Tuesday, April 02, 2002

VIewer Mail, Part 2 - But while conservatives view school choice as a cornerstone for improving the public schools, many liberals oppose its basic tenets, which include tuition vouchers for private schools and charter schools for high-performing students. Ironically, it is now the conservatives on the side of giving minority school children a way out of failing inner-city schools and improving the quality of their education. Even when studies of school choice programs in Cleveland and Milwaukee show improvements in student achievement--particularly among minority students (its primary beneficiaries)--liberal critics find fault with the constitutionality of vouchers and the "fairness" of sending top students to charter schools. But white, liberal parents seem to have no problem with maintaining the status quo as long as their children don't have to attend the same schools they profess to support.

Meanwhile, conservatives have sought to empower parents with the means to make the teacher's unions and school boards accountable for their failures. Through the partial privatization of failing schools, conservatives have already met with success in cities around the country--the Edison Schools Company being the most notable example. But teachers' unions and school boards continue to fiercely resist reform and are more interested in preserving their public school monopoly rather than improving public education. The pace of reform sputters on in most school districts, with the liberals seeing greater education spending as the solution to the problem. Never mind that the federally-administered National Assessment of Educational Progress test given to public school students has found no correlation between higher school spending and improved school performance. The clear lesson from our public education is that simply increasing spending on education will not improve education. Conservatives recognize this fact, and seek to find alternatives to the public education monopoly.

Jenny and I have thought much about our children's education, and we're also considering a move out of the area or private school alternatives. Jenny herself is a graduate of Edna Brewer Junior High and Oakland High School, and even she gives her education a big thumbs-down. Since Jenny's graduation in the 1980s, student performance at these schools has gotten progressively worse, and the local school officials have failed to stem the tide. In response to declining test scores, local area school administrators have offered "solutions" such as bilingual education in "Ebonics" (Oakland) and racial quotas under the guise of diversity (San Francisco). With "solutions" like these, it's no wonder why parents that can afford private school or million-dollar homes in Piedmont are fleeing Oakland and San Francisco in droves


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