Good Schools, Public and Private

Rabbi Gershon Schusterman is the director of the Hebrew Academy Lubavitch, a private Jewish day school in Westminster

Gov. George Deukmejian can be proud that he has helped California's education system recover from years of neglect. That makes it all the more a mystery why, despite brave claims in his State of the State address, the governor is proposing a budget that many observers feel will be a disaster for public education.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig has rightfully taken the governor to task for this unwise move, which will penalize California's children and the state's future. Local school boards and elected officials are nearly unanimous in their condemnation. City councils have passed motions condemning the budget for shortchanging public education.

The matter should not be allowed to die down and be left to politicians for resolution without further public input. It is time other voices were added to the chorus thus far raised against the governor's proposal--the voices of California's private schools.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. The private school is a long-established American institution, fully as much as its public counterpart is. Those who work in private schools are perhaps far more aware of the value of the public school system than the average citizen is. They know the value and the limitations of the private school in this country--and the importance of a strong public education system.

Private schools in California, elementary through high school, currently educate only a small percentage of our children. An exodus from our public schools brought on by foolish economies in Sacramento will only overwhelm the private schools. As was illustrated in Los Angeles during the fight over court-ordered busing, new private schools are neither easy to open nor cheap to maintain.

Moreover, a strong public school system is good for the private school. It pushes us in the private sector to be the best that we can be. We have to be really special, to provide the highest-quality education, if we are to succeed in competition with a strong public education system.

Private schools are a valuable resource. Their graduates have certainly made many valuable contributions to society. Private schools remain, nonetheless, only a part of the wide spectrum of education in our culture. In the overall context of a healthy education system, they will continue to make their contribution. It is with this realization that California's private schools must muster their resources and speak on behalf of public education--their natural competition and their vital alternatives.

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