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The problem with charter schools

I FOUND IT interesting that Robert Kuttner's "The problem with outsourcing" was located next to Scot Lehigh's "Mass. charter schools deserve to be expanded" on the op-ed page (April 21).

Standing alone each is a thoughtful piece, but taken together, some disturbing facts become clear. Lehigh lists numerous comparisons between charter schools and the public school system, all of which are positive from the viewpoint of charter schools. Two comparisons are left out. One is the comparison of teacher salaries and benefits between the two systems. If this is coupled with the comparison between teacher certification, experience, and competency -- also left out -- you wind up with a case for charter schools being a perfect example of outsourcing. You can then read Kuttner's article to see the negative implications of such a practice.

Finally, some of Lehigh's comparisons are spun in ways that falsely promote charter schools. One is the "cherry picking" argument. To be fair, critics of charter schools spin this in their favor as well.

In actuality what charter schools do is attract highly motivated parents. A friend who teaches at one of Boston's premier exam schools says that in quite a few cases, primarily at the lower grade level, the success of students at the school is based on parental motivation more than student ability. In effect the student performs at the very best of his/her ability because of parental input.

I think that, while not necessarily cheaper in the long run, it is far better to spend our resources on reforming the existing public school system than to generate, at the public's expense, a quasi-private school system for motivated parents. The net cost to society is far less this way. And we already have a private school system, which has scholarship programs for financial aid.

Pawtucket, R.I.

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