What’s really wrong with America’s education system

Education unions have declared war on alternative methods of learning which increase competition among inner city students. Photo: AP

NEW YORK, March 28, 2013 ― It’s amazing how education reform was suddenly transformed into the Democrats’ key domestic policy issue. Consider the Democratic strategy for improving urban education in America so far: Dump millions and billions of our tax dollars down the ratholes of failing school districts in the name of saving our children, a tactic which has consistently failed for two generations.

Democrat-sponsored legislation on education reform has consistently been hijacked and directed by teachers’ unions. Their enormous financial support of the Democratic Party has given them a huge say in the shape of Democratic legislation on education.

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Sadly, our failing schools have continued to diminish in quality, not because our students and teachers are inferior, but because of politics. Washington bureaucrats, national legislators, governors and local leaders have for the last forty years tied themselves to the failed education policies supported by teachers’ unions. Any attempt by these elected officials to allow parental choice or create more charter schools is likely to reduce the number of incompetent educators, hence these attempts are automatically viewed as a threat by union leaders.

This should not surprise us; teachers’ unions advocate for teachers and only teachers, not for taxpayers, not for students, not for their parents. They want higher salaries more than they want better educational outcomes; they would rather enhance job security than rid their ranks of bad teachers. Educational success is not their first priority, and it will never be achieved by throwing more money at a problem that refuses to fix itself.

Over time, in both Democratic and Republican administrations, political theater has substituted for hard educational choices. Theater has worked for most power brokers because it is easier than articulating thoughtful policies and selling them to a public that doesn’t have the patience for them. Even as their hard-earned tax dollars are being wasted on a failed educational system, voters seem unable to believe that spending more money on their children’s education is a completely wasted investment, especially in minority neighborhoods.

Liberals and the unions have consistently beat the drums to demand more money, and real spending per student has tripled since the 50s and is among the highest in the developed world. Our educational achievement puts us in the bottom half of that club, however, as luxurious salaries for swelling ranks of administrators, grandiose conferences, and even state-of-the-art schools have failed to translate into better education. We spend more per child than almost any other country in the world to provide that child with an education that has almost no value in the real world. 

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In some states, Governors have tried to push school vouchers, sometimes called “scholarships,” for students who come from challenged economic backgrounds. The word “voucher” is taboo in secondary education, because it directly threatens union leadership, by re-establishing urban competition from private and public charter based schools. No wonder unions are opposed to these vouchers. They go all out to keep parents from having options that would grant them alternatives to public schools, which would cause union dues to drop quickly. Sadly, America’s teachers’ unions have declared war on America and her children, keeping the status quo alive.

It’s always surprising that state legislators across the nation, whose own districts are failing consistently, refuse to support legislation that could actually enhance academic learning, hold teachers and administrators accountable for performance, and grant parents the choice to give their children access to a quality education.  



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