Letters To The Editor
Underfunded Public Schools, Not Donations, Are Problem
To the Editor:
I fail to see the controversy cited in your front-page article "Local Fund-Raising Prompts Larger Questions About Equity" (Oct. 11, 1995). And I believe the quotations exacerbate the largely hyperbolic reporting.
First, most public school districts would love to have the perceived problem of equal distribution of private donations. If this is a problem, it is easily resolved through redistribution of donated funds or additional fund-raising.
Second, where does the public sector end and the private sector begin? An individual representing a public education fund suggested in the article that these donations supplant public responsibility. Would this individual desire to wait until the state and local governments meet their financial obligations before asking for community assistance? If the problem of underfunded public schools were not so serious, this argument would be laughable.
Third, the article makes a strong case for a centralized approach to district fund-raising, not against the idea of seeking private donations. If a district established a consolidated (districtwide) foundation, officials would have the opportunity to examine distribution policies and serve all constituent groups and avoid controversy. After all, these are organizations that are required to make public all distribution actions.
The days of relying on government support exclusively ended for public colleges and universities many years ago. And officials of public school districts (especially those in urban areas) will be well advised to heed the call of philanthropy.
Individuals who wish to cite potential conflicts of interest should move out of the way of those who seek to improve public education significantly through donated funds. With luck, the entrepreneurial spirit will replace the worn-out-civil-servant attitude prevalent in so many public school districts.
Grand Rapids Student
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Poster Misspelling Offers Sad Schools Commentary
To the Editor:
What a sad commentary can be found in the picture that accompanies your article "Louisiana Teachers Protest Student's Promotion" (Oct. 18, 1995). It becomes all the sadder when one reads the article and learns that the Grambling Middle Magnet School where the protest took place is a laboratory school affiliated with Grambling State University.
Add this to the fact that the issue teachers were protesting was the dean's decision to overrule the school principal's refusal to promote a student who had not achieved a passing grade in language arts in the previous school year but completed a summer school experience in California to make up the deficiency.
One has only to look at the picture to raise more important questions than this student's language-arts makeup and promotion to the next grade. Here we have teachers from the staff of a university laboratory school taking a professional day to protest a decision related to the acquisition of language-arts skills holding up a sign stating: "We stand for excelence in education."
So much for excellence if the teachers can't spell it to sell it to the public which reads their placards. Simply put, they aren't "walking the talk." Do you suppose the student who didn't pass the language-arts requirement in their 6th-grade classes learned to spell "excellence" in his California summer school experience?
Sadly, many educators at all levels, from preschool to university, continue to shoot themselves in the foot in the public eye and then wonder why we are not supported in our efforts to achieve excellence. If we support excellence, let's demonstrate it.
Velma B. Saire
Director of Instructional Services
Quaker Valley School District
Disputing Union Leader's Invocation of Jefferson
To the Editor:
Shame on Keith Geiger.
The National Education Association president's attempt to shore up his troops by invoking Thomas Jefferson's name in his most recent oblique attack on vouchers and privatization is revisionist history at its most deplorable ("Mr. Jefferson Would Be Pleased," Paid Advertisement, Oct. 11, 1995).
By lauding groups of citizens engaged in sincere attempts to bring reform to their schools, Mr. Geiger's remarks go to the heart of America. But once hooked, readers are reeled in with the same old political rhetoric masking the union's true agenda: to control education policy at all levels.
If Thomas Jefferson stood for anything, it was for the freedom of all individuals to pursue their own destiny with minimal interference from the state.
Keith Geiger can rightfully invoke Jefferson's "vision" when he rejects the coercive policies that fuel his political army with millions of dollars in nonunion teachers' forced dues.
To demonstrate that he truly believes that "serious change comes from within ... when people ... put aside petty differences and private agendas," Mr. Geiger could start by heeding Jefferson's proclamation that "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical."
Then, indeed, would Mr. Jefferson be pleased.
Pennsylvanians for Right To Work Inc.
Let Miss America Support Any Program She Chooses
To the Editor:
Thank you for reporting on a fine-feathered political mess concerning Miss America ("Miss America's Platform Ruffles Partisan Feathers," Oct. 11, 1995).
Shawntel Smith is a proponent of school-to-work programs, and she promotes this as part of her national platform as Miss America. This is her personal choice; she doesn't appear to be a spokesperson for any political party. Sen. James Inhofe's interest in her, his explanation about his voting record, and his views on the private sector's ability to handle school-to-work vs. the federal government's school-to-work programs are not relevant--and are creating the partisan problems.
Partisan politics are divisive. Sen. Inhofe should proudly support Shawntel Smith's achievements and acknowledge her choice to champion any program, public or private, which helps put young Americans to work.
Safe and Drug Free Schools Program
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.