Pam Cave writes, "When I compared the tax dollars allocated per student in the public schools against the tuition assessed per student in the local private schools, I found that the public schools consistently have more money per student, yet offer fewer services" [Close to Home, May 30].

Is the writer possibly confusing tuition at parochial schools with total money spent per pupil? Actual spending is much higher than tuition; the rest comes from subsidies provided by the parish (made up of people like me). Tuitions at nonsectarian private schools are about twice the level of per-pupil spending in Fairfax County.

Fewer services? Public schools serve all children, including some with special needs who would pay more than $20,000 per year to receive the services they need in private schools. The writer complains that her child had to pay a fee to take a school bus on a field trip. At least transportation to and from public schools is free; private schools generally charge fees for such services, when they provide them at all.

I cannot understand how the debate about vouchers continues to proceed from the fundamentally flawed premise that it is possible to provide a good education at a much lower cost than per-pupil public school spending, using parish-subsidized parochial school tuition as the prime example. The curriculum, the discipline standards, the courses that should be required are all fair game for debate. But when it come to costs, voucher proponents should at least get their facts straight.

JANE HALTMAIER

McLean