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To the editors:

Permit me to clear up one misimpression from Ben Joravsky's otherwise accurate story on TEACH America [Neighborhood News, February 14].

It is not correct to say that, under our educational choice plan, Chicago's poor would have little more choice than they have now. Just the opposite is true.

One of Chicago's best-kept secrets is that we have the nation's largest private-sector market of education providers: 448 private and parochial schools offering safe, values-oriented, cost-effective learning environments to more than 125,000 youngsters, to one out of every six school-age children here. Forty-six percent of Chicago public school teachers with school-age children send their kids to these nongovernment schools. Quite an endorsement, isn't it?

More facts: Spending per pupil in the Chicago unit district is $5,600. This makes Chicago the sixth highest of all 35 unit districts in the six-county metropolitan area. On a per-pupil basis, Chicago is only 6 percent below third-ranked Barrington, commonly thought to be "tax rich."

For the same amount spent in the private sector, we could put nearly four kids through grammar school ($1,500 average), nearly two kids through high school ($3,000). Our parental choice plan would put all but a handful of Chicago's 448 nongovernment schools within reach of most parents. These unflattering cost comparisons have some serious implications for all of us concerned about equity for the taxpayer as well as for the student.

Fred Hess sheds crocodile tears while feigning concern about what a voucher plan might cost the taxpayer. He neglects to mention his role as a paid apologist for the "education equity" lawsuit (Committee v. Edgar) now working its way through the Illinois courts. If the plaintiffs are successful, Illinois may face court-ordered tax increases in the billion-dollar-plus range such as occurred in New Jersey, Texas and Kentucky. Fred knows that TEACH America has done its homework.

Last, the copy reads as though I spent all my K-12 days commuting to suburban schools. That was true for high school only. Each day in grammar school I walked--safely--to my parish school in the Austin community.

Patrick J. Keleher Jr.
President
TEACH America

Ben Joravsky replies:

We may have 448 private and parochial schools, but we don't know if they are all "safe," "values-oriented," or "cost-effective." My overall point holds: until that "handful" of schools in Chicago (as well as the suburbs) are made open to all, we won't really have choice.

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