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    Why Cleveland needs school choice

    02/23/2002

     I would like to commend Robert Holland's outstanding column, "Hearts, minds, and vouchers," in your Feb. 19 Commentary section. But I would like to expand on his depiction of Cleveland schools.

    According to a study released in November 2001, Cleveland has the lowest graduation rate of any school district nationwide; not only do 1 in 14 graduate on time but a mere 28 percent graduate at all. Cleveland schools failed to meet proficiency standards in all categories, sometimes missing the low 60 percent standard by 30 percentage points, while only 14.5 percent were proficient in all subjects.

    At Health Careers Center in Cleveland, a specialized school dedicated to health care careers, only 18 percent of students are proficient in science. How can a school dedicated to health education have such low marks in science and be allowed to continue to fail without external reproach?

    In the 1998-1999 school year, John Marshall High School had an enrollment of 1,853 and 1,909 student suspensions. Infractions ranged from threatening behavior to possession of drugs and weapons and other misdeeds.

    No wonder parents in Cleveland are outraged at the failure of their schools. With no choice available to parents, their children would be imprisoned in schools where the likelihood of graduation is low and criminal activity is extremely high.

    All other arguments aside, school choice provides children with hope for their future and a prospect for success that could not be achieved otherwise.

    JUSTIN J. OLSON

    Research associate

    Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation

    Washington

    on 2/23/02.