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Munson favors elimination of public schools

February 10, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Commissioner John C. Munson said Friday that all school boards should be eliminated and students should be sent to private schools.

"We should abolish all boards of education ... and not have a public school system," Munson said. "I think we'd be better off to go to 100 percent private schools."

Munson said private schools could be paid for with public dollars provided by the state.

Currently, money for Maryland public schools comes mainly from local jurisdictions and the state. The federal government contributes a small percentage.

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Under Munson's proposal, funding for private schools would be in the form of vouchers for predetermined amounts that would allow students to pay tuition to and attend the school of their choice.

Munson said his plan would stop counties and school systems from arguing over funding every year.

He also said private schools provide a more disciplined environment that would benefit students.

Munson attended Washington County Public Schools and had one child who attended the county's public schools, he said.

County and school officials didn't say much Friday about Munson's plan.

School Board member Roxanne Ober and Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell declined to comment. Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she needed more information before she could comment.

"I guess I'll talk to Mr. Munson directly to find out exactly what he has in mind before I comment," Morgan said.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps called Munson's statements interesting but misinformed.

"Public schools do a very good job of educating kids," Nipps said.

She said Washington County Public Schools educates nearly 20,000 students a year, and there wouldn't be enough private schools to hold all of them.

"We have to look at revamping education, but I don't think the answer is abolishing public education," Nipps said.

School Board President Bernadette Wagner said she didn't think Munson's plan would generate a lot of support.

"It's a Democratic principle that all children are entitled to a free ... public education. That's part of what it means to be an American," Wagner said.

Wagner has five children who attend or graduated from the school system.

"I don't believe that they could have been better prepared at any private schools," she said.

Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, declined to comment on the proposal.

"Every person has a right to his or her opinion, and every other person has the right to agree or disagree," he said. "That's all I'm going to comment about that."

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said he supports school choice and vouchers, but he's not interested in doing away with the public school system.

Mooney said the Maryland Constitution states public education must be available for students.

"That would have to be a constitutional change, and I'm not pushing for that," he said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he would not get involved with Munson's idea.

"That's up to him," Snook said. "If he wants to carry it, he can carry the torch for that."

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