Letters To The Editor
Your recent article, "New Immigrants Swell Enrollments in Texas Border Towns," (Education Week, Aug. 31, 1983) includes some questionable information.
The article states that "a new junior high school stood half-built and empty because the district did not have money to complete it." This is erroneous and misleading information. Not only have we not yet begun to build, we haven't even bought the land yet. I told your reporter that we have the funds to build the school half way, not complete it.
You quote me as saying, "We built an elementary school. We started the junior high, but over 60 of our businesses have closed. We don't have enough capital to finish it. Our biggest problem is space." While our greatest problem is space, and businesses have closed, we have not yet started building the new elementary school, nor have we started the junior high school.
Inez R. Ramirez Superintendent Eagle Pass Independent School District Eagle Pass, Tex.
Your front-page story about education costs, "Education Costs To Reach $230 Billion This Year," (Sept. 7, 1983), featured a chart indicating that estimated expenditures for the school year 1983-84 will be a rather staggering $16.3 billion for private elementary and secondary schools in the United States.
While you make the point that the federal government, along with state and local governments, will pick up nearly three quarters of the $230 billion to be spent on all of education next year, nothing is said about the fact that parents who pay tuition will foot the bill for nearly all of the $16.3-billion tab for nonpublic elementary- and secondary-school education.
The omission is unfortunate. Had you included this pertinent information, your readers would have been made aware that the taxpayers of our country would have to pay at least the $16 billion-plus figure if nonpublic-school students were to be enrolled in public schools. The significant amount paid by parents as tuition is also the basis of the point of view of nonpublic-school supporters that parents who pay out that kind of money for a public good--namely millions of well-educated children--deserve some kind of financial consideration in return, perhaps in the form of tax relief.
Just last June, in Mueller v. Allen, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Minnesota taxpayers receiving a tax deduction for educational expenses, including elementary- and secondary-school tuition payments.
In its majority opinion, the Court agreed that there is "a strong public interest in assuring the continued financial health of private schools, both sectarian and nonsectarian." It went on to say, "By educating a substantial number of students, such schools relieve public schools of a correspondingly great burden--to the benefit of all taxpayers."
Too little is made of the fact that some government financial aid to nonpublic-school parents, the vast majority of whom make less than $25,000 a year, will enable many of them to keep their children in nonpublic schools, and thereby save the taxpayer large sums of money.
One telling example: Were New York City's more than 200,000 Catholic-school students enrolled in public schools, the cost to the city, state, and federal governments would exceed $600 million per year.
James Kearney Superintendent of Schools Archdiocese of New York New York, N.Y.
Regarding the cover of your Calendar of Events, 1983-1984 (Education Week, Sept. 7, 1983), it is difficult to decide whether to commend you for the sterling example of racial insensitivity or to condemn your actions.
Most of my undergraduates are in their early 20's and think of the civil-rights movement as a part of the Civil War. But thanks to you, the Ku Klux Klan, and the American Nazis, we can have various open and subtle forms of racial insensitivity on continuous display.
I would like to know what local chapter of the White Citizen's Council is depicted in your calendar cover. Are these people teachers, parents, or just average citizens in your Aryan Amerika? I hope you try to find a sensitivity group where you can locate and deal with your all-white view of America.
All the students in ED 225 Multicultural Education send their deepest regrets and hope that one day soon you will be overcome.
John Caruso Jr. Professor of Education Western Connecticut State University Danbury, Conn. Mr. Caruso's letter was accompanied by a petition, signed by the members of his class, objecting to the "racial insensitivity" displayed in the cover of the Calendar of Events.
Your statement that New Jersey's teacher certification plan, if approved, stands to become the first in the country to allow people who have no teacher training to teach in public schools is incorrect ("N.J. Gov. Offers Plan To Waive Education Courses for Teachers," Education Week, Sept. 14, 1983). Since 1974, the state of New Hampshire has offered certification alternatives to traditional collegiate programs of professional preparation in education. These alternatives go beyond New Jersey's plan.
New Hampshire is indeed a leader in its own quiet way.
Richard A. Lalley Assistant Superintendent School Administrative Unit 32 Lebanon, N.H.
Editor's Note: New Hampshire rules provide for three ways in which a teacher may become certified: 1) by studying in programs approved by the state, 2) through a reciprocal agreement with certain other states, and 3) by demonstrating competence, skills, and knowledge through such means as written examinations and personal interviews. This third alternative is essentially the same as the proposal made by the Governor of New Jersey.
I read with interest Lawrence A. Uzell's Commentary, "Where is the 'Merit' in New Merit-Pay Plans?" (Education Week, Sept. 14, 1983).
Although I agree with most of his ideas, I vigorously disagree with his belief that the number of teachers who receive merit-pay bonuses should be limited to 10 to 15 percent. Instead, I envision a school that develops a workable merit-pay plan--similar to the one Mr. Uzell proposes--as being a draw for outstanding educators. Is it fair to set a limit so you only reward the "best of the best," when it is possible that more than 10 to 15 percent are deserving of merit pay?
Jim Luoma Elementary Principal Woodbury Elementary School Woodbury, Minn.
The energy and effort Lawrence A. Uzell put into alerting the public to the inadequacies of educational reforms in California and Florida could have been better utilized in producing a fair, valid, and coercion-proof merit-pay evaluation system.
If he honestly supports "extraordinary rewards for extraordinary teachers," let him submit for review a specific plan for achieving that end. What is desperately needed now are activists with meaningful and pragmatic solutions, especially regarding the sticky issue of recognizing "extraordinary teachers" through assessment plans that are buttressed with validity, not opinion.
It is unfortunate that a former executive assistant to the director of the National Institute for Education has such a low opinion of the teachers in our country.
He quotes Roger Arnold, the economist, who said the vast majority of teachers are nonsuperior; he speaks of the evidence of incompetence without giving any; and he comments about protecting the public interest from establishment lobbyists who represent the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers--groups better organized than the citizens they exploit, according to Mr. Uzell.
One wonders if Mr. Uzell knows why teachers organized in the first place. He may have the exploiter and the victim of that exploitation confused.
Mr. Uzell admonishes the "would-be reformers in elective offices" to follow President Reagan's 1981 example and concentrate on a few easy-to-follow priorities such as across-the-board tax cuts. However, he does not explain why those cuts are so vastly superior to the across-the-board pay raises he condemns.
Mr. Uzell criticizes California's education-reform bill by quoting John Coons, professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley and a longtime champion of education reform, who warned that "these recommendations fly in the face of all principles of enterprise, competition, and reasonable regulations that form the heart of a lively economy."
Apparently, the quote refers to the "large pay raises" for all teachers, which was 7 to 10 percent in Florida and 7 to 11 percent in California.
In all of the rhetoric about merit pay, Mr. Uzell not once mentions the numerous failures brought about by attempts at implementation. He does, to his credit, identify a critical weakness in most current plans--the excellent teacher who wants to devote his or her entire energy to teaching is not rewarded very much or at all unless he or she takes on additional responsibilities.
Carlton H. Stedman Dean College of Education and Human Services Austin Peay State University Clarksville, Tenn.
I am concerned about the presentation of the data included in a table entitled "Public High School Graduates and Nongraduates as a Percent of Ninth-Grade Enrollment, 1980-81," (Education Week, Sept. 21, 1983).
While no explanatory text accompanies the table, "graduates as a percent of ninth-grade enrollment" is usually called "holding power" and has, in the past at least, been considered a commonly accepted indicator of quality in public education.
In the absence of following a cohort of 9th graders through graduation, the validity of the holding-power statistic relies on an asumption of zero net-migration for the population in question over the four-year period. While such an assumption might be reasonable for the United States as a whole, it is absolutely unreasonable for individual states. Accordingly, the percents shown are invalid indicators of holding power for both in-migrant and out-migrant states.
The statistics serve no useful purpose given the high mobility of the nation's population and are, in fact, damaging to out-migrant states.
John J. Stiglmeier Director Information Center on Education The University of the State of New York The State Education Department Albany, N.Y.
Editor's note: The table, which accompanied a story on the report of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was also included in the text of the report, "High School, A Report on Secondary Education in America," to illustrate the educational system's difficulty in dealing with "the high-risk student." Year after year, according to the report, "about one out of every four students who enroll drops out before graduation." The Carnegie analysis does not address Mr. Stiglmeier's point.