You printed my February 2006 letter about our ineffective public schools. Eight years later, I regrettably cannot cite improvement because of continued, growing family disintegration. So long as public schoolchildren receive no love and security at home, they shall be underserved at school.
Poor parents should be compelled to participate in their children's education. The value of "tuition," whether paid as time or money, is having "skin in the game" and may limit negative outside influences. When education is "free" it often does not get the respect either by families or students that it should have.
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Too often, public schools receive useless government administrative oversight, whose main purpose is to ensure hefty budgets, which sustain power.
Public school budgets are often far greater than all other tax-supported services combined.
A Catholic high school classmate of mine, now retired, had his career in one Chicago public school, much of it as the principal. He employed our Catholic school education-teaching model. He tells me that it was successful. To keep it going, he had to stay under the public school's administrative radar by ignoring ineffective directives.
That was risky but he was able to point to comparatively enviable success numbers (retention/attendance/graduation rate) compared with peers. His district was in a poor area, so he worked in jeans and shirt sleeves. For example, when visited by "downtown," immaculately dressed "suits" who criticized his informal dress, he had to explain that their dress would be a barrier to his student communication and teaching success.