Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More teachers' union myth

John Stossel wrote in Townhall I hope the teachers in America's public schools are more candid than their union officials and some of the public-education advocates and leftist smear groups who are criticizing my TV special "Stupid in America." They are promoting myths:....
Some of them probably are. There are certainly good teachers, but since the school system does not reward good teachers with extra (merit) pay, and since their union may punish them if they stand up for what is right, they are intimidated into silence.
MediaMatters, a liberal media watchdog group, claimed we fudged per-pupil spending numbers when we said per-pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, has doubled to "more than $10,000 per pupil per year." They point to the "most recent" 2003 U.S. Census figure of $8,019 per pupil as a "gotcha." In fact, the estimates for 2004-05 from the U.S. Department of Education are well over $10,000 per pupil. Even using MediaMatters' own number, it is irrefutable that per-pupil spending has doubled over the last 30 years.
And what have we gotten for that doubling of money? POORER SCHOOLS. Kids are learning less and less, despite the money being spent to teach them keeps growing.
The NSBA claims "America's public schools outperform private schools when variables ... are controlled." This must refer to the recent study done at the University of Illinois, comparing fourth- and eighth-grade math scores. That study actually showed that public school students performed worse, but after the researchers used regression analysis to "control" for race/ethnicity, gender, disability, limited English proficiency, and school location, they manage to conclude that public school students outperform private and charter school students....
If you are free to "control" and "adjust" the figures, you can get them to show whatever you want.
Perhaps the most fundamentally flawed idea is this all-too-common one: "Public schools were created to provide a 'public good': education for all, regardless of a family's ability to pay ...
Then why don't they do that?
By contrast, under a voucher system that gives public dollars to completely unmonitored private schools, there is no such right to expect or demand accountability for student performance or how tax dollars are spent." They don't get it. Competition brings accountability.
Precisely. A parent will not use their voucher money to send their child to a school if they don't think that school will teach their child better than another school.
Private schools may be "unmonitored" by bureaucrats, but they face the most demanding kind of supervision our society provides: a market full of freely choosing individuals. Parents' desire for a good education for their children is a much more powerful check on schools than any politician's law or union rule. The people who want to control every young American's education like to talk about accountability, but what they want is to make schools accountable to anointed bureaucrats who think they know what's best for all of us. They evade real accountability -- the kind of accountability where if a student or parent realizes a school isn't doing its job, he can find another one.

I could go on; there are plenty of myths. But the most important point to remember is quite simple: If public schools are good, they have nothing to fear from school choice. Students and parents will choose them.
They realise that, but they know that their schools are so bad that given a choice parents would send their children anywhere but the public school system.

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