Charter-School Popularity Corresponds to School-District Incompetence

I enjoyed Mari Herreras' piece on the politics of school closings in Tucson ("Political Realities," March 27), but as a longtime education researcher, I am distressed that a key question was not asked.

The piece seems to blame charter schools for the Tucson Unified School District's falling enrollment without asking why many parents choose charters. I've spent hundreds of hours in Arizona charter schools, and I helped develop several quantitative databases on them. I can say that charters pop up where district school administrators do not do a good job.

My colleagues and I surveyed district school teachers in 24 Arizona school districts which were hit hard by charters, and 21 matched districts which were not affected by charters. We found a large correlation between teacher disagreement that "I feel I'm treated as a valued employee" and charter market share. Similarly, as we found in fieldwork reported in a Teachers College Record piece ("Small Districts in Big Trouble," December 2001), many parents leave for charter schools where parent complaints about academics and safety go unanswered.

In theory, those same parents could have improved the system by working with the system. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence that such attempts work, as University of Massachusetts Professor Kathryn McDermott finds in Controlling Public Education (University Press of Kansas, 1999). Good school districts try to involve parents, but in poorly run districts--the ones most hit by charters--we find a very different dynamic. Politically powerful "red-dot" parents are treated with kid gloves, while others are intimidated. To take a real-life example I found in fieldwork, a parent who publicly complained about a notoriously ineffective principal suddenly found her child assigned to an emotionally disturbed classroom.

In poorly run districts, such events happen more often than anyone wants to admit. Without charter alternatives, parents who try to change the system are putting their kids at risk.

Robert Maranto
Associate professor of political science,
Villanova University

The Legislature Needs to Shell Out the Cash for Public Schools

As a pro-education family man with a daughter in TUSD, I appreciate Dan Eckstrom and other leaders fighting to keep neighborhood schools like Ochoa Elementary open.

Ochoa is an important school for kids in my southside neighborhood, and it should be kept open. Instead of closing neighborhood schools and increasing class size, TUSD should cut waste from administrative bureaucracy and noneducational programs.

Our future depends on the Arizona Legislature acting more responsibly to better fund public schools.

Daniel Patterson
Candidate for Arizona House, District 29

Republicans, George W. Bush Are Fiscally and Ideologically Bankrupt

In the Tom Danehy's opinion piece about the Bush economy (March 27), Danehy forgot or did not have the space to add a few insights:

• George W. Bush did not veto a Republican appropriations bill in six years and only did so after the Democrats took power in January 2007. Bush's first veto was a stem-cell research bill.

• Bill Clinton used his veto power to rein in the same Republican Congress and brought about a surplus for the country.

• Clinton gambled to raise the income tax for the rich in the fall of 1993. The Democrats followed his lead while the Republicans voted against it. Even "Mr Balanced Budget" Jim Kolbe in the Congressional Record predicted the destruction of the American economy. Instead the stock market in the following years rose 300 percent. Even so, the rich elected a Republican Congress.

As the real budget deficit since last year is more than $550 billion ... it is obvious that the Republican Party is fiscally and ideologically bankrupt. As George W. Bush is the $10 trillion debt president, he exemplifies the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party.

Matthew Somers

Malcolm X Helped Martin Luther King Succeed

I agree with Tom Danehy about 31 percent of the time, and I enjoy the letters from readers who seemingly never agree with his logic and subjective conclusions. However, I am compelled to thank him for his treatment of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the tragedies of that decade ("'An Ugly Time,'" April 3).

Having lived in a suburban area of California at the time of King's death, the all-white community did not pay much attention to (his) peaceful message ... until Malcolm X came upon the scene. He managed to scare the hell out of the whiteys to the point where they were forced to choose between a peaceful movement and what they saw as armed rebellion. I have always been grateful for the contribution of Malcolm X.

Mike Haggerty

While Americans Fight Racism, Immigrants Import Racism

Martin Luther King Jr. and the activists of his time were against racism, yes. But they did not condemn black, brown, red and yellow racists. Neither do the so-called activists of today. What if in World War II, we had declared war against only the Nazis of Germany, and not the Nazis of other countries? The Nazis would never have been defeated.

Fingers are always pointed at whites and the United States for racism, but whites here have always had organizations against racism--even in the days of chattel slavery. Name another country where people have an organization against their racism. When people immigrate to the United States, they bring their racism with them.

Shoka Kubwa

Santa Rita Mine Is Far From a Done Deal

Tim Vanderpool recently wrote an excellent article about shenanigans involving the early start of the permitting process for the mine proposed in the Santa Rita Mountains ("Mining Missteps," Currents, April 3).

However, contrary to the conclusion one may reach from reading the article, I do not believe this mine is a done deal. While it is true, in my opinion, that the Forest Service feels it has no choice but to grant a permit to Augusta Resource Corporation, this mine can and will be stopped.

The Forest Service says it cannot deny a mine based on the 1872 Mining Law. However, when the (law) is finally reformed, government agencies should have the clear ability to deny an inappropriate mine proposal.

Because the mining plan is incomplete, and because Augusta is clearly inexperienced (having never mined before), it will take years for the permitting process to be complete. The Forest Service must consider solid citizen and local government opposition, concerns about water, public health and safety concerns, the negative economic impacts the mine proposal would have on the local economy, and the design of the mine itself.

The Forest Service should take the time to do the job right and shine a bright light on this ill-conceived proposal. This is the wrong mine, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Roger Featherstone
Earthworks Southwest Circuit Rider


In the April 10 Rhythm & Views, the name of the DeVotchKa CD was incorrect. The CD's correct name is A Mad and Faithful Telling. We apologize for the mistake.