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[Susan notes: Walt Gardner makes a very provocative point in this letter.]

Published in Education Week

To the editor

The spate of slated Roman Catholic school closings in Chicago, Brooklyn, and Queens serves as evidence that an open educational marketplace does not ensure the survival of the best schools ("Catholic Schools’ Mission to Serve Needy Children Jeopardized by Closings," March 9, 2005.). If it did, the Catholic schools on the chopping block would not be there in the first place. Their long record of providing a quality education to poor and minority children would protect them.

But reality has an inconvenient way of intruding into the most instructionally effective schools. The result is that the very schools that ideologues maintain will prosper are the same ones that are scheduled to be shuttered. That’s a tragedy for legions of children and their parents who have been well served at an affordable cost.

The lesson to be learned is that choice and competition are no guarantee of longevity. Forces beyond the control of the finest schools can lead to to their demise.

Walt Gardner

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