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School’s failing?

In response to the Nov. 3 and 17

Open Mike

personal columns:

Mr. Kantman has made some outrageous and unsubstantiated assertions about public schools (he doesn't see fit to make it clear if he means all public schools or the schools in our community). To summarize, his claims are that schools are failing to educate students, money will not help the situation, teachers are overpaid and he feels personally cheated.

It's easy to repeat the big lies, because they are heard so many times that no one bothers to check them anymore.

Public schools failing? Not by any objective, rational standard. There is no more ambitious attempt to ensure democracy anywhere in the world than in the United States public school system. We take everyone, we give them the best education regardless of their ability to pay for it, and our students are measurably better across the board than students of other countries. Without going into the intricacies of statistics, I will assert that the top 10 percent of our students are as academically able as any other students, while the majority of students in our schools who would be forced to drop out in many other countries and never have the chance at higher education, become successful graduates here who add greatly to our quality of life.

To sum up my point, American public schools educate more people to a higher degree than any schools anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, Sunnyside graduates do just as well as any other graduates, attending prestigious schools such as Whitman, Stanford, the University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins, WSU, UW, etc.

As far as money goes, the research is clear: smaller class sizes combined with highly qualified teachers will increase success for all students. If you want better schools than you already have, you need to invest in them—infrastructure, personnel, technology and materials. Yet, you personally insist we do more with less. Unless you can find some way to make the day run 36 hours instead of 24, you are not going to be able to squeeze much more from us. We meet in committees, coach sports, organize carnivals, attend concerts and plays, chaperone field trips, advise clubs and activities, assess papers, invent lessons...the list can go on and on. You probably aren't getting what you pay for—you're getting much more.

While it is true that by comparison in our community, Sunnyside teachers are fairly well paid, it must be remembered that first, we live in an economically depressed area, and second, the salary schedule is a state-wide scale, not based on the economy of the Yakima Valley. Furthermore, while the school day might run seven and a half hours, we aren't paid by the hour, we're paid for a 182-day contract. I won't insult the intelligence of readers who know the number of hours and days that salaried employees put in beyond their contracted time, but I will enlighten them to some facts they may not be familiar with.

The state has mandated higher educational requirements for newly graduated teachers. At a time when they are trying to get their careers started, often by relocating, the bills begin to come due for student loans. Yet now these young teachers are also expected to return to college right away with a pittance as reimbursement for enrolling in graduate courses. These are things that most other professions pay for, but not teaching. We are losing too many promising young educators within the first five years because they cannot afford to be teachers.

And those who stay with the profession, soon lose any extrinsic incentive to continue their education at the bottom of the salary scale. These are experienced and wise teachers who make a huge difference to students and younger teachers every day. But they too can feel ill-used and poorly compensated, especially when their incomes in terms of real buying power continue to fall behind the rising cost of living with no adjustments in sight (in spite of the overwhelming approval of cost of living increases for teachers at the polls).

Finally, as to your personal feelings that schools are cheating you out of something, maybe it's time you thought about what might be good for our society instead of only what is good for you. The most undervalued teacher in the world is still worth more than a caustic columnist grinding his own ax.

As you claim, you are entitled to your opinion. However, as a journalist and the host of a regularly appearing column, you have a greater responsibility and higher obligation to base those opinions on facts, not conjecture.

/s/ Dan Thomas, Co-president, Sunnyside Education Association, Rebecca Krona, Julie Perez, Sindy Maxwell, Peg Riggers-Collins, Ona Kassebaum, Scott Waywell, Gail Dodd, Edalina M. Diaz, Cynthia Kelley, Donna de Graaf, Sue Downing, David D. Downing, Judith Carrick, Judy Bennett, Andrea L. Diaz (SEA Representative Council members)

Unhappy with cable provider

Recently, we received a notice from Charter cable that our programming and charges would be changing. We could opt to stay with basic cable (which has very little to offer that you couldn't get with an antenna) or switch to expanded basic. We decided we would try the expanded basic at almost double the cost of the former basic.

Fox Sports Northwest had been advertising they would be the station for Seattle Supersonic basketball, and they are. It is advertised in the newspapers and on the on-screen TV guide, but it's not. At least not for Charter.

After a couple of phone calls, I was told that Charter had been talking with the Sonics about carrying the games but that the Sonics wanted too much money and Charter was trying to keep the cost of cable down. The woman I spoke with said we wouldn't be seeing the Sonics on Fox Sports Northwest with Charter.

In a recent Tri-City Herald edition, Jeff Morrow talked about the problem in his column. Jeff said that Hispanavision (channel 17 in Sunnyside) carries the Sonics games because they have the broadcasting rights in this area. Jeff also said that Ron Bevins, general manager of Hispanavision, has met with the manager of the local cable system concerning this issue and the Sonics games may be available on the regular cable channel within a few weeks.

To top it all off, when we got our cable bill, we were charged $23.95 for switching from basic to expanded basic and there was a notice that cable would be removing channel 32 (Fit TV) from the line-up. Makes us wonder how many more channels they will remove without changing the price.

/s/ Janita Wutzke, Sunnyside

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