Letters to the Editor
Monsignor George M. Rice Pastor-Emeritus Our Lady of Solitude Church Palm Springs, Calif.
Most of Edd Doerr's statements in his letter to the editor ("Constitutional Barriers to Tuition Tax Credits Cannot Be Wished Away," Education Week, Jan. 25, 1984) are concerned with the supposed consequences of tuition tax credits, not with basic rights; with examples in other countries; and with pinpointing the entire issue on its relationship to religious schools. To label tuition tax credits as "parochiaid" is misleading and pejorative. Many parents would not use such credits or grants as "parochiaid," but as independent-school aid, family aid, or public-school aid.
Education in public schools is not something that must be maintained pre-eminently as a quasi-monopoly sacred cow. Whether tuition tax credits or vouchers advance or retard public schools is not the basic issue. The right of parents to educate their children in schools of their choice and conviction is the issue. To burden that right unnecessarily decreases or suppresses parents' ability to use that right, and a right that is burdened with unnecessary restrictions is oppression.
Tuition tax credits or vouchers will benefit families in the lower half of the income scale. Such parents cannot now assert their basic right to choose their children's schooling because of the high cost of taxation for education they have not chosen.
In the use of other government forms of assistance, people are not "locked in," as it were, to government facilities. Government food stamps are not accepted only in government stores. Those who have Medicare benefits are not required to go to government hospitals or government doctors.
Let this not be taken as opposition to or desire for suppression of public schools, but as a cry for justice for many parents and children in a pluralistic society of educational freedom. This is a matter of civil rights.
David Tavel's letter to the editor ("American Government Should Not Be Involved in Promoting Religion," Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984) presents a similar attack on religious schools without addressing the basic issue. To say that "religion--promoting it or combating it--is none of the government's business," is contrary to the statements made by former great presidents and leaders, and reads into the U.S. Constitution something that is not there. Article I of the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." No one is seeking ''an establishment" of a religion as was in effect in some of the colonies at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.
To prohibit government support of an education that is not contrary to the welfare of the nation but which contributes to that welfare, whether it be religious or other, is not in accord with other practices of our country. Our tax funds promote the education of doctors, nurses, and teachers of all or no religious affiliation, no matter what their intentions or beliefs may be. Some may prove to be immoral, but their education is not thereby impeded, even though they may be trained in institutions sponsored by religious groups.
The free exercise of religion is being prohibitively burdened by a government financial monopoly of tax funds for education. The government should be prominent in promoting religion--not any particular religion, or an establishment of a single religion, but certainly some acknowledgement of a Supreme Being, as is required of each officer in civil or military service of our country. And government should encourage citizens and families to use their right and give them the funds to support their use of the right. A very general supervision should be in effect to ensure proper safety, loyalty to country, and so forth.
Church-state separation is being read into the Constitution as "religion-state separation," something definitely not in the minds of great presidents, leaders, and members of the Constitutional Convention.
Carol S. Weinstein Associate Professor of Early Childhood/Elementary Education Graduate School of Education Rutgers--The State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, N.J.
Your article, "New Teacher Plan Gains Endorsements in New Jersey" (Education Week, Jan. 25, 1984), contained a number of misleading and incorrect statements. First, your presentation of the proposal itself was shamefully inaccurate. You stated that under the plan, "a person would have to have a bachelor's degree with a minor in education." In actuality, that is a requirement of the current New Jersey certification standards. Under the proposal of Saul Cooperman, commissioner of education, a person would simply have to have a bachelor's degree (including only 18 credits in the subject to be taught), but would not need any coursework in education.
Second, Mr. Cooperman's certification proposal would not abolish the current teacher-education requirements. It would provide an alternate route to certification, aimed at those without formal college or university training in education.
Third, the Rutgers University Council on Teacher Education does include faculty members from the Graduate School of Education, but the majority of the members come from the liberal-arts disciplines. While the Council did express concern over some aspects of the proposal, as you mentioned, it did not recommend that the 18-credit minor in education be expanded to 24 credits--an impossibility given the fact that the Cooperman plan does not require an education minor at all. Rather, the Council suggested that the 18 credits in the subject to be taught be expanded to 24 credits.
Finally, the faculty members of the Graduate School of Education have not endorsed the plan. In fact, we have submitted a report to the State Board of Education explaining our opposition to the plan, detailing the problems we detect and proposing that New Jersey go to a fifth-year plan for certification. While we endorse the Commissioner's attempt to bring more talented individuals into the state's teaching corps, we decry the route he is proposing. Eliminating the need for professional training prior to entry into the classroom will not enhance the quality of teaching.
Editor's Note: Ms. Weinstein is correct in her first and third points, and we regret the errors. But with regard to the abolition of certification requirements, the article said the plan would abolish "the current requirements that all teachers earn an education degree." The article did not say that the Rutgers Graduate School of Education endorsed the proposal.
Lloyd W. Harrington Supervisor of Instruction Director of Personnel Laurel School District Laurel, Del.
Your recent article, "Focus on Leader's Role Sparks Concern Over Training, Selection" (Education Week, Feb. 22, 1984), completely bypassed the issue of training.
I feel very strongly that the thrust of this article should have been directed at the training of the people seeking to become principals. I have yet to meet a graduate-school professor in any administration or supervision course that I felt was qualified to teach any of these courses. They cannot be taught by old stodgy professors, who have not been into a secondary school in years! Such graduate courses, in order to be relevant to the individual, must be taught by people who are currently principals. Except for the actual practice, supervision done through observation, and evaluation of student teachers--who are scared to death already--not one thing I was taught in graduate school was of importance to me once I became a teacher.
I used to think that I could have done a good job of teaching such courses, but after eight years away from the firing line, any course I taught would be of as little value as those I took as a graduate student. Why is there such concern about the selection process, as your article stresses, with no concern about the training? It sounds to me like we are putting the cart before the horse again.
No solutions to possible weak leadership in the schools will be found until someone realizes that graduate courses in administration and supervision should be taught by those who know the subject best--current principals.
On another issue: Why was the American Bar Association polled about how teachers are paid? ("Bar Association Members Favor Performance Pay," Education Week, Feb. 22, 1984). Does this mean that all of the groups in the country that are identified by acronyms, that is, the American Medical Association, the American Automobile Association, the Ku Klux Klan, ad nauseam, will be polled, too? This question should be discussed and decided by people in education, not any and all organizations in the country!
Joseph D. Delaney Principal Spartanburg High School Spartanburg, S.C.
After reading your story on the selection and training of principals, I am still unsure of the relationship between a successful school and the effectiveness of the principal. Spartanburg High School, of which I am the principal, was chosen in the Secondary School Recognition Program as a model high school. And while I would like to consider myself an effective principal, I must credit the teaching faculty and the support staff for our school's success.
Much of my time is spent on frivolous suspension appeals (listening to a parent say, "It wasn't my child," even though I watched that child commit the offense), weighing the effect of new legislative proposals that have not been critically examined (I am in favor of more units for graduation, but will I have the physical facilities to handle them?), and trying to determine what activities can continue with a loss of funds and how to have new programs without new revenue.
Our school is effective because of an outstanding teaching faculty. Each professional provides a meaningful classroom experience, challenging students to do more than the minimum and allowing academic excellence to be the pre-eminent function of the school. My perception of the role of an effective principal is to keep administrative details away from the teaching staff, to cooperate with the faculty in avoiding classroom interruptions and distractions, and to discipline students who disrupt the classroom. Our faculty looks to me for leadership in instruction, but this leadership means discipline for those who disrupt learning, thus making instruction the focus of our effort.
My support staff is the second reason that our high school is successful. Our assistant principals, counselors, secretaries, and other staff members are all committed to maintaining our model-school status. They usually work unpaid overtime hours and supervise extracurricular activities without being asked, because they enjoy seeing our students perform and play. When extra work piles up, the entire staff will stay to get it done without even expecting compensation. This dedication seems to be the common thread of our success.
I enjoy being a principal but, again, I'm not really the one who makes a successful school.
Rodgers M. Lewis Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Roosevelt Union Free School District Roosevelt, N.Y.
I read with interest your article on principal training and selection and agree that good principals make good schools. Individuals selected to fill principalships must be the most able candidates available to meet the responsibilities and challenges.
I would encourage school districts that do not have a systematic procedure for selecting principals to consider the recommendations published in The Right Principal for the Right School, a book developed by a committee on the selection of school principals of the American Association of School Administrators.
The book's recommendations could be adapted to local districts' selection needs. I believe the students, staff members, and community residents all benefit when systematic procedures are used in selecting potential school principals.
Editor's note: The Right Principal for the Right School, published in 1967, is no longer available from the aasa, according to an official of the organization.