Letters to the Editor

A Worthy Alternative

To the Editor:

The Friends of Shelby Farms wish to add to the statement made by Mayor Rout in The Memphis Flyer (City Reporter, February 1st issue). We agree with attorney Richard Glassman that Alternative F is worthy of serious consideration. We anticipate further discussion once the roadway is presented in specific detail. It is important to note that this latest alternative, like its predecessors, is subject to the federal laws pertaining to roads through parkland. The citizens of Memphis and Shelby County should have the final decision.

Steve Eppel, Friends of Shelby Farms, Memphis

In Defense of Ashley

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to a recent letter to the editor (February 8th issue) in which Ashley Fantz was taken to task for her article on Grandmaster Fu Wei Zhong. I too had a strong negative reaction when I first read an article by Ms. Fantz months ago. However, after I read and re-read that particular article (of all things to get irked over, it was a book review), I felt that my criticisms were perhaps not entirely fair and held back on firing off the two-page letter I had written.

I have subsequently read Ms. Fantz's work with a somewhat skeptical (albeit amused) eye and have found that, while I do not agree with everything she writes, I find her work to be relatively balanced, well written, serious when needed, humorous when appropriate and simply fun to read. Sadly, it's predictable in today's oversensitive society that when you skewer a few sacred cows -- even when done with tongue-in-cheek humor -- those on the receiving end have a hissy fit.

Chris Leek, Memphis

Bogus Logic?

To the Editor:

John Branston's Viewpoint column ("A Bogus 'Choice,'" February 1st issue) posed the question, "Why do 118,000 students stay in the Memphis City Schools?" He uses the number of children enrolled in the Memphis schools as evidence to refute the idea of vouchers. He says that choice exists in Memphis through the optional schools, the Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust, and the ability to move to a desired school attendance zone. Well, what's bogus is Branston's analysis.

First, the vast majority of Memphis City Schools' student population lives in poverty. People in poverty need before- and after-school care, free breakfasts, free lunches, transportation, etc. The schools located in the depressed areas of Memphis offer those services through a designation as an "entitled" school. Many optional schools do not provide these additional services.

Then there's Branston's idea that transportation is a small issue. He must not live in a household that has only one or even no reliable automobile. Reliance on public transit is problematic at best. When on a limited income, the additional time and expense of getting a child across town for school and then getting yourself to work are huge hurdles. Such parents do not have any options; even their housing is usually limited to the rentals that are eligible for government subsidy.

Second, the Opportunity Trust limits its assistance to low-income persons. Has Branston looked at the cost of the city's top schools -- Presbyterian Day School, St. Mary's, Lausanne? A $1,500 check doesn't go far for tuition, and tuition is just a portion of the costs for private schools. Would Branston feel the same if the waiting list for scholarship aid contained 116,000 names instead of its present 2,000?

Third, I'm one of those "mobile" folks who chose his school by buying a home miles from his workplace. Did I have any influence over Mayor Herenton's annexation frenzy? My mobility has gone the way of doubled taxes and a neighborhood with "For Sale" signs and foreclosure notices everywhere. I was forced to go to the school board building three times last week: once to sign up for a spot in the 900-plus-person line, a second time for a roll call to keep my number 369 place in line, and a third time at 5 a.m. to languish in line until 8:25 a.m. This, just to hand in applications for my two oldest children for a chance to attend an optional program miles from our home. And, since few optional schools include kindergarten, who knows where my rising kindergartner will be next fall?

Last, Branston countered his own view by noting that the economically advantaged have fled to Germantown, Collierville, and private schools, leaving the poor to MCS. Doesn't that clearly indicate that over 100,000 students do not have a choice? Branston concludes that my children will be in Memphis schools because I do not believe MCS is a poor choice for my children or I choose to ignore its problems. It is neither. My children will be in Memphis schools because I make too much money to get scholarships but too little income to send three children to private schools or buy a more expensive house in an "annexation free" Shelby County area.

By the way, does Mr. Branston have children in Memphis City Schools?

Raymond Miller, Memphis

(Editor's Note: John Branston has two children in Memphis City Schools.)

To the Editor:

Mr. Branston with his Viewpoint column "A Bogus 'Choice'" unfortunately defends the failing status quo against vouchers and charter schools and tax credits for private and parochial school tuition. Branston basically grants in the column that many public schools are largely failing. Branston also seems to grant that teachers' unions and bureaucrats might rule the public schools. Branston is then struck by the fact that 118,000 students "choose" to attend public schools in Memphis. (Branston has obviously never heard of the mandatory school attendance law in Tennessee.)

Branston then diverts our attention to another bogus notion: that Memphis City Schools has sufficient "choice" through its optional school program for gifted students. But the point of Mr. Bush's programs, as I understand it, is to expand the choices to all students, whether gifted or not. (And this doesn't mean that elite students could not enroll in the Memphis City Schools optional program under Bush's programs.) The heavily taxed citizens of America and their children deserve a greater range of choice. So, now, who is really missing the more important point?

Phillip Stephenson, Memphis

The Memphis Flyer encourages reader response. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, POB 1738, Memphis, TN 38101. Or call Back Talk at 575-9405. Or send us e-mail at All responses must include name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 250 words.

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