoscope dangles around the neck of either doctors or nurses. There is instead a stethoscope in each patient’s room.

Now consider the United States. White coats remain the symbol of status for physicians. Women and men wear rings galore ­– wedding rings, engagement rings, school rings, pinky rings – sometimes three or four per person. It’s hard to find anyone without a wrist watch. Ties – mostly traditional long ones – are de rigueur for docs. And stethoscopes are draped casually around the neck as if the latest fashion accessory.

Why the difference in medical equipment and attire? Health systems in the UK and Europe have acted on studies that document the fact that pieces of standard medical equipment and attire pose the risk of harboring and transmitting a host of dangerous organisms to patients. Ties have been shown to be colonized with hospital superbugs. Rings can shelter untold dangerous organisms underneath the band. As for lab coats, their long sleeves are constantly touching patients and transporting germs from one to another.

While numerous studies have documented these dangers, many in health care will argue that there is no smoking gun that directly links pathogens on a ring, tie, watch, etc., with a bad patient outcome. . . . But the Europeans have acted on available evidence. For them, removing such obvious sources of possible contamination is just common sense much like wearing a helmet while snowboarding.

Suzanne Gordon and Michael Gardam, University Health Network

TRANSPARENCY IN MORTGAGE LENDING

IN MARCH, Senator Elizabeth Warren joined lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to assemble bipartisan legislation that begins to tackle housing finance reform. By introducing the “JumpStart GSE Reform Act,” Warren has taken an important first step in reforming housing finance giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae (known as government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.)

Warren’s legislation would require a new era of openness by Freddie and Fannie. Technically government entities, GSEs continue to propose policy changes affecting lenders and real estate markets that are likely to create even more uncertainty in the home lending marketplace.

Warren understands the dominance of GSEs across all sectors of the housing market and the need for greater transparency in how the agencies operate. Her legislation creates an environment for honest debate over the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

David H. Stevens, Mortgage Bankers Associate

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