OPINION: School Choice Will Help Teachers, Too, and Conservatives Need to Say It!
You can’t make everyone happy. If you do, then you’re probably doing something wrong, at least in this particular industry. That’s always been my philosophy.
But that doesn’t mean we’re diametrically ideologically opposed. Far from it. I enjoyed his piece from earlier this week taking Barbara Buono to task for campaigning with anti-school choice elites from Hollywood. Hypocrites deserve harsh treatment and tongue lashings whenever someone is bold enough to hand them out.
I didn’t like everything in Mulshine’s Kerry Washington musing; this paragraph comes to mind:
“Buono’s program may be better for the teachers, but Christie’s program is better for the homeowners and the parents of students in failing schools. That’s among the reasons the Buono ticket is so far behind in the polls. But that’s just the politics.”
I can’t sign on to that conclusion in its entirety. Specifically, the part about what’s better for teachers. School choice is a winner for everyone involved…
Anyone with a basic understanding of education funding knows Barbara Buono’s “program” isn’t reform at all, a point with which Mr. Mulshine clearly agrees; it’s spending more money that we don’t have to prop up a public school bureaucracy (with record levels of funding under Governor Christie, btw) that’s nevertheless under-performing for our kids AND teachers, too.
That last part is key. Even the hard-left Star Ledger editorial board acknowledges how Buono’s plan, which is downright hostile to charter schools, vouchers and school choice generally, “seems designed to please the New Jersey Education Association, even at the expense of poor children in struggling districts.” The problem? Mulshine is, inadvertently or not, conflating the interests of the teachers and their union which you and I both know are most certainly NOT aligned.
The NJEA exists to line its leadership’s pockets and protect its over-sized political influence, a feat accomplished with union dues from taxpayer-funded teacher paychecks.
NJEA-member teachers, in turn, get nothing for their money.
They grapple with increasingly inattentive parents, incrementally less-well-behaved children, the disintegration of the family unit and communities along with all of the social ills that accompany their collapse, judges (appointed by NJEA-backed politicians) who make it impossible to adequately run a classroom without fear of lawsuits, mountains of regulations from Trenton designed by folks who don’t know what a classroom looks like, inadequate support from numerous, overpaid yet never overworked administrators, union reps who are either ineffective or openly colluding with the administration and, to boot, an increasing emphasis from above on testing as the primary measure of a teacher’s value when virtually EVERYONE concurs with the notion that “teaching to the test” is a huge part of what’s hold back this nation’s stagnant economy.
Did I mention that their pay scale is stagnating, too? All at a time when young teachers are shouldering epic levels of student loan debt.
The ONLY solution for a teacher tired of the status quo is a system where the free market takes the place of nepotism, cronyism, subjectivity and the bloated administrative bureaucracy that promotes them all to the detriment of all.
There’s another way. A conservative solution. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that school choice alternatives would best compensate motivated teachers for their efforts; that’s what the National Bureau of Economic Research discovered:
For example, public school teachers who graduated from very competitive colleges are paid 3.1 percent more than their colleagues, while charter school teachers from the same group of colleges are paid 6.6 percent more than their colleagues. Charter schools also demand more teachers who have majored in math and science: in the public schools, math and science majors are paid about 4.4 percent more but in charter schools they are paid about 8.4 percent more than their colleagues. In salaries, the average public school teacher earns $34,690; the average charter school teacher $32,070; and the average private school teacher $21,286.
I don’t want to be too harsh on Paul Mulshine. Not his time. Considering how awful the teacher’s unions are in modern America, the temptation remains for school choice advocates to commit a critical error: failing to distinguish between teachers and their public sector union appendages in their rhetoric. It’s a reflex as much as anything else, kind of like when a person gets into a bar fight and just starts swinging indiscriminately at everyone coming at’em.
We need to show a little more empathy. Throwing off the yoke of the NJEA is easier said than done. As conservatives, we need to appreciate the difficulty of a teacher’s job in modern America (see above) and articulate how our conservative ideas can better reward their efforts for our kids. Part of that discussion involves highlighting what many of them already know, particularly the younger teachers: their union sucks. BAD.
Casting the education reform debate as one in which either (1) teachers win or (2) kids/parents win is not only factually wrong and politically inadvisable but it’s also eerily reminiscent of a favorite tactic of the Left. We’re not dealing with an “us vs. them” paradigm here. School choice can and will life all boats when it finally overtakes this country’s outdated education infrastructure.
It falls upon us to make the right arguments ahead of the rainfall, Save Jerseyans; no conservative who believes in school choice should be actively throwing teachers from the boats! We should be teaching them how to take control of the oars… the exact same less that we want them to pass onto our kids.