the battle over school choice

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JOIN THE DISCUSSION:  what is needed to build and maintain strong public schools?  is the answer 'school choice'--vouchers, charter schools, and privatizing education

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I believe that Frontline is the single most in depth, objective news program on the air today, and that this program represented their usual standards of excellence, I believe two important points in favor of vouchers were missed.

The first is the fact that most intercity schools are not suffering from a lack of funds, especially in Washington D.C., where spending per pupil is among the highest in the nation. The fact that these funds do not seem to actually make it to the schools for needed investments in infrastructure and repairs is not a funding problem, but rather points to the inherent weakness of any government-sanctioned monopoly with an inflexible bureacracy. Data indicating that many private schools educate students at a lower cost per pupil than public schools, especially in large metropolitan areas, was ommitted.

Secondly, concerns that private school vouchers violate the constitutional separation of church and state seem selective, since the federal government has been providing private school vouchers to college students in the form of Pell Grants and the G.I. Bill for some time with no complaints from anyone.

One of my primary arguments in favor of school vouchers, however, is simply moral. I believe that opposition to school vouchers truly represents, as one program commentator mentioned, a sort of Berlin Wall of education. The long waiting lines for access to school voucher funds in Milwalkee and Cleveland clearly indicate that, given freedom of choice, many parents will take their tax dollars and vote with their feet. Denying them this choice for any reason strikes me as the same elitist and authoritarian pretention that we witnessed for so long in the leaders behind the real, and gone, Berlin Wall.

Alan Green
San Antonio, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

Against my better judgement I tried Public School and Charter Schools in the State of North Carolina. However, because of North Carolina's poor track record for educating the children of their state. I felt, I had no other choice but to put my child in a private school. Nonetheless, what upsets me the most is the nerve of many politicians would expect parents to put their children's education on hold while they try and clean up a messy public school system. How long will it take for this Government to figure out "Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulate in the form of inert facts"....

Pam Footman
Durham, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

The "problem" with public education is not the system itself, but the poor excuse for what passes as parenting. Too many of today's parents believe that once they procreate their job is over. These parents now believe that they can continue leading the same lives they did prior to having children.

Instead of becoming responsible for their part in educating their children having children read to them nightly, checking that assignments are completed, becoming involved with their schoolthey look for excuses instead of looking at their own failure as parents.

It is much easier and obviously more popular to blame "the system." It plays well in the media and we all know the gullibilty of the American public.

Until parents recognize their responsibilities and politicians cease to attempt to make points at the expense of teacher's there will be no drastic changes in public education.

Harry Hirsch

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a teacher in public schools I want to be sure that everyone understands that the published numbers are very skewed. In Oklahoma we officially have 15.5 students per teacher. HA! My average class must have at least 28 or the class will not be taught, and I am in a suburban school. How do they get these numbers? They count the total number of people in the district superintendents, principals, ect who have education degrees, and count them as teachers with students. These people are not in the classroom teaching. Even the teachers who are in the classroom have a planning period when they are not teaching. These teachers are counted as having a class of students the whole day. To say that average "class size" is 15.5 and count people who are not in the class room as teachers is basically lying to the parents and public.

The same works for salaries. $31,000 average salary is a joke. These numbers also include superintendent salaries. In my district we have 15 superintendents and they each make over $100,000. This raises the average salaries by quite a lot.

Jennifer Younge
Edmond, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,

Tonight's program was balanced in terms of most of its presentation. It did not, however, even mention that parental involvement is a must if students and the systems whatever form are to thrive.

There are no easy solutions to increasing parental involvement especially in neighborhoods with the worst schools

Robert Sheehan
McLean, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a retired Texas public school teacher, I cannot stand by and let your misrepresentations about GW Bush and TX public education go unchallenged. Bush has benefited from years of hard work by Gov. Ann Richards and Gov. Mark White. The $3000 teacher pay raise this year was achieved through hard work by teachers; Bush wanted to give $2000 per teacher to each school board to use as they wanted. He did not want teachers to receive the money directly, but he saw that the Legislature wanted it, so he just didn't veto it. He knows absolutely NOTHING about public education. If it hadn't been for the efforts of pro-education lobby efforts and conscientious Legislators, Bush would have totally destroyed TX education!

LaBeth Pondish
Houston, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

We have School Choice here in Milwaukee, and I personally think its a waste of tax payers money. I bust my butt at work to receive a paycheck to send my children to private school, not to have my taxes spent on other peoples children. I feel that School Choice is going to follow the same path as welfare and get way out of hand.

There is a separation between church and state, and with the government handing out "vouchers" it crosses that line.

I sent my children to private school to get a better education, to be religiously educated and to be better people and I think with me actually paying for that education out of my own pocket puts them on the right track from the begining.

This generation of children is being brought up to think that the government should be taking care of them instead of the parents teaching them to take care of themselves.

Traci Beix



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