Schools Solutions Debated 

The lead story in your Aug. 22 issue ("I Will Not Be Poor," Cover Story) gives a sobering analysis of the problems faced by Richmond Public Schools.

Poverty in our city puts many students at a disadvantage when they enter our public schools. Further, the decision by many middle-class parents to abandon Richmond Public Schools in favor of private schools or suburban school systems that they perceive as better creates a greater concentration of poverty in our schools than in the city as a whole. We in the city will face great difficulties in making ours into a world-class school system.

I am concerned, however, that some of the statements in the article may lead our citizens to conclude that Richmond Public Schools is doomed to failure. For example, according to the story Don Cowles, of Initiatives for Change, says:

Federal studies show that school systems with more than 50 percent of students reliant on free lunch programs simply do not succeed. … Considering the overwhelming number of city schools that face such a scenario, "the city can't address it alone."

It would be terrible if Richmond residents took the attitude that because of factors beyond our control Richmond's schools will inevitably fail. Rather, we must recognize the difficulties, copy from schools or school systems that have succeeded despite high poverty rates, demand excellence from all our students and unite in our determination that Richmond Public Schools will succeed regardless whether neighboring jurisdictions join in regional approaches.

The children of Richmond deserve a world-class education. We taxpayers deserve great schools for the money we pay. We and our children can settle for no less.

Bert Berlin

Miriam Maddux's response the plight of Richmond's public school students ("More Money Isn't the Solution," Letters, Aug. 29) is a good example of why these problems exist. Her mind-set is of one barricaded from such problems by the fact she lives outside the city.

She implies that human efforts to increase the common good are rightfully or naturally limited by the political and social boundaries we created in the past. If she were transported into space and looked down on our region, she would see us ants working at cross purposes across artificial lines.

My hope is that she and others in our affluent and advantaged counties will begin to approach the problems of poverty and classism from a more spiritual and inclusive perspective. … you know, like the one that guy Jesus talked about.

John G. Schuiteman

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