To the Editor:
I am surprised that Education Week saw fit to publish Keith Newman’s letter to the editor (May 11, 2005), riddled as it is with inaccuracies. It is Mr. Newman himself—not Alan D. Bersin, whose April 20, 2005, Commentary he critiques—who misses the point. To focus on “competition” as if it were the most important argument Mr. Bersin makes in his thoughtful analysis of what ails our nation’s K-12 public schools is disingenuous. The very title of the Commentary, The very title of the commentary, “Making Schools Productive: The Point of Accountability and the Key to Renewal,” says it all.
The mention of competition is in the context of a warning to the education establishment: If it doesn’t shape up along the lines Mr. Bersin suggests, taxpayers will throw the baby out with the bath water.
It is not surprising that Mr. Newman picks up on that element, because it enables him to whine about the unfairness of it all. He complains that Philadelphia gets $10,000 less per child than the affluent suburbs. The per-pupil cost in Pennsylvania is $9,367, and that includes neither the categorical grants that accrue through Title I to inner-city children nor debt repayment and capital costs. It is hard to believe that suburban students actually get $19,367, as Mr. Newman asserts.
Furthermore, he states that Edison Schools Inc. receives $855 more per student than publicly managed schools. He fails to mention that charter schools and contract schools have to provide their own facilities and are responsible for maintaining them.
Finally, he refers to your article “Del. Charter Schools Get Solid Report Card,” (March 30, 2005) and claims it “evidenced” that charter schools get to select their students—another unfair practice. What your article does is note that the study’s researchers urge caution in interpreting the better 10th grade charter-student results because many charter school students taking the 10th grade test hadn’t entered charter schools until the 9th grade. How Mr. Newman gets from that to his statement that charter schools get to select their students—which is untrue; the available slots are filled by lottery—is another example of disingenuousness.
I appreciate Education Week’s even-handed coverage of education news and the forum it provides for thoughtful debate. But I despair at the bandying about of unfounded allegations that do nothing to further that debate.
San Francisco, Calif.