The Post deserves congratulations for giving front-page emphasis to the risks we are running with the high school graduating class of the year 2000 {"Children at Risk," Oct. 11}.

Those risks are not just at East Consolidated Elementary School in St. Paul, the focus of the article, but, as reporter Barbara Vobejda made clear, in schools across the land. East Consolidated may not be Every School, but it stands for much of the growing diversity in American schools, including schools in suburbs like Montgomery County. Children are at risk in Montgomery County for the same reasons they are at risk in East Consolidated: poverty, problems at home, difficulties with the language and the lack of resources.

We could never afford "throwaway children," but in a booming economy with rapid growth just after World War II, we paid little attention to those who were at risk, who were failing to acquire the basic skills. Now, in a period of slower growth nationally and rapid technological development, coupled with a smaller cohort of students who will be graduating from the public schools (and private schools) in the year 2000, there is no longer any room for failure.

The impressive achievements of suburban school districts like Montgomery County and Fairfax County mask the need to give ever more attention to the educationally disadvantaged, even here. In Montgomery County, the number of children and the proportion of children eligible for Head Start has steadily increased over the last several years, as has the number of schools eligible for Chapter I money (formerly Title I) provided by the federal government for the disadvantaged. But last year the Montgomery County Council denied the school board's request for more funds for Chapter I. Both are highly effective programs that help children overcome academic deficits.

The evidence of both the need and the opportunity to meet the need is strongly underlined in an excellent report just released by the Committee for Economic Development, titled "Children in Need: Investment Strategies for the Educationally Disadvantaged." Its major argument is that we should concentrate on helping the poor and disadvantaged early, through preschool programs, through Head Start, through solid kindergarten programs, through special help in the first several years of elementary school. The message is clear: the costs of not providing the help are unacceptably high. That is why we must use proven programs to meet the needs of children.

BLAIR G. EWING Member, Montgomery County Board of Education Silver Spring