Private Schools and the Public Good: Policy Alternatives for the Eighties

Private Schools and the Public Good: Policy Alternatives for the Eighties

Private Schools and the Public Good: Policy Alternatives for the Eighties

Private Schools and the Public Good: Policy Alternatives for the Eighties

Excerpt

The Hon. Vincent E. Reed

When I was the superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools, it was very refreshing and relaxing sometimes to call other superintendents in other large cities and cry about my problems. In turn they would cry about their problems, and we would spend taxpayers' money trying to rejuvenate ourselves by saying that maybe there were some people in the country who have greater problems than we had. In talking to them I found that most of the large school districts in this country, particularly the 50 largest school districts, are having serious financial problems. It has become very apparent to me that education is in trouble from a financial standpoint and that this financial crisis affects public education and private education alike.

Those engaged in private education know all too well about the financial crisis I am referring to. After the passage of Proposition 13 in California, moreover, it should also be clear that public schools will be facing severe shortages in this decade. Let me illustrate this point as graphically as I know how. Last year the State of New Jersey had to take over the financing and operation of an entire school district in that state. Two school districts in Ohio had to be closed down for four or five months last year. Some of the large cities like New York and Cleveland have been on the verge of bankruptcy. And in the District of Columbia we were forced to cut $17 million out of our 1980 budget and $39 million out of our 1981 appropriations. That $39 million represented 1,333 positions. Since June of 1980 we have terminated over 1,300 young people working for our school system. This unfortunate reality came to pass in part because of the seniority clause of the union contract. The teachers who were let go were the younger teachers, teachers who are full of energy and vitality, and teachers who are very bright and very dedicated to the task of educating the children they serve. It is a sad commentary to think that we had to terminate over 1,300 of our younger teachers.

If the financial exigency that we experienced in the District of Columbia is symptomatic of other public school systems and of many areas of private schools, then it seems to make sense that public education and private education get together somehow to maximize scarce resources in order to make sure that quality education remains possible in this country. In order to achieve the goal of quality education for all, the public sector and the private sector need to enter into a new partnership to strengthen one another.

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