Clarifying public funding of charter schools
Regarding your June 15 article, "The little class that could," on the new public charter school, SEED, in Washington, D.C.: While it's true that SEED has attracted substantial private funds, one point about its public funding deserves clarification, especially in light of the persistent popular misconception that charters are more amply financed than traditional public schools.
The article said that SEED receives about $24,000 per student annually from the District's treasury, more than twice that allocated for students in the traditional system. In fact, all D.C. public schools, including charters, are funded through the same per-pupil formula that generates money according to the needs of individual students. That formula produces a level playing field for all public schools - an all-too-rare occurrence, since charter schools in other jurisdictions often get a fraction of full funding and little or nothing for considerable facilities costs.
Given D.C.'s equitable formula, if the traditional system were to offer a residential school with round-the-clock staff and services, it, too, would receive $24,000 per pupil. The idea has been discussed for years; it took SEED's visionary founders to make it happen.
Former Executive Director of the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board
Regarding your June 22 article "A giant leap for backyard rocketeers": My grandfather was an Iowa farmer and a dreamer. His small farm supported his family but not much more. Nevertheless, he found the time to read up on airplane design and build a biplane in his cornfield. It flew a couple of times before it crashed.
It offends the memory of my grandfather that you refer to the current competitors in the race to build private space ships as "backyard" builders. The space race is not open to entry by folks with no resources beyond their own ingenuity; it is a race among the very rich, for the benefit of the very rich. If by "ordinary" people you mean ordinary billionaires, then perhaps it is true this venture opens spaceflight to ordinary folks. But it's the government-sponsored programs - recruiting astronauts on the basis of skill and merit, not merely wealth - that have given people like you and me a chance for out-of-this-world adventure.
I have no doubt that entrepreneurs will find a way to make a buck off space travel, but that will not be a boon to Iowa farmers.
Regarding your June 18 article "Out on the Mojave: Space shot for the common man": By flying vertically to an altitude above our atmosphere, SpaceShipOne will technically enter space. However, it will not attain orbital velocity, which is what makes space flight useful, difficult, and expensive, and returning to Earth so dangerous. Unless we discover more potent or compact sources of energy to power future rockets, meaningful space travel will always be beyond the reach of the common man.
Regarding your June 22 article "Ranks breaking over North Korea": When will our nation's leadership wake up to the fact that the world accepts double standards less and less on such crucial issues? Why not one standard for all in a region? Regional nuclear (and other WMD) disarmament would seem to be a far more feasible, fair, and practical policy to pursue. Obviously the current double-standard approach is just digging the US into a deeper hole.
David B. Buehrens
Staten Island, N.Y.
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