Letter to the Editor

Readers write about academic gains in poor areas, financial planning services for military families, and privatizing water.

School reforms help student performance in poorer areas

Regarding Walt Gardner's July 17 Opinion piece, "Do better schools help the poor?": Mr. Gardner's considerations are simplistic, and his conclusion is just plain wrong. Washington, D.C., is full of students who have the potential to achieve in school and in life – regardless of socio-economic factors. And great teachers play a critical role in their success.

The recently released District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System test scores offer initial powerful evidence: Only one year into significant school reform, D.C. public school students show clear gains across the board, and our poorer, minority students show the greatest gains of all.

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Last year, 52 schools increased their scores in both reading and math; this year, 99 schools did so. Of the 19 schools that doubled and tripled their proficiency rates, 14 are schools in our poorest neighborhoods.

In D.C., we still have significant challenges ahead. These early indicators, however, affirm that even in the face of the poverty, violence, and low expectations that inhabit the lives of many of our students, every child can and will learn.

Michelle Rhee
Washington

Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Free financial planning for military

Regarding the July 15 article, "Missed matches," about support to the families of deployed military personnel: The article struck a nerve in a positive way. For the past few years, the Financial Planning Association has had a program in place to provide pro bono financial planning assistance to soldiers and families. Our chapter in Massachusetts has often made the offer to help, but has received almost no requests for assistance.

Perhaps it is the "tough it out" attitude that makes asking for help difficult, or perhaps the message that help is available just doesn't get out properly. Any military persons or military family in Massachusetts can call our offices at 866-804-0484 and they will have a professional assigned to assist them at absolutely no cost.

We'd like to do more, but need the folks in search of assistance to simply call and ask.

Col. John Power (ret.), CFP
Walpole, Mass.

Public utilities provide better service

Regarding the July 14 expert discussion, "Should ethical investors dip into water stocks?": Many who have experimented with privatization have not found that it solves their water woes. In fact, many private companies provide worse service at a higher cost than most public utilities.

Even international conglomerates that bought up water utilities in the United States have taken steps in recent months to get out of the privatization game. In April, international utility giant RWE, the company that bought American Water five years ago, announced that it would sell off the company on Wall Street.

Less than a month later, activists in Felton, Calif., led a successful drive to buy back the town's water from California-American Water after experiencing rate hikes and poor service.

Water is a resource that should be safe, clean, and affordable for all, and, simply stated, water utilities offer better services and operate more responsibly when they are publicly and locally controlled. Privatizing water is a poor investment for all.

Wenonah Hauter
Washington

Executive director, Food & Water Watch

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