Letters

Bureaucracy That Works

The opinion-page article "How Many People Does It Take to Write a Rule?" (June 24) and the accompanying flow chart are designed to make the Department of Education's grantmaking process appear hopelessly clogged. What's more important is how well the process works and safeguards public funds. We have made great progress in that regard over the past four years.

The author's erroneous description of the grantmaking process resembles a maze with no exit. In fact, it is administered by a committee of three that has the option to consult with other federal officials as necessary. We have given department officials greater discretionary authority to do what makes sense within the guidance of the law.

Further, the article questions the expense of this process without citing any hard evidence. Salaries and expenses account for just 2 percent of the department's entire budget, which we believe to be a responsible ratio. The most costly functions specific to grantmaking involve upgrading technology to streamline the process for applicants and paying field readers to ensure fair grant competitions.

As for the administrative burden, I should note that every congressional action involving department funds in recent years has included a request for the department to perform more oversight. While we strive for greater simplification, this process is designed to ensure responsive government and prudent administration of public funds.

Finally, the mocking criticism of the department's guidance on sexual harassment fails to note the overwhelmingly positive response to the guidelines from educators and state officials. The University of Florida called it "a comprehensive and thoughtful policy." Texas Wesleyan University said it is "clear and useful." And the University of Maine commented that "In many ways, we see the guidance as a 'godsend.'"

Marshall S. Smith

Washington

Acting Deputy Secretary

US Department of Education

Parents' rights in the schools

"Reinvolving Families in Children's Schooling" (June 25) applauds the partnership between parents and schools, noting some positive results.

I, too, applaud parental involvement. Over the last three years I have carried legislation affirming parental rights in the discipline and education of their children, two bills that were killed in California's Assembly. Both of these efforts to assert a parent's Creator-endowed rights were opposed by the "education establishment," American Civil Liberties Union, and others.

It has been our experience that as long as parents conform to what teachers and school officials want them to do, then that's acceptable. But when parents get "nosy" - when they question the schools' right to pass out condoms, conduct "values clarification" sessions, ask questions regarding morals or manners, object to textbooks and ideas filled with filth, or to teacher language that is insulting and/or inappropriate - look out.

If schools discover that a parent has disciplined his or her child and objects to probing questions and interviews or physical examinations of the child at school, again the parent's "partnership" is neither desirable nor acceptable. The "partnership" and the welcoming of involvement, I am afraid, are deceiving.

It is a sorry condition if we must reaffirm the right of parents to educate, discipline, and communicate their faith and values to children. It was, and is, the purpose of government, existing by our consent, to secure "Creator endowed" rights. We own our children; the schools do not. We own the schools; we pay for them. Those who work in the schools work for us. They should remember that but for our consent, they would not exist. In support of this affirmation, I suggest the reading of the first few paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.

George R. House Jr.

Sacramento, Calif.

Assemblyman, District 25

Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com.

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