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Can Schools and Taxpayers Mix?

The article "Behind the Funding Crisis Facing US Public Schools," May 20, fairly addresses attitudes that affect public school funding. The author mentioned an important "chicken-and-egg" problem: taxpayer reluctance to pay more until performance improves, and educator insistence that improvement requires money first.

The District of Columbia provides especially poignant support for the taxpayer side. United States Department of Education data show that District of Columbia public schools lead every state in the country in per-pupil expenditures ($9,259 for the 1990-91 school year). Yet they are arguably among the worst in the US.

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The same data show state expenditures varying down to less than one-third of the D.C. level. Even if one disregards Washington as an anomaly, I doubt that one can show from this data any direct correlation between performance and expenditure level. Other factors must be at work here.

The growing support for education vouchers indicates that competition may serve better than more spending. John Dendahl, Santa Fe, N.M.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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