Vail Daily letter: Learning alternatives
June 12, 2014
School Superintendent Jason Glasses' June 4 column, "When better isn't," dealt with alternatives to standard public school — parochial, magnet and "choice" schools. Presumably the latter term means charters. It doesn't appear he thinks any of these provide an education experience better than a garden variety public school. He described some studies that purport to prove this, if you take into consideration student backgrounds.
A while back the education establishment was among those promoting the idea that variety was wonderful. "Diversity is our strength" was one way they put it. So why not practice diversity in school choices?
The next page of that edition of the Daily had a letter from Beth Plzak, a parent who is enthused about where her child attends, Stone Creek Charter. She described it as an "academic gem". She mentioned some of the features that make it different — and better — from a regular public school. Curriculum, class size, uniforms, discipline, smaller staff. The education establishment still resists charter schools, even now, after they've been around for a while, and produce support like Beth Plzak's.
There are two private schools in this valley, St. Clare of Assisi (elementary) and Vail Christian High. They cost thousands of dollars a year. Why do parents bypass the public school system and spend a lot of money, if these schools are not better learning centers than the public schools that are free? Is it just the religion factor?
A more extreme example than our area dramatically makes the point. There is a documentary movie, "Waiting For Superman," which shows the stress on low income parents in urban areas, who have to enter a lottery that determines which kids will get to attend charter schools. The joy of those who are chosen , and the anguish of those who are not, is compelling. The losers have to attend a regular public school. You can get this film on Netflix.
Another problem Jason Glass has concerns vouchers; as he put it, " … a voucher scheme that diverts public school dollars into private schools …" A "scheme"; as though it is something sinister. Do the math, Jason — the more students who leave public school with a voucher, the cost of running the public school system is lowered accordingly — right?
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Would widespread use of vouchers, and of those other forms of school lead, as Glass says, to the dismantling of the public school system? If so, what does that tell you about the attractiveness of the public school system to parents and students?
It might be useful if the education establishment commissioned a survey of those who have left, asking for their reasons. And another survey of public school graduates, asking what they thought about their experience. Do it with recent graduates, and a sample of those who graduated five or 10 years earlier.
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