Letters to the Editor

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August Steinhilber suggests in his April 10, 1991, letter ("On Contracting for Architects During Construction 'Boom,"' Letters) that owners should assume that if something goes wrong on a construction project it is someone else's responsibility. This is exactly the kind of belief that propels projects into unnecessary and costly litigation.

Each one of the parties involved in the construction process, including the owner, bears various risks and responsibilities. The key to successful projects is assigning those risks and responsibilities to those people with the training, skills, expertise, and ability to best manage them.

The American Institute of Architects' standard-form contract documents have been fairly allocating those risks and responsibilities for more than 100 years with great benefit to owners, contractors, and architects alike.

In addition, having the architect act as initial arbiter in disputes between the contractor and the owner is not only a well-accepted practice in the construction industry, butalso provides the owner with several advantages. First, the architect has firsthand knowledge of the project that an outside party simply does not have. Second, disputes handled by the architect can often be resolved more quickly and inexpensively than if each agreement between owner and contractor were submitted to third-party arbitration. That translates into savings for the owner in both time and money.

Good communication among all the parties involved leads to successful projects. Aia documents encourage and facilitate that communication.

James P. Cramer
Executive Vice President
American Institute of Architects
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

I can only assume that Gerald E. Sroufe, director of governmental and professional liaison for the American Educational Research Association, was misquoted in your April 3, 1991, story ("Major Personnel Shakeup Appears Under Way at ed").

Surely, Mr. Sroufe could not have said, in commenting on the possible appointment of Diane Ravitch as assistant secretary for research in the U.S. Education Department: "I think two things we would be interested in would be whether she's ever managed anything--I believe she's an individual scholar--and whether as a historian she knows anything about research."

As a member of aera for about four decades, I cannot believe that a staff member would suggest that a scholar and a historian would not know anything about research. What is it that a scholar-historian does if not research?

One can disagree with Diane Ravitch's conclusions about and positions on the issues she tackles, but one cannot dismiss what she does as not being research.

A. Harry Passow
Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Your April 17, 1991, article, "Building on Success, Catholic Educators Press Their Case for Private-School Choice," clearly brought out the motives of a sizeable segment of those talking about "parent choice." Parents who enroll their children in Catholic schools have made a choice and are not pressing for parent choice. They, in reality, are seeking public funding of private religious schools.

There is a silent, and perhaps more dangerous group pushing for "choice." They would undo the desegregation efforts and justify "apartheid" schools under the guise of parent choice.

The Horace Mann League, in a position statement adopted in March, "recognizes and endorses the vital importance of the involvement of parents in their children's schooling," but points out that the current conception of parental choice has "possible negative consequences which need to be carefully considered."

The league, the statement says, "believes that many policymakers have embraced the idea of choice as a surrogate for other direct and positive actions to improve American schools which require political courage and increased resource allocations."

It concludes by expressing "strong opposition to choice plans which may in any sense relate to the providing of public funds to private schools, to voucher plans, or to the undoing of desegregation plans in American school districts."

The Horace Mann League is not an opponent of choice, but it will vigorously oppose and fight any plan(s) which circumvent Horace Mann's concept of the common school or any tendency or action which would foster racial imbalance in our schools.

Robert D. Fleischer
Executive Director
Horace Mann League of the United States of America
Fogelsville, Pa.

To the Editor:

Phillip Schlecty's suggestions for school-choice plans ("Educational Services as a 'Regulated Monopoly,"' Commentary, April 10, 1991) left important questions unanswered.

The overwhelming majority of nonpublic students, over 90 percent, attend sectarian religious schools. Yet Mr. Schlecty does not discuss how his plan would avoid federal and state constitutional provisions barring even indirect tax support (as through tuition tax credits or vouchers) to religious schools.

Nearly all school-choice plans would increase school transportation costs to a greater or lesser degree. With most school budgets around the country remaining static or shrinking, where is all the additional money to come from? And what about the loss of economies of scale as education is carved into smaller units?

Mr. Schlecty does not talk about changing, improving, or reforming education, but only about shuffling students around. Shuffling students does not necessarily have anything to do with improving education. And if taxpayers and voters could see some of the textbooks used currently in many nonpublic schools, they would be less than enthusiastic about supporting them through taxes.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a great many of the advocates of school choice are not so much interested in improving public education as in getting tax support for private sectarian education. Robert Marlowe, executive director of Citizens for Educational Freedom, made this obvious in his letter in the same issue. His organization has been lobbying for tax aid to church schools for a generation.

Edd Doerr
Executive Director
Americans for Religious Freedom
Silver Spring, Md.

To the Editor:

President Bush's education plan will, if fully implemented, go a long way toward revitalizing school systems across the country ("Bush Strategy Launches 'Crusade' for Education," April 24, 1991).

Its call for local communities to develop 535 schools which differ significantly from existing schools is particularly promising, as it recognizes that not all children learn best in the same educational environment. I hope, as the educators and business leaders charged with this responsibility set about the task of developing these schools, they will seriously consider creating single-sex school models. Considerable research exists to show that young girls who attend all-girls' schools have greater self-confidence and self-esteem, do better academically in high school and in college, and are more likely to develop into their generation's leaders.

Public all-girls' schools once existed in almost every major city in the country, but, with the single exception of Philadelphia, they were phased out of existence for a wide variety of reasons. This may be an idea whose time has come--again.

Independent all-girls' day, boarding, and religiously affiliated independent schools have a proven track record in educating girls from a wide variety of varied economic and social backgrounds. The Coalition of Girls' Schools would welcome the opportunity to help develop a model for public single-sex schools that will give young women not only the education they need to succeed in tomorrow's world, but the self-esteem and confidence necessary to motivate them to achieve success.

Arlene Gibson
Coalition of Girls' Schools
Summit, N.J.

Vol. 10, Issue 33

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