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Letters to the editor - 9/1/02

September 02, 2002

A timely debate on school-voucher issues



To the editor:


The pitting of George Michael against Allan Powell on July 21, 2002, was timely and most interesting.

First, let me state that I am, and have long been, strongly in favor of school vouchers. Whereas I may differ with Michael in minor detail, I am definitely on his side.

Powell, however, has attempted to make his points by misinterpretation, quotations out of context and egregious nonsequitur.

Amendment I of the Constitution, dated 1791, states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ."

Powell is quite correct in defending against "establishment" but equally incorrect when he opposes "free exercise thereof." For public money to pay tuition in a church supported school, when no pressure is exerted to force attendance, can hardly be "establishment" any more than relieving churches from certain taxes.

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In the matter of "concern for inner-city black" children:

There is no doubt that this is a matter of concern but reason for this approach is a sop for our usually gutless politicians to permit them to be both for and against vouchers simultaneously. A true, effective voucher system would be, and should be, available to all without any classification.

Public schools are, without question, "as deficient as is claimed," and perhaps one reason therefor is that "politicians and educators" though "morally and professionally obligated, have failed" to remedy the deficiencies.

It is my opinion that the Supreme Court's decision did not ordain that "to funnel money to a selected population" but that the political element, ever cranny-dodging, has made it so.

It is true that "fundamentalists" (Mr. Powell, please define), Catholics and blacks will find that vouchers will assist in advancing education (and this is the purpose), but so also will Episcopalians, Baptists, Muslims, Jews, Eastern Orthodox, Hindus, Confucians to name but a few. Thus "free exercise thereof."

Not mentioned is the reason most private schools, at least in Washington County, are church-oriented is that churches, through their parishioners, subsidize the schools. Without the subsidies the low tuition would not be possible. Nor would it be possible to enlist faculty that shows such admirable dedication.

Powell cries that the public school system is "already underfunded." There are those that protest that the system is adequately funded, simply inept. Debating these positions is not my purpose. But he is in error when he states that every voucher dollar is one lost to the school system. Taken simply as stated, he is correct, as far as it goes. But he neglects the fact that with the voucher goes a student.

Without the cost of the student, the school system does not need the money value of the voucher. Thus, using Michael's figure of $7,000 per pupil per year, if we take out one pupil, we take out the need for $7,000. By extrapolation, if we take out 25 pupils, we no longer need a classroom, a teacher and a school bus.

It is my opinion that if vouchers were available, at a reasonable reflection of avoided cost, private, non-sectarian schools would appear. Such schools would negate Justice Souter's erroneous position that vouchers would "force citizens to subsidize faiths." It is difficult to see force in the free choice of private, not-sectarian schools or continuing in the public schools or any one of many church schools.

Vouchers will move students to private schools only to the extent that public schools fail to supply the services desired by the students.

It is much to be desired that the public schools will make the necessary adjustment to make them as attractive as the private. "Then too, we need public school officials who will competently run each school." It couldn't have been said better. Vouchers may be a motivator.

Robert P. Molten

Hagerstown




School system just left our child with no placement



To the editor:


I am extremely disappointed in the way Washington County Public Schools have handled the start of this school year. Since February of this year, school officials have been telling parents that they will provide all-day kindergarten at Sharpsburg Elementary in the 2002-2003 school year. On July 23, I was told and given written reassurance that my son's school day would start at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:20 p.m. each day.

Then, on Aug. 23, literally a few hours before the start of the school year, the school principal made a shocking announcement. In a quiet, calm voice, she informed parents that only some children had been deemed to benefit from all-day kindergarten. There were simply too many children to provide all-day kindergarten for everyone. My son was suddenly knocked from his position in all-day kindergarten and given a three-hour day. I sat there in my seat and realized, like many other parents, that I had made a horrible mistake withdrawing him from his former day care.

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