My letters

Submitted letters to the editor and other parties. Only a few of these were published.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

To the letters editor:

The squeals of those affected by education budgets can be heard coming out of 110 Livingston Street as usual (“Budget ax will smart: Levy”, July 31, 2001). The state is increasing its share of the school budget by “only” 3%. But the taxpaying public can rightly ask, What became of the additional money we gave the schools last year, five years ago, the last fifteen years? Huge infusions of money into the public schools have left the United States with the highest per-pupil expenditure in the world, but the performance of our students is no better than it was fifteen years ago, and dismal by international standards. The money has simply been wasted, spent on things that do not improve student performance. $125 billion of Title I money, intended to close the performance gap between poor students and the others, has left the gap exactly unchanged. Class size has been reduced steadily year after year, from 40 to 20, with at best marginal improvements in student performance.

Schools need much stronger incentives to improve than they now have. I suggest we take a lesson from Florida, where 78 of the worst public schools were identified in 1999 and given one year to improve or each risk losing several hundred of their students and the money that goes with them. 76 of the schools were able to do so, using methods already well known. If we in New York were to implement a mechanism whereby parents could remove their children from failing schools en masse, the taxpayers could be assured that school budgets would be spent wisely and would result in improved student performance.

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