Letters To The Editor
Dorothy Rich's essay "People Are Education's Biggest Bargain'' (Commentary, Sept. 9, 1992) describes people resources, such as what she calls a Family Corps or Grandparents' Corps. She mentions the need for a coordinator to run such a program.
She has described one element of what might be called "external'' resources. In our work with public schools in New York and other cities, we have observed that schools are becoming more sophisticated in mobilizing these resources.
The external resources can be described as: (a) people, per your essay; (b) money; (c) things; (d) services.
People, and particularly parents, can, in addition to the roles Ms. Rich describes, also give and raise money.
Money, other than what is provided in shrinking school budgets, is being raised by public schools in the same way that our other nonprofit clients in the arts, health care, the social services, and religious organizations do it. In one school, three teaching positions in music and art were restored by a parents' fund-raising drive. Things may range from books, crayons, and paper to microscopes and computers.
Services may be alliances with museums, hospitals, corporations, and so forth, in which speakers are supplied, field trips organized, and apprenticeship programs developed. Services may also be relationships with social- service agencies and health-care providers which can respond to the needs of students and parents.
The need for these resources is clear, but the ability to obtain them is being eroded by budget cuts. Within the school administrations, there are fewer people with less time to analyze the needs for external resources, to identify those which add to the school's effectiveness, to avoid duplication, and to fully use the goods and services obtained. In fact, if school personnel are attempting to develop these resources within their normal working schedules, their other work--educating children--will undoubtedly suffer.
Obviously, more can be and needs to be done to provide external resources to schools. The evidence suggests that, in fact, less will be done as schools lose their ability, in terms of time and people, to identify, find, and deploy what they need.
Priorities must be set, and there must be an action plan and someone to implement it. Principals say, "I know what my school needs.'' Teachers, parents, students and other constituencies may seem to be equally clear on their needs. However, and particularly in relation to the school-based-management process, there needs to be a way of getting agreement on these needs consistent with a shared vision of the school's mission.
We have developed a role we call the external-resource coordinator, or E.R.C. This coordinator would report to the principal and would help define and give priority to needs, identify sources to meet the needs, pursue the sources, coordinate people and activities relating to external resources, and follow up to insure that the resources are used to further the educational mission of the school.
Dorothy Rich states that her Family Corps coordinator would need some funding. Clearly, the expanded role of an E.R.C. would, too. One low-cost possibility is the kind of retired senior executive we have utilized in our consulting work. Another is retired teachers and school administrators.
We have not yet been able to launch a pilot program, although interest has been expressed in New York, but we hope to soon.
Gerald D. Levy
President, Education Group
National Executive Service Corps
New York, N.Y.
The National Executive Service Corps is a not-for-profit management-consultant group that relies on the services of retired senior corporate executives who contribute their time. Its education group was created last year to strengthen the management capabilities of public school superintendents, principals, and other leaders.
To the Editor:
The Gallup/National Catholic Educational Association poll purporting to show 70 percent majority public support for tax-funded vouchers for sectarian and other private schools ("Gallup Poll Finds Wide Support for Tuition Vouchers,'' Sept. 23, 1992) was seriously flawed.
The question used ("In some nations, the government allots a certain amount of money for each child for his education. The parents can then send the child to any public, parochial, or private school they choose. This is called the 'voucher system.' Would you like to see such an idea adopted in this country?'') was close to meaningless because it inextricably mixed the wholly separate issues of choice among public schools with tax support for nonpublic, mostly sectarian, schools.
Gallup used the same question in the annual Phi Delta Kappan surveys of opinion on education from 1970 until the late 1980's and always got ambiguous results. But in 1991, after years of complaints from experts, Gallup/P.D.K. broke the equivocal question into two questions. Responses to the separate questions showed strong public support for choice among public schools but strong oposition, 68 percent to 26 percent, to including nonpublic schools in public funding.
The Gallup/P.D.K. results were matched by a 1991 TIME/CNN poll showing opposition to vouchers for nonpublic schools running 68 percent to 28 percent and the November 1990 Oregon referendum which rejected a voucher-like scheme by 67 percent to 33 percent.
The bottom line, quite simply, is that most Americans favor choice in public education but consistently oppose every significant form of tax aid for nonpublic schools, as statewide referenda and polls from coast to coast have consistently shown for the past quarter century.
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.