Charter school oversight means better education

I read with interest the Dec. 2 article, "Schools with a view," and of particular concern was the comment by Debra Snell of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) that California law immunizes charter schools from local and state oversight.

Apparently Ms. Snell is unaware of current California charter law that provides for extensive school-board oversight, paid for by charging the charter schools up to 1 percent of revenue. Authorizing districts and school boards clearly have the right to enforce the separation of church and state in charter schools.

In addition, recently signed California Senate Bill 1137 is designed to ensure charter public schools live up to their promise to provide better academic results. Charter schools are held more accountable than regular public schools.

As chair of the California Advisory Commission on Charter Schools that makes recommendations to the California Board of Education, I believe most charter-school advocates welcome the additional academic oversight because it helps students and it may protect charters from more regulation. Weak charters reflect poorly on all the high-quality charters around the state.
Mark Kushner
San Francisco
Founder and CEO of Leadership Public Schools

Pet surgery: cruel and unusual

It is reprehensible for dog-breeder Charlotte McGowan to defend tail-docking, ear-cropping, and debarking performed on dogs in her Dec. 3 letter regarding your Nov. 26 article "A dog's day in court."

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that "ear cropping and tail docking are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient. These procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks."

These procedures are so cruel that they are banned in many European countries. Many veterinarians also condemn debarking because it is superfluous, painful, and strips dogs of their natural means to communicate.
Heather Moore
Norfolk, Va.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Anti-German sentiment among US teens

Regarding the Dec. 10 article, "Anti-US books find an eager audience among German youth": The anti-US sentiment focused on seems to be a startlingly clear parallel to what some American teens voice about Germans.

As a teenager of partially German heritage, many times I have been laughed at or at least half-seriously been called a "Nazi" when mentioning my background. It is very easy to demonize a people with political rhetoric - such as suggesting all Germans were Nazis. Whether citizens of Germany or the United States, we should all step back and remember that there are two very colorful sides to every story.
Aurora Clark-Grohman
Little River, Calif.

Teachers who vanish when the bell rings

Your Dec. 9 article, "Housing prices test teachers," reflects only part of the problem that inflated housing prices create for teachers and their respective school districts. Teachers who live outside their school communities are less likely to sponsor after-school activities or coach the school's athletic teams when they know they must begin a lengthy commute home at 7 p.m.

I have been a high school human- resources director for 20 years and can attest to the increasing difficulty districts have in securing faculty members to advise after-school activities or coach sports.
Victoria Helander-Heiser
Vernon Hills, Ill.

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