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Campaign for Prop. 38 Lies About Our Teachers

October 30, 2000|DAY HIGUCHI and ROY ROMER | Day Higuchi is president of the United Teachers-Los Angeles. Roy Romer is superintendent of the LAUSD

More than a century ago, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. It is an outrage that recent television and radio advertisements in support of Proposition 38, the voucher initiative, have vilified the teachers of Los Angeles with all of them.

Several of the made-up accusations against L.A.'s dedicated, hard-working teachers are so outlandish and incendiary that we will not dignify them with a response. We must, however, set the record straight about the malicious lie at the heart of the Proposition 38 advertisements--that "four out of 10 Los Angeles teachers send their children to private schools."

Last weekend, United Teachers-Los Angeles polled teachers in the L.A. Unified School District to answer the fears and doubts sown by the voucher proponents. The survey was conducted by an independent polling company, David Binder Research, and has a margin of error of 4%.

Here, then, are the facts:

Only one in 20--just 5%--of LAUSD teachers send their children to private schools, not 40% as claimed in the Proposition 38 ads. Why so few? Because most teachers are either childless or have grown children. Just three in 10 LAUSD teachers have school-aged children at home. Of this group, only 18% send their daughters and sons to private school.

The Proposition 38 ads assert that L.A. teachers send their children to private schools because the public schools are not good enough for them. This is an outrageous claim. The survey shows that religious schools are the main choice (60%) of teachers' offspring who attend private schools.

Further, the research shows that the proportion of teachers whose children currently attend public school is actually a bit higher than was the case for teachers with now-grown children. LAUSD teachers are clearly not abandoning public education.

We also are pleased to note that fewer LAUSD teachers send their school-aged children to private schools than nationwide statistics for the general public (24%) or public school teachers in other urban areas (23%).

The vicious lies in the Proposition 38 ads were meant to weaken the public's confidence in their children's teachers. We hope that presenting the facts will help restore some of that trust, as well as the dignity stripped from teachers themselves.

We also hope that Tim Draper, the wealthy businessman funding much of the Proposition 38 voucher campaign, will stop demeaning the hard-working women and men who serve as teachers. By resorting to alarmist inaccuracies, this campaign is doing a disservice to public education, one of America's fundamental guarantees.

There is one statement we can agree with in the Proposition 38 ads: "Reform can't wait." In our diverse society, public schools will continue to be at the heart of education. By making real reforms and delivering high-quality public education, we provide our children with the tools that they need to reach their potential.

Reform can't wait. Top-flight public schools are essential to our children's futures and to the very fabric of our democracy, economy and society. Here in Los Angeles, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our teachers, parents and community, reform is underway, and positive results already are occurring.

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