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School Voucher Initiative

September 23, 1993

* Regarding School Voucher articles, Sept. 16:

Response choices in the Times Poll and explanations in the related article about the voucher failed to reflect some of the strongest reasons for voting against Proposition 174. Many who support the concept of voucher "empowerment" oppose this measure because it is poorly written and includes four specific provisions not found in other vouchers (such as the Milwaukee experiment, widely touted as an example of voucher success).

First is that public money could be used for religious instruction. Second, the provision prohibits schools from racial discrimination, but creates a constitutional protection for all other forms of discrimination, such as those based on gender, language, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or anything else. Third, the proposal prohibits any regulation or oversight of private schools that receive public funding, including standards for health, safety, zoning or curriculum. Fourth, the measure has been written so that it could never be amended. Any changes, even for safety or zoning, would require a 75% vote of the Legislature, or at the local level it would require a two-thirds supermajority plus a vote of 50% of registered voters (not voter turnout).

Send it back to the drawing board and do it right next time.

DOUGLAS DUNN

Oceanside

* No question that good intentions are at the heart of the teaching Establishment. Increasingly, the theme in many educational institutions is one of self-esteem. While the focus on self-esteem is a good intention, it becomes dangerous when it is not coupled with sound applications of scholastic foundation.

Educationally, our children are hurting. National test score after test score reflects this. If parents feel education is about self-esteem, then they should have the choice to send their children to the kinds of schools which emphasize self-esteem. On the other hand, if they think scholastic knowledge and achievement leads to self-esteem, then they should have the choice to send their kids to those kinds of schools. In either case, parents need to have close control as to what is taught at schools.

Proposition 174 is the tool of choice.

JOHN GIMINO

Aliso Viejo

* Proposition 174 has a number of critical flaws, but the most threatening one to the children of California is the stipulation that anyone who can enroll 25 children is a voucher school is qualified to operate that school if he has "the ability to teach." There is no requirement that the teachers be credentialed, have university degrees, or even high school diplomas. There is no specification that reading, writing, arithmetic, or science be taught, nor are there standards of time to be invested in instruction, nor requirements for success in learning.

Yet the Pied Pipers who find these children for their voucher schools are to receive $2,600 per child from the education funds of the state with no strings attached. Carefully evaluate the language of Proposition 174 before you vote on it on Nov. 2.

DONALD R. OWEN

Bishop

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