Letters to the Editor

5/10/10 Letters

Charters better in theory than practice

Contributing columnist John Garen nicely framed some of the possibilities and problems with charter schools in his April 12 op-ed. Such schools do present some parents in some places some possibilities for improved learner outcomes on some dimensions.

Yet we know from decades of research that there are no silver-bullet solutions to poor performance of most schools in most places. And there are problems with introducing charter schools in Kentucky.

One is that, if the parents who push for good public schools are enticed to send their kids to charter schools, their social capital (involvement, demand for accountability, etc.) will no longer be available to the kids left behind. Also, since it would take decades and likely new money to bring about charters, significant short-term (at least) inequality will ensue.

Such inequality is one factor that brought us the Kentucky Education Reform Act, arguably the most significant state education reform policy in the U.S. during the past 20 years.

Another problem is that, although charter schools have been proven somewhat successful in urban school systems, they are much harder to implement in states that are significantly rural, like Kentucky. Wages and standards for teachers would have to be greatly reduced; small schools would become even smaller, forcing new rounds of consolidation.

Given the problems in implementing school charters, I submit that this remains attractive mostly as an attempt to rationalize and privatize public education. I prefer to retain KERA's focus on high standards for all kids and all public schools.

Alan J. DeYoung

Professor, Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation

University of Kentucky


Debt is taxation

Your April 16 editorial, "Rebelling against lower taxes?" misses the mark. The Tea Party movement springs not from tax policy but from political philosophy; it was born of bailouts and takeovers, not tax hikes.

Incredibly, you failed to mention that our debt roughly quadrupled over the last year. Debt is de facto taxation, because eventually the debt must be paid, either in real money (taxes) or by inflation. The markets fear the latter, hence the ad for gold in the paper three pages earlier.

A Herald-Leader front-page story reported the truth — the Tea Partiers are free-market populists who favor limited, constitutional government.

Polls show they are better educated and more successful than average. Many are professionals and small businessmen who understand how the real world works and how jobs are created.

They understand that we are replacing a housing bubble with a government bubble of questionable constitutionality. They understand that, when half the voters don't pay federal taxes, we have reached a dangerous tipping point in republican government.

President Reagan did raise some taxes and grow government, but his general response to recession was to cut taxes and to deregulate the private sector. This triggered a 25-year economic expansion.

History repeatedly shows that, when the productive class is allowed to keep and deploy its capital, unfettered by the excessive regulation, jobs are created and the economy expands; ironically, so do tax receipts.

Cameron S. Schaeffer


Coal barons whine

The April 12 op-ed by Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, represents the predictable whining of the coal barons he represents and many of the same tired arguments we got from his predecessor.

Bissett implies that Kentucky can have both mountaintop removal and clean water. Maybe this is true in the abstract, but it is demonstrably untrue of recent and current practices.

Big Coal has had three decades of this mining, and several more of strip mining in general, to demonstrate that it can protect water quality. Either it can't, or won't.

All the lobbying, PR and anti-environmentalist hatemongering won't change the fact that the mountain of evidence showing adverse water quality impacts just keeps growing.

Bissett also trots out the "destroying jobs" argument. If coal is a necessary part of our energy future — and that's a big if — then it will be mined by other means if valley fills are limited.

As those other methods employ more people than mountaintop removal, Environmental Protection Agency rules should increase employment in coal mining.

KCA and the rest of the pollution lobby is trying to get miners and those connected to the coal industry to view anyone who doesn't want to let coal operators do as they please as the source of the industry's problems.

Instead, those worried about jobs should look squarely at the corporate headquarters of the coal companies.

They are in New York, Richmond, Tulsa and St. Louis. It's probably safe to drink the water there.

Jonathan D. Phillips