Forum, March 8: Downside of Privatizing Education

Tuesday, March 07, 2017
When Privatizing Might Not Work

Many public school reformers call for the need to deregulate and privatize schools. Today’s market-based school reforms come in two forms, vouchers and charter schools. President Donald Trump’s proposed $20 billion for support of reforms and his appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education have added impetus to the reform movement.

Before embracing either approach, two questions need to be asked. Do voucher or charter students perform better than they would have in their neighborhood school? What effect does the expansion of both types of school choice have on the democratic process?

With strong advocacy from DeVos, Michigan taxpayers have poured nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools with little to show for it. As Michigan expanded charters over the past two decades, its rank has declined on national reading and math tests. More generally, findings indicate little difference in the test scores of public and private school students.

Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, notes that there’s not a lot of evidence that voucher students have demonstrated any substantial academic gains. School choice and charters, however, do have an adverse financial impact on school districts as a result of declining enrollment and revenue loss.

More important is the effect of voucher programs and charter schools on the democratic process. Transferring decision-making from the public arena to private institutions effectively restricts democracy. Once a public service is privatized, we, the public, lose the ability to have a voice in decisions affecting that service. Over time, the school choice movement has attracted private investors accountable, not to the public, but to shareholders. Michigan, for example, leads the nation in for-profit charter schools. Despite taking taxpayer money, their school management refuses to disclose how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to public disclosure laws.

We need to examine areas where privatizing might not be such a good idea. To effect sustainable change, the local community and school need to feel empowered. Solving educational problems must flow from the ground up. Are we willing to support schools no longer controlled by a government accountable to the public?

Bob Scobie


No Liberty or Justice for All

Regarding the March 5 Editorial “Taking the Pledge,” I do not say the Pledge of Allegiance for one simple reason — there is no “liberty and justice for all” in the United States of America, and there never has been. I hope that someday I can pledge with a clear conscience; otherwise, I repeat a lie.

Margaret Hurley


Support Transgender People

The New Hampshire Legislature must pass HB 478, an anti-discrimination bill protecting transgender people and their families. Being trans isn’t a choice or lifestyle. Trans people and their families deserve our help and support. We should never vilify trans people by making them use bathrooms according their “body at birth.”

Bullying trans people is the same as hate crimes. Those supporting anti-trans positions fear something they don’t understand, or they’ve been taught is bad. There is nothing to fear from transgender people.

Mardy High


Let’s Lead in Clean Energy

With all the “is this really happening?” news these days, let’s not lose sight of time-sensitive issues. The clean energy revolution has already started. We can all agree that we would rather manufacture and sell solar panels and wind turbines to other countries than buy them from elsewhere. We can all agree that we want job creation and infrastructure improvements.

There is no downside to energy efficient business practices. Why not lead the world with energy research and development?

Vivian Dolkart


Don’t Give Up on Pollinators

The Feb. 19 Valley News article, “Robot Bees Could Be Pollinators,” was well-timed since some native bees, moths and butterflies are disappearing from Upper Valley backyards and croplands. Insects help produce one-third of our food crops. Although drone bees are intriguing, don’t give up on our natives!

To learn more about pollinator population decline and how to reverse it, join three local biologists Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Montshire Museum (sponsored by the Upper Valley Pollinator Partners).

Jen Goulet


Review Missed the Point

In regards to Alex Hanson’s review of 4000 Miles at Shaker Bridge Theatre (“A Play Is Wasted On the Young,” March 2), I don’t know if you have young people in your life, but the ones in mine completely reflect the yet “unformed” souls that these young people in the play depict. I found that to be the whole point: The grandmother, while she ages and loses much of herself, is still the gentle voice of experience from which her grandson can learn.

You say “if they don’t know themselves, how can we know them.” Seriously? We are there to experience their growth in self discovery. And, to say this play was mildly amusing is very subjective, given that the night I saw it, the entire audience roared with laughter.

Frankly, what does a reference to Donald Trump’s presidency or the nonsensical “feud” with the library have to do with a review of the play? That is completely incomprehensible to me. To point out and chastise “bad language” only fuels the myth of an Upper Valley provincial sensibility. I cannot imagine this being an issue in any other theater venue.

Everyone I have run into who has seen this play has loved it and has remarked on how funny, poignant and professional it is. What a shame that a poorly written, confusing review might keep theatergoers from experiencing a wonderful night of theater.

Aline Ordman

White River Junction

A Vote for Literacy

On March 14, Grafton voters will go to the polls. Please keep “The best little library in New Hampshire” funded for another year.

It was stated in a Valley News article that library “usage has dropped” and, “they are operating in a very small building,” (“Grafton Will Mull Hiring Of Manager: Petitioned Article Requests Increase in Library Budget,” March 3). Bingo! I couldn’t have voiced a better need for funding than that.

The building is without running water and yes, it is small. More room means more newer books to increase patronage. So, vote for literacy and vote yes on article 14 in Grafton.

Daniel Moore


Added to the Pledge

I appreciated and agreed with your editorial about the Pledge of Allegiance in the March 5 Sunday Valley News (“Taking the Pledge: A Phony Issue in Hartford”). I was old enough to be aware and offended when the words “under God” were inserted into the Pledge. Though I’ve repeated it many times since then, I have always remained silent during those two words.

Cynthia Thompson


A Fine Dartmouth Player

As a long-term Dartmouth basketball fan, I would like to offer some observations on staff writer Tris Wykes’ coverage of the men’s team.

I have found Wykes’ redundant diatribes against a particular player to exceed the bounds of fairness and good taste. I have never previously seen a Valley News reporter single out and repeatedly criticize an athlete this way.

Wykes describes Dartmouth junior Miles Wright as “a portrait in inconsistency,” demonstrated by the fact that Wright was Ivy League rookie of the year as a freshman, but has had some low scoring nights as well. Wykes has mentioned these facts multiple times, including a Feb. 5 article reporting a win against Pennsylvania in which Wright was the leading scorer with 19 points.

Miles is the team’s third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder (10.2 points; 4.8 rebounds a game). He has been the leading scorer in three games, and the leading rebounder three times. The only other players on the team to exceed these numbers are Guilien Smith (leading scorer four times) and Evan Boudreaux, who leads the team in rebounding and scoring.

It thus seems rather misdirected to blame Wright when the team struggles. In the last two seasons, the offense is clearly built around Boudreaux, and employs a less open offense. Dartmouth is currently last in the Ivy League in points, field goal percentage, assists, etc. Anyone who watches the Dartmouth team is also aware of how badly the defense has functioned this season.

I have been following Ivy League basketball since 1961. I have seen and known many Ivy League players, including some who have gone on to NBA and European league pro careers.

Miles is surely in the top 10 percent of all Ivy League players, past and present. In my book, that is an outstanding achievement for a student athlete. Miles is also a very impressive young man: personable, dignified, polite and respectful. He deserves to be treated with the respect he shows others, and not to be singled out by a much older adult for gratuitous insults.

Stanley D. Rosenberg


Duplicitous Use of People’s Stories

Who can fail to applaud an African-American youngster who overcame early educational difficulties and succeeded in becoming a successful college student; to praise the father of a child with a terrible childhood developmental disease who helped develop a treatment that let this child survive and prosper; to grieve with the families who lost loved ones by the hands of criminal immigrants; to honor the memory of the soldier who died fighting ISIS and his wife whose loss is profound. But repeatedly using these emotionally compelling events to justify reversing important protective policies is duplicitous, and is what our new president did repeatedly in his recent address to Congress.

The case of the African-American youngster was used to justify promoting the use of public education tax dollars to fund private, even religious, schools; the success in developing a treatment for a developmentally impaired child as an argument to weaken FDA regulations regarding new drugs; the rare event of immigrant criminal behavior to justify new, repressive anti-immigrant policies; the tragic loss of a Navy SEAL to indirectly justify further expansion of the U.S. military, which already spends more annually than the next seven of the world’s highest military spenders combined. Beware of our powerful con man.

Henry Metzger