Choice is starving our public schools: My Word – Orlando Sentinel Opinion

(Orlando, FL, March 5, 2014)

The Orlando Sentinel's excellent editorial on school choice and accountability ("Ensure school choice leads to advancement," Saturday) points out flaws in the system.

The most glaring statistic reported is that 83 percent of students using state-supported vouchers are choosing to attend religious schools.

This makes the choice look a lot like "public-school flight," similar to the "white flight" that takes place when neighborhoods become multiracial.

Some choose charter schools or home-schooling because they have a poor public-school choice. Many choose alternative schools because they fear exposing their children to other races, creeds and ideas. They want religion in the school: the Ten Commandments on each classroom wall, a Christian prayer over the public-address system, less emphasis on evolution or climate change and more reliance on faith-based history as opposed to scientific fact.

Our country decided against religion in the schools for very good reasons. Charter schools are a way to circumvent this. This trend is dangerous to our society. We are starving the public-school system, the foundation of our democracy, and putting too much money into private, for-profit schools with little oversight.

Children schooled apart are not learning how to get along with children who are different from them. They are learning to be close-minded and to not respect science at a time when we as a society have noted the need for strong science and math education. Religion can do much that is good, but one thing it is not good at is bringing people together. The most dangerous areas of the world pit one religion against another, as well as different sects of the same religion against each other. We must guard against that in our country.

Charter schools need more testing, and public schools need less testing. Both need reasonable and equal testing. The time and money spent on too much testing could be invested in school improvements.

Those who want to send their children to religious schools should pay for it themselves, not take money from struggling public schools that must take all comers. Public taxes should not go into private pockets.

When a public school is failing, the school board should put resources into that school and make it acceptable. Letting some children choose charter schools while the majority must stay in the failing school isn't fair or reasonable or a proper use of tax dollars.

Fannie R. Griffin lives in Longwood.

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