5.13.2010

Could You Imagine?

This isn't a political blog. It was never meant to be. It was just me, kind of rambling on about my experiences with my children in public school in Philadelphia.

But... (dramatic pause) Then I saw a mailing from Bill Morris. If you don't know who he is (I didn't either, really), he is running for State Representative for the 194th District. And here's what his mailing said:

COULD YOU IMAGINE IF...


Parents of children attending private schools decided to send their children to public schools. The consequences would be enormous.


* State and local budgets would explode

* Real estate/school taxes would go through the roof

* There would not be enough facilities to hold our children

* The burden on home owners would be unsustainable


The piece went on to talk about the "major educational catastrophe" we're surely facing - and then touted a tax credit for private and parochial schools.

Whew. Where to begin?

Let me say, for a start, that I'm not opposed to private or parochial schools. I believe that they may be the best option for some kids. So, I don't want this to be interpreted as some kind of statement that since I send my kids to public school that I think it should be the only choice. I don't. I actually started out by putting my daughter in private school and I understand the reasons that a parent might opt for private and parochial over public. So, my rant isn't about the choice to send your kids to somewhere other than public school.

I'll also say that while I'm not a big fan of tinkering with taxes for special interest groups, I am not opposed to the idea of offering tax credits for the payment of tuition to private and parochial schools. Tax credits are a much better option than vouchers and I understand that some offset for tuition would be a welcome change for many families.

So, to be clear, I'm not opposed to private and parochial school options and I'm not opposed to tax credits to help families pay tuition. What does bother me about this piece is the "alarmist" tone. The bold and the caps in the block quote? That's not emphasis added on my end: the text is like that on the mailer. It's clearly intended to get you thinking about all of the terrible things that would happen if more parents opted to put their kids in public schools. Gasp! Taxes will skyrocket! Budgets would be unmanageable! Our kids will be squeezed out of their classrooms! In other words, "catastrophe" - that's his word, not mine. Imagine the horror.

But I'd like to present an alternative view...

Could you imagine if... parents of children attending private schools decided to send their children to public schools? The consequences would be enormous.

* Student funding to the City would increase since much of funding is linked to school enrollment.

* More families would choose to stay in the City, which would provide a solid middle class revenue base: more people paying less taxes, not fewer people paying more.

* Empty classrooms would have a use and under-utilized facilities would not be allowed to simply sit and crumble.

* The sense of community from supporting neighborhood schools would bring communities together and increase property values, like it does in many of our near suburbs.

I wish, as a City, we'd stop trying to focus on the lowest common denominators. Scaring folks away from public schools isn't going to help anything and, quite frankly, I find it offensive. Perhaps a little focus on fixing problems instead of exaggerating them would go a long way. Could you imagine?

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