Weighing in on Issue 69

Once again, we have a school levy on the ballot. Not all families who send their children to private schools are well-to-do, but they prioritize education; many receive scholarships supported by fundraising. 

Among those who are pro-levy are critics who state that some families have never tried the public schools, and have no intention of sending their children to them.

Parents refrain from enrolling their children in public schools not only for the lack of religious instruction. Can you guarantee that district pupils will use polite language, i.e., refrain from “cussing”? That they will dress in a dignified manner, covering parts of the body that should be private? That the music to which they listen won’t have any sexually explicit lyrics, or any that encourage disrespect of elders? Can you assure families that there will be no fistfights, or that adolescent sexual activity will not be an option? Can you place all children in classes where abstract thinking and well-reasoned arguments will be the norm, or will they be in classes where the literacy level is several years below their age average? 

Increasing numbers in parochial schools means more families in the municipalities, which leads to more taxes collected and more local businesses patronized. There has been a 5% decrease in the district public schools’ population over five years, while the pupil:teacher ratio, 15:1 (18:1 in the state overall), has remained the same. [Of the] $1.9 million from the CARES Act [that] went to CHUH schools, [approximately] $700,000 went to 11 private schools. That left $1.2 million for nine CH-UH [district] schools. In the five parochial schools that I could name, there are more than 3,000 pupils, while there are slightly more than 5,000 in CH-UH. So, the student population of just these parochial schools is 60% of the total (not counting the ones I didn’t enumerate), while they receive 37% of the CARES funding. The increase in voucher costs is because of the increase in numbers of kids using them.

“Ed Choice discriminates by income and race,” wrote Susie Kaeser in her September Heights Observer "The Common Good" column. Poverty is not limited to visible minorities. If we want to end the effects of poverty, parents should put books in the hands of their children and read to them, and preferably not have children until they are over 21.

Where is the institutional racism? Several of the [CH-UH public school] principals are African-American, as are the current and previous superintendents. Taxes—paid as well by parents of kids in parochial schools—support the public schools whether or not one’s children attend them, or if they are in school at all. Renovating buildings benefit all public-school pupils, not only whites, and the same with technology, meal service, professional development of teachers, and art and music supplies. 

As for the lack of diversity, as of the 2010 census, CH-UH is less than 50% white, 42.5% African-American, 4.1% Asian-American, 2.8% biracial or Hispanic, and 2.7% multiracial. 

Because of the pandemic, there are residents who have been laid off or lost their businesses. High unemployment affects our purchasing power, and the money isn’t there. Why cut positions in the district? Decrease the salaries of the top administrators. Let parents pay for their children’s music lessons, and feed their children breakfast. In a town hall meeting last winter, Superintendent Kirby was at a loss to explain the discrepancy between the total budget and the cost per pupil multiplied by the number of pupils, nor could she say why private school pupils should not have two thirds of the expenditure provided to public school pupils.

The levy was defeated in March. It is time to take “no” for an answer.

Chaya Tabak

Chaya Tabak is a teacher of all ages, mainly in the sciences, who has worked in both parochial and public schools. She raised three daughters, who are now grown and raising families of their own. Besides teaching, Tabak cooks, bakes, gardens and crochets.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:21 PM, 10.23.2020