Just as you might expect a proponent of school vouchers to espouse the merits of "market forces," you can be equally unsurprised when a member of the public education establishment overstates the accomplishments of public schools. This is exactly what Stuart Gibson -- a member of the Fairfax County School Board -- did in his rebuttal of Pam Cave's pro-voucher arguments ["Vouchers Won't Work to Improve School Performance," Close to Home, June 27].

Gibson's claims are based on the assumption that public schools work as they were intended to work. He wrote, "The most vital issue in the debate about school vouchers is whether we, as a society, are willing to continue to provide a level playing field for all our children."

Through this broad assertion, the school board member implied that public schools have been and are continuing to provide that "level playing field." This is untrue.

Because public school funding is often based on local property taxes, schools located in relatively wealthy areas generally fare better than those located in relatively poor areas. Public school funding compounds the natural head start accorded the children of the wealthy -- inherent in their parents' money, status and consequent ability to provide for their intellectual needs -- by providing additional benefits.

Because of the greater funding provided them, public schools in wealthy areas are better able to provide educational advantages, including smaller class sizes, better teacher pay, better or newer facilities, more extracurricular activities and better tools (computers, etc.). The "level playing field for all children" to which Gibson referred does not exist in the public schools.

Because Gibson premised all his arguments on this false assumption, his conclusions lack credence. He wrote, "We know how to improve student performance, and it isn't vouchers. . . . Of course, these programs cost money and require effort."

Just as Gibson's overstated claims are unsurprising, so too is his conclusion: The public education establishment wants more money.

-- Paul S. Williams