Letters To The Editor
I strongly support Henry M. Levin's suggestions in his Commentary, "Reawakening the Vigor of Urban Schools" (Education Week, May 18, 1983). In particular, I support his idea of establishing many community-based, small schools that offer the best of two worlds: a choice of diverse, shared staff members and facilities that our cities can offer, and personal mini-schools where all students and teachers know one another.
Mr. Levin mentions many student- and teacher-initiated activities that would make all participants feel proud that they are building and maintaining their own school. As an example, the computerization of school schedules, student records, and so forth, to minimize paper work, might be included in such student-run activities. If there is no sufficiently sophisticated computer buff among the students, perhaps a person can be "borrowed" from a college or a data-processing business to get the computer work going. After that, students and teachers can run it.
Another possible use of neighborhood schools is to open them to younger-than-kindergarten-age students, creating a kind of built-in Head Start program.
While the job of improving the whole city school system plagued by a political bureaucracy, demoralized staff members, and alienated students is overwhelming, the smaller task of setting up a mini-school here and there seems much more tractable.
Anneli Lax Professor of Mathematics Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences New York University New York, N.Y.
Voucher advocate John Coons ("From Serrano to School Vouchers," Education Week, May 25, 1983) conveniently overlooks the fact that his plans would provide tax support for the religious, ideological, gender, ability level, and other forms of discrimination common in nonpublic schools--but not allowed in public schools--and would provide coerced public support for pervasively sectarian institutions in violation of the First Amendment.
Meaningful public regulation of voucher-aided nonpublic schools would be unacceptable to the nonpublic schools, while meaningful regulation that should follow public dollars would create an unconstitutional entanglement of religion and government.
Coons-Sugarman voucher plans have been so bizarre that their promoters have failed even to get them on the ballot in California. In the only referendum ever held on vouchers, in Michigan in 1978, the plan was defeated, 74 percent to 26 percent. The plan suffered the same fate in local opinion polls used by the Ford Administration to try to sell the concept in Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Let's get on with improving our public schools and stop paying attention to proposed Rube Goldberg monstrosities that would create more problems than they could ever solve.
Edd Doerr Executive Director The Voice of Reason Silver Spring, Md.
Thomas Mooney makes valid points in his Commentary, "Collective Bargaining Will Impede School Reform" (Education Week, May 18, 1983), when he states that elected school officials--not teacher-union officials--must have the final say on decisions involving school policy.
But Mr. Mooney did not address the root of the power of teacher-union officials: that individual teachers in many states may not decide for themselves whether or not they wish to join, support, or be represented by a union.
Currently, teachers in 35 states are forced to live under state labor laws that impose "exclusive" or monopoly-bargaining representation on all teachers in a designated district. Teachers who specifically object to union affiliation have no choice but to accept unwanted union representation.
And in 16 states, teachers can be required to pay forced "agency shop" fees to the National Education Association or American Federation of Teachers officials for representation they never wanted in the first place! If they refuse to pay, they can be fired.
Therein lies the key to the teacher unions' death grip on public education--the ability to control a school district's teachers and to wield that clout to thwart the policy decisions of school officials elected by the community to run the schools.
Not until federal, state, and local elected officials take a stand for the rights of our teachers and say "no" to the nea and aft demands for monopoly bargaining and compulsory union powers will this travesty end. In light of the Bell Commission's report on excellence in education, now could not be a better time to act to restore freedom of choice to the nation's teaching profession.
Susan Staub Director Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism Springfield, Va.