Marvin's Window: Why should we settle for mediocre education?

I could see the students waiting for school buses from my window this week and wondered how long the fight to improve education would continue before we see results.

Schools in rural areas like Kingman have always reflected the values that lead to a good education.

Michigan did a study of school costs and educational results many years ago and found that the best results were in rural Northern Michigan where the least money was spent per pupil.

That Michigan study showed the lowest student accomplishment and the highest cost per pupil were in the city of Detroit with the predominately black inner city schools.

That was some years ago, but I doubt anything has changed.

Congress has tried for several years to break the chain of poor student performance in the Washington, D.C.

public schools.

Any change has always been strongly opposed by the teacher union and their supporters in the House and Senate.

President Clinton threatened to veto any bill with a voucher program for D.C.

schools.

Last week the House of Representatives included a voucher program in the bill to finance the government of the District of Columbia.

The narrow 208 to 209 vote was mostly along party lines.

The bill goes to the Senate where the result would likely be close again.

President George Bush has said he would sign the bill.

Bush has talked with the mayor of Washington and the school superintendent.

The Washington school administrator supports the bill.

The voucher plan would provide $10 million to finance private school tuition for 1,300 of Washington's poorest children.

The $7,500 scholarship per student is far below the per pupil expenditure of $12,000 per pupil spent in the D.C.

public schools.

Congress already funds the D.C.

school system at or near the highest per pupil cost in this country.

Scarcely 10 percent of D.C.

students can read at grade level.

This measure would get a few of the poorest of those children out of failing schools into private schools that could teach them to read.

Some have called the voucher program the most self-evident civil rights issue before congress in years and an issue that could help the poorest children in America.

Others, especially the strong national educational union and lobby, consider vouchers the beginning of the end for public education.

That view is difficult to understand in Kingman where charter schools and public schools co-exist with little problem.

Recent news briefs indicate the D.C.

program will get unexpected support from Senators Diane Feinstein of Calif.

and Joe Lieberman of Conn.

Polls show black parents in D.C.

support the program for their children.

I have an interesting personal view form living in Georgia where the black president of Albany State University (ASU) is a member of a three-generation D.C.

family.

Her sister is the non-voting member of Congress from D.C.

ASU is a major source of teachers for public schools in South Georgia.

The public schools in the area have one third to mostly black enrollment and teaching staffs.

The college graduates in most subjects fail the test required to enter a career in teaching.

Some departments have near zero pass rates.

The special education teacher graduates had several years of a 100 percent pass rate following the hiring of a competent teacher educator who cared.

The black students have the ability to learn when they are expected to and are properly taught.

I visited many schools in Georgia over my ten years living there.

Four of my children and one grandchild attended Georgia schools.

Several friends and relatives taught in the schools.

By and large, education was not a priority for most black students or their families.

I talked often with leaders of the college and with black leaders in the area.

Some of them were working to change attitudes and had my respect and encouragement.

I often chided friends at the college for not taking advantage of their opportunity to change education in rural Georgia.

After all, they were preparing most of the classroom teachers and doing most of the in-service work.

I never could get a good answer and no one challenged my assumption.

The most frustrating problem was the new college president from D.C., the sister of the member of Congress.

The column is too short to tell you all the incidents, but the lady from D.C.

created many extra problems and did little to improve educational opportunities for students in the public schools of the area.

Education of black students in our rural and urban areas has been a disgrace for more year than most of us have lived.

Yet, nothing changes.

Could it be that the leaders of that culture have failed their people when they had, and still have, the opportunity to make the necessary changes?

Hopefully, the U.S.

Senate will pass the D.C.

voucher program and give a few students a shot at a good education.