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Schools Need More Help Paying the Costs

February 24, 1991

Daniel Akst's column about business's struggle to find qualified workers leading to corporate involvement in American education, "Show and Tell? Business Can Bring Reform" (Jan. 29), reminded me of a recent incident while I was checking into a hotel during a business trip.

"O, apostrophe, capital R-e-i-l-l-y," I answered the girl at the computer terminal, when she asked me to spell my last name. She looked puzzled, so I repeated the name. She stared into the monitor as if looking for an inspiration, her fingers poised above the keyboard.

Finally, with a nervous glance over her shoulder, she beckoned to her supervisor and pointed to the monitor. "Would you mind spelling your name again?" he asked. I obliged a third time. She filled in the information and handed me the completed form.

Then I realized the reason for her hesitation. There was no apostrophe in my name. She did not understand what an apostrophe was.

My difficulty registering at that hotel is yet another illustration of how hard it is to find adequately literate workers.

Akst's comments about the success that Catholic schools have in educating students, while true, did not deal with the economics of operating those schools. The help we receive from the business community goes toward paying students' fees. It does not pay for teachers' salaries or the schools' upkeep.

Pastors like myself are finding the burden of keeping our schools open more and more difficult. Many of us question how much longer we can afford the increasing costs.

If we cannot find new ways of meeting those costs beyond the business community, we fear that many of our schools and their success in educating students will become, in the worst sense of the word, academic. The loss to the entire community will be great, and that will not be academic.

PETER A. O'REILLY

The writer is pastor of the Church of the Nativity in El Monte.

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