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Learn the facts
While I was appalled at the blatant misrepresentation of Raleigh Charter High School, I was not surprised (Back Talk, Sept. 21). The opinion that charter schools are a waste of the state's money has become all too common. The only problem with Matthew Brown's interpretation of a statistic he found on the Internet is that he overlooked the reason why high schools exist in the first place--to educate the next generation and to prepare them for the next stage in their lives. According to a specially derived ratio by Newsweek which measures the overall performance of a high school, it seems that the school which "siphons off students, teachers and recourses from the real public schools" is ranked higher than any other school in the state. It is true that the diversity of the school is not what it could be, but this is no fault of the school's. The only requirements to get into the school are to be prepared to take a basic algebra class or better freshman year and to fill out an application. Other than this, admission is simply luck of the draw. As for not providing subsidized lunches, Raleigh Charter does not receive enough government funds to afford a cafeteria, making it impossible to provide said lunches. I hope that Mr. Brown will remember that the object of high schools are not to provide revenue for the state, but to responsibly educate those who will inherit this country.

As I see it, there is no school in this state more deserving than Raleigh Charter High School of a decent facility to house the education of the next generation.
Mathieu Poirier
Chapel Hill

Road work
Michael Panera's letter challenging Bob Geary's grasp of the facts on light rail (Back Talk, Sept. 21) offered a whopper of his own: the oft-repeated but false notion that motorists pay 100 percent of road costs via gas taxes. Studies show otherwise--in 1998, for example, the California Department of Transportation calculated that gas taxes covered only 62 percent of highway costs, and the gap between gas tax revenues and road-related expenses has further increased as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient. Highway congestion and the need for alternatives will only increase, as North Carolina does not have enough money in its highway fund to even begin to meet its road building and maintenance needs.

Furthermore, Panera conveniently ignores the massive subsidies that automobiles and the oil industry enjoy at the federal and state levels, which must be factored into any discussion of relative costs. Even conservative estimates (including one by the federal Office of Technology Assessment) peg the overall subsidy for automobiles as ranging between $3 and $7 per gallon. If gas prices reflected these actual costs, mass transit would become a much more attractive option for the average commuter.

Mass transit does require heavy subsidies. But ideological blinders do not change the fact that roads do as well.
Bob Burtman
Hillsborough

Who's legal anyway?
Nick Blanchard's outrage at the idea of allowing children of illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition at North Carolina universities (Back Talk, Sept. 21) is both hypocritical and shortsighted. He claims that his ancestors came to this country legally, but unless he is Native American or black, then his ancestors, like mine, chose to immigrate to a country whose government lied, cheated and broke treaties with the native peoples who originally occupied the land that was stolen from them. The dubious origins of our patrimony should prompt some humility about our supposed superiority to present-day immigrants, "legal" or otherwise.

As for the concern that Mr. Blanchard feels about rising welfare costs for undocumented workers and their families in North Carolina, denying higher education to their children will only make it more likely that they will be forced to turn to public assistance in the future. Denied a chance at the opportunities they deserve, these kids will be punished for not choosing their parents wisely. Those who feel that excluding deserving students from public universities is the answer to poverty should instead turn their attentions to employers and immigration laws that perpetuate exploited servitude.
David Roberts
Durham

Correction
In a story about the film Occupation: Dreamland ["Soldiers' stories," Sept. 14], the name of the film's distributor was incorrect. The distribution company is Rumur Releasing; GreenHouse is the production company.

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