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Next L.A. | Dialogue

Public Schools and Vouchers

June 11, 1996

At its most benign, such a proposal ["$3,000 Voucher Seen as a Ticket to a Private School," June 4] would have no effect. A teacher at a private religious school once told me that if California implemented a $1,500 voucher system (as was then being proposed), his school would raise tuition by $1,500.

If it did get some children into private schools, it would be the students that are now being served admirably by public schools because these kids already have the prime requisite for success: Parents who are involved and concerned about their kids' education. It would encourage "voucher mills"--new schools set up merely to harvest voucher-bearing kids and give them a passable (maybe) education.

At worst, it would leave a weakened public school system to deal with the students which are most at-risk, the students that no private schools--not even "voucher mills"--would want. And then the libertarians would continue to compare the test scores from private and public schools and use that as an excuse to scrap public schools altogether.

Education is expensive. The final point of doubt about the $3,000 figure that they give deals with whether it reflects the true cost of education. Does it factor in revenue from alumni donations, private grants or religious subsidies?--money integral to the budget of a private school, but which any new schools begun to legitimately deal with the influx of students (and parents) demanding a private education would not have access to.

Public schools are the victim, not the source, of California's education woes. Let's stop blaming the victim, and start treating it.

NEIL BAREMBAUM

Los Angeles

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