Letters to the Editor
Education Week recently printed a letter that was critical of programs permitting parents to choose from among public schools ("Oklahoma Editor Says Correction Unnecessary on Shanker Statement," Education Week, Aug. 21, 1985). The writer suggested that such programs--including the one proposed by Gov. Rudy Perpich of Minnesota--would increase racial segregation and hurt small towns.
We think it is important for your readers to know that Governor Perpich took such concerns into account in preparing our "Access to Excellence" proposal; the result was strong, statewide support for the plan. Organizations that endorsed the final form of the plan included the Minnesota Parent Teacher Association, the state chapter of the League of Women Voters, the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, and a number of civic groups and individual educators.
These groups endorsed the plan because it dealt with such concerns. A formula was established prohibiting movement across district lines when it would have the effect of harming desegregation. Students from all racial groups would have the opportunity to apply for another school, but monitoring would be done and choice would not be viewed as more important than integration.
In fact, we learned from officials in the Massachusetts Department of Education's bureau of equal educational opportunity that expanding parental choice has increased support for integrated schools in many of their districts. The final plan benefited from advice from David Bennett, superintendent of the St. Paul Public Schools, who testified in favor of the plan.
After considerable discussion on the question of small schools, we agreed to provide additional funds to small districts that had a net loss of students. A number of parents, teachers, and administrators from small towns wrote and spoke in favor of the plan.
As Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has noted, providing choice among public schools will reduce the "captive feeling" many parents now have. In hearings held at the state Capitol, many parents talked about how they wanted to support public schools but had been frustrated by their inability to obtain certain courses for their children locally, although the courses were offered in nearby districts.
In addition, Governor Perpich is impressed by research showing that expanded parental choice among public schools can produce better student achievement, higher educator morale, and increased parental support.
The Governor has asked me to meet with representatives of education and parents' groups during the next several months to refine the "Access to Excellence" proposal. He is deeply committed to it, as he also is committed to integration and strong rural schools.
Ruth E. Randall Commissioner of Education Minnesota Department of Education Saint Paul, Minn.
I was intrigued by the attitudes expressed in your article on Elizabeth Balsley, the 11th-grade girl in New Jersey who was allowed, under an administrative-law judge's ruling, to suit up for high-school football ("Jersey Girl Gridder Wins Jersey," Education Week, Aug. 28, 1985).
In the mid-1970's, I was involved in the Equity in Education Institute, a federally funded project operating in the Minnesota university system and in Minnesota's elementary and secondary schools. Our mission was to work with schools to complete the self-evaluation required of them under Title IX regulations.
As a result of that work, we wrote a brochure, "Title IX: Evaluating Equity in Education." School districts around the country that were also working toward Title IX compliance found the booklet useful; some continue to use it to document their Title IX activity.
Today, 10 years after the project, we detect among educators a greater familiarity with the jargon. But resistance to educational equity remains--often, oh so subtly. Too often progress is the result of pressure on the schools from parents and students rather than professional educators deciding to provide greater educational opportunity. The New Jersey case is an example of such pressure. I, as an educator, find this somewhat disheartening.
It is evident that a growing number of parents and students are demanding that schools provide full opportunity for male and female students. Once that is in place, a student's interests and abilities (rather than the female-male distinction) will determine educational choices. Such is the goal of Title IX.
I wish the Elizabeth Balsleys of the world success in reaching their goals--with the active support of every educator they encounter as they progress through their schools.
K.L. Willhite Sauk Rapids, Minn.