To the editor:
This letter is in response to both the article published in The Star on school vouchers and Mr. Lantz's position statement. While I won't even begin to profess to know all the ins and outs of how all the funding works, I do know that a whole lot of funding is based on enrollment.
It seems to me the big issue is really that public schools fear that vouchers will take away from their funding and give to private institutions, while parents/students feel like they should be able to choose where that money goes for their education.
First, it's totally unreasonable, in my opinion, for any private school to be allowed to play by different rules than public schools. If they are receiving public funds they should be held to the same standards as a minimum. If they want to go above and beyond to justify the extra cost to parents, that's great!
Second, I would suggest we are fighting over dollars without addressing the root issue. The easiest "customer" to sell is the one you already do business with: apply that theory to transfers. If students in our district are voluntarily transferring to other schools then we need to find out why. WHY? I know in some cases it is a simple matter of the parents commute or work schedule. I suspect though we would likely uncover some other reasons for some of the transfers. If we chose to investigate those reasons and then acted to improve or remedy those issues, I feel like we could create our own success. I mean who wants to pay for private school if their local public school is a better fit with more to offer?
I think we could do the same investigating of any transfers into our district and learn a thing or two. Why did they transfer in instead of staying in their own district? An anonymous survey perhaps? We all know people in this community are often afraid to voice their actual opinions or concerns for fear of reprisal within the community, sports, church, etc., so any time we can gather information anonymously I think we have a better chance for success. Additionally, for anyone willing to list their identity, we could involve them as parent advisors thereby giving them some ownership into the process and the end result as it fit their circumstances.
Lastly, how do we grow enrollment outside of families that already live in our district? How do we entice new families into the district? That seems to me to be a community concern, not just a school concern, but I have to believe if we resolve the issues causing families to transfer and also get parents actively involved in that process, then it also makes the district more enticing for potential new residents and maybe even transfers from other districts. How much additional funding would say 300 students bring to the district? Are there 300 in our area that are currently transferring outside the district? What would it cost to investigate? A simple matter of a survey can't be costly.
All of that's great, but there is no time to do that before this vote. I get it. We should still be working to effect change though — for when the next opportunity arises. If we build the best environment we won't have to worry about where people will or won't send their children.
With the current state of affairs in this country we have got to stop being so adversarial with each other and start working together and that means asking questions and listening to each other. You never know who is going to have the one idea that turns things around, so being open minded and non-judgemental is definitely a requirement.