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A closer look at private education

June 16, 2007

Re "Do away with public schools," Opinion, June 12

By Jonah Goldberg's conservative logic, anything our government is not doing well, such as education, should be privatized. Are a majority of Americans unhappy with the handling of the Iraq war? Turn it over to a private army. Are U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors not finding all food contamination? Turn it over to private inspectors. Is urban crime on the rise? How about vigilante squads?

Healthy democracies depend on an educated populace. That's why democracies have public education. I'll admit that the system is not working. Let's fix it and look at those few schools that are working and figure out how other schools can emulate them. Let's seek guidance from the people who are the most educated about education, the key players who are systematically excluded from education policymaking: teachers.




The reason private schools do better has very little to do with who teaches there and how much or how little goes to their administrations. It has to do with selectivity. A football team succeeds because it has the best players it can get. If private schools had to let in anyone with a voucher who applied, their test results would be no better than public schools. Sure, some of the weaker students would benefit from a more competitive environment (and some would, of course, flunk out), but the schools as a whole would suffer. The private schools know this. I'm sure they also know that accepting public funds would make them subject to antidiscrimination laws, which would end their selectivity.

Advocating for vouchers is just going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg -- or perhaps the golden diplomas?


Desert Hot Springs, Calif.


If school were required and there were no public schools, each family would have to perform the act of physically paying for its child's education, rather than paying passively through taxes. Having to actually write a check each month would most likely motivate many more parents to take notice of their child's education. We tend to be far more aware of things that we must pay for on a continuous basis. Such a system might introduce more accountability on all sides of the equation -- students, parents, faculty and administrators.


McLean, Va.


As a 35-year activist for public education reform, I clearly understand that public education must transform itself.

However, Goldberg's claim that private, parochial and charter schools get better results is just not true. An August 2006 Rand report clearly states that charter schools "are on average on par with traditional public schools but are not closing the achievement gap for minority students." The truth is that private and charter schools just keep pace with and do not educate any better than public schools.



United Teachers

Los Angeles

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