Opinion Columns & Blogs

Letters to the editor on school choice, Kochs, health care repeal, Kansas history

Data doesn't back school-choice claim

The commentary by Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute contained fascinating information ("Put kids first by supporting school choice," Jan. 25 Opinion). But Trabert twisted some facts and omitted some facts, as the institute frequently does.

The cited increase in fourth-grade reading scores in Florida is misleading at best. In 2002 Florida decided to retain in third grade all students who performed poorly on the state reading test. That practice has continued. What that means is that the fourth-grade classes are made up of a mix of the better readers among those who by age would be expected to be in fourth grade and the students who by age should be in fifth grade but were retained and given two years of instruction in third-grade reading.

No surprise that the reading scores are improved, but there is not enough data or analysis to determine which of the changes in Florida is responsible for the improvement. There certainly is not enough information to prove that the answers are charter schools, school choice and sending public money to private schools.

According to the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, the report that touts the "Florida solution" fails to look at test score data on all subjects and grade levels. That data is available, but the results are mixed and do not support the conclusions.

Let's put our efforts into supporting an already strong Kansas public school system.



Hollow opinion

The commentary about putting students first via school choice rang hollow and was at least naive (Jan. 25 Opinion). Select research findings considered, the underlying crucial element that determines higher achievement scores, especially for elementary school students, is not that students have enjoyed a choice in school sites.

Ask a dozen elementary classroom teachers what one thing they would wish for that would translate into higher achievement scores, and I bet they will say parental support. Ask a dozen professional elementary educators what one thing they would use to predict higher achievement scores, and I bet they will say a competent, committed classroom teacher.

Every school is blessed with a faculty of highly competent and energetically committed classroom teachers and, in my opinion, a very few less-competent or -committed teachers. Creating schools of choice is not going to change that dynamic. What will make a difference in whether an elementary student performs in a manner that translates to higher achievement scores is a "team" made up of an interested, supportive parent and a challenging, skilled classroom teacher.

I have worked in the field of elementary education for more than 50 years, and I remain convinced that the odds of finding a strong match between any student with any classroom teacher is every bit as likely within the confines of a public elementary school as any other school design we can imagine.



Publicity stunt

The article about two U.S. Supreme Court justices giving speeches at meetings sponsored by the Federalist Society ("Justice controversy centers on Kochs," Jan. 21 Eagle) was an example of a political advocacy group — Common Cause — making waves over nothing, and journalists lapping it up.

Common Cause alleges a conflict of interest in the Citizens United case, but the timing of events doesn't support its allegations. One speech was given before the Citizens United case was filed, and the other shortly after the case was filed in a district court, not the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, Common Causes alleges that the justices did not disclose their attendance at the Federalist Society meetings, but publicly available documents show they did and that their expenses were reimbursed — just as Justice Stephen Breyer received reimbursement in 2007 for expenses to attend the "Aspen Ideas Festival" at the Aspen Institute.

We have to wonder whether Common Cause knew of these disclosures and omitted them for political reasons. Or did Common Cause care about finding the truth?

Together with Common Cause's role in organizing a protest rally at this week's meeting organized by Charles and David Koch, this complaint has all the attributes and credibility of a publicity stunt.



Repeal a waste

I can't believe our congressmen are wasting the taxpayers' money, time and resources pursuing a bill that has absolutely no chance of becoming law ("Bill to repeal health law clears House," Jan. 20 Eagle). Not one of the 535 representatives and senators believes the bill will become law. None of the thousands of lobbyists or news pundits believes it.

What will be accomplished? The politicians will be able to tell their constituents, "Well, we tried to kill it."

They need to stop wasting our time and money and go back to work on achievable legislation.



Pass down history

Thank you to reporter Fred Mann and The Eagle for the wonderful article on the settlement of Kansas (Jan. 23 Eagle). As we Kansans celebrate the 150th anniversary of our state this year, we need to remember the hardy pioneers who came before us and laid the groundwork for the great state Kansas is today.

The greatest gift we can give our children and grandchildren is the passing down of our history.