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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2001

Island Voices
School vouchers: a change in position

By Greg Ogin
Resident of Kailua, Kona

I was against school vouchers because I felt they would take away much-needed resources from the public school system. Until the teachers strike, that is.

The timing of the strike two months prior to graduation was a flagrant violation of the public's trust. The state educational system basically said to the taxpayer (customer) that it would stop providing services until the education system got more money or better benefits.

Nowhere did we (the customers) hear of more accountability in providing better services or a better product. In fact, I do not think the services delivered will be any better due to the pay increase but only perpetuate the status quo.

As a parent (customer) of two public school students, I ask if the following will happen because of the strike:

• Will my e-mail or calls be answered on a timely basis so I can communicate on a more timely basis with my child regarding school achievement?

• Will teachers now call me if my child needs additional assistance in the school, or will I find out when the report card arrives after a quarter is lost?

• Will classrooms be more controllable?

• Will teachers be provided with better teaching tools such as books, computers or lower student/teacher ratios?

• Will the strike enhance parent participation?

• Will the good teachers (I have experienced many in the system) be supported and rewarded?

• Will courses that promote student excellence be encouraged?

School vouchers would give parents (customers) the ability to make a choice and send a very clear message to the educational system: If you do not give us what we want, we will go elsewhere, whether that be a charter school, private school or religious school where they will pay attention to what the customer (taxpayer) wants.

I am afraid the only way the union will pay attention is through lack of money. If the taxpayers have a choice and choose not to put their kids in schools taught by teachers who will strike for more money during critical times of the students' academic life, for increased wages, then funds will be directed to more responsible schools and the schools who strike will be forced to face the reality all businesses face. That is, if you do not give customers what they want, they will go elsewhere.