Families Need Market-Based Choices in Education

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

If the policies, standards and quality of education provided by public schools in the 1950s were restored, today’s parents, children and taxpayers would all benefit.

But, as the end of another chaotic school year approaches, it has become clear that the American public education system overall is breaking down.

Major reasons for the decline of public education include 1) governmental interference and ineptitude, and 2) union domination. Politicians erred in creating and expanding social programs that effectively weakened the family units that should be the primary stakeholders in and beneficiaries of good educational systems.

Furthermore, politicians imposed broad education policies that primarily benefit special interests, especially the unions that finance political campaigns. Nothing in public education has improved since teachers’ unions took it over in the 1960s. In fact, academic achievement has declined.

Ironically, union demands for remote learning during the COVID-19 panic allowed parents to witness how awful public schools can be, and their insistence that the young cohort least susceptible to coronavirus remain masked made it clear that teachers’ unions prioritize public funding over the wellbeing of schoolkids.

Today, “woke” racial and sexual/gender abominations have crept into many pre-teen classrooms without parental knowledge or consent.

Jonathon Turley wrote: “[T]he largest association of science teachers in the world has issued a guide for “anti-oppression” terminology for science teachers. In the guide, titled ‘Gender-Inclusive Biology: A framework in action,’ the National Science Teachers Association…has called for ‘gender-inclusive biology,’ which includes the abandonment of terms like ‘parent,’ ‘men,’ ‘women,’ ‘mother,’ and ‘father.’”

Because, “science”…or something…

Parents are justifiably outraged by the indoctrination and sexualization of their children. Since 2020, more than 1.2 million students have dis-enrolled from public-school systems, many for homeschooling.

Prioritizing tenure, compensation, benefits and head count, union bosses’ most-common argument for pay increases is lower average teacher pay relative to other professional employment categories. However, high turnover creates significant numbers of teachers at/near the bottom of the pay scale.

In union-friendly Pennsylvania, compensation for teachers with taxpayer-funded, tuition-reimbursed master’s degrees and fifteen years of experience can exceed $90,000 per year for 180 classroom days, plus a few in-service days – 15 work weeks of vacation, not counting contracted paid personal-day allowances and paid sabbaticals.

Teachers can collect immediate pension and lifetime health care benefits after only 30 years of service, a time when other professionals are just approaching their peak earning years.
Unions and union-owned politicians reject merit pay or eliminating tenure. Unions want poor schools and incompetent dues-payers spared objective scrutiny. Indeed, union contracts protect lousy teachers.

As in any business, competence should determine pay, especially in low-income neighborhood schools that can least tolerate losers.

Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York prove that cash alone doesn’t produce quality education. By anyone’s standards, these systems fail repetitively while spending far more per student annually than do more successful districts.

Standards and accountability for teacher and student performance would improve schools, but standards should be approved by parents and set locally where their relevance and integrity can be best evaluated and measured.

Districts must cancel dysfunctional “woke” nonsense. High-quality, content-based curricula presented by subject-qualified professionals are essential to quality education. So are results-based merit-pay plans for teachers, ending automatic tenure, and accountability standards for evaluating school administrators.

Since not all schools have such curricula, teachers or administrators, and because the skills and needs of students differ, school choice is important, too.
Americans have many choices in the lives we live, the products we buy and the services we choose. The need to survive in free markets raises the quality of every other service-provision business. Education would be no exception.

Choices for poor students stuck in lousy schools, including vouchers, charter schools and tuition tax credits, can break the cycle of school failure. Successful experimental programs for school choice should be implemented more broadly, especially in the worst districts.

Results from existing programs confirm the moral and civil-rights justifications for school choice.

For years, politicians who accept their campaign cash have voted with teachers’ unions to keep poor inner-city kids in failing schools. In doing so, politicians have denied millions of children they will never meet a chance to get a decent start in life and condemned many to lifetimes of failure.

In the current system, too many schoolkids, their parents and taxpayers are getting shortchanged.

Jerry Shenk: Families need market-based choices in education