October 29, 2013

Letter: It didn’t have to be this way

— A group of local middle school students snort a new type of candy and are given three days of in-school suspension as punishment for implying drug usage, a violation of school policy.

While reasonable people could debate the merits of this, the fact is that school administrators have few options these days. Corporal punishment was banned years ago; keeping them after school creates logistical problems; keeping little ones in at recess opens up the school to lawsuits, so what’s left? Writing sentences? That one bit the dust when I was teaching years ago. Sending them to the principal’s office? They can’t do much either in a lot of jurisdictions, so we are left with in-school suspension.

But it didn’t have to be this way. In the early 1980s President Reagan proposed putting the nation on a voucher plan. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the parents are given a check or voucher from the state, city or county that their child resides in. They in turn use the money as tuition for a private or parochial school. Any parent still wishing to send his or her child to a public school simply declines the voucher.

What happened? As you might imagine, legislators in all but two or three states caved in to pressure from teachers unions before the programs had a chance to start. Who suffered from this maintaining the status quo? The students more than anyone, who could have received a superior education had the great plan been implemented, with far less need for punitive measures like in-school suspension.

Charles Hyder