Dems defend teachers’ unions from innovation

CRDaily

That capitalist paradigm of competition struck at the heart of socialized education when the federal government implemented the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  Before Democrats killed the program, 1,700 disadvantaged children received vouchers of up to $7,500 a year to attend a private school of their parents’ choice.  The results included statistically significant increases in student reading scores and in parent satisfaction.

Apparently worried that this competition could spread and eventually detach poor, mostly minority program participants from dependence upon the state, many Senate Democrats voted last Sunday, December 13th, to defeat an attempt to re-authorize the program’s meager $13 million/year funding.

Groups like the National Education Association, which lobbies Congress to funnel money to schools where its union members work, are apparently so influential on Capitol Hill that Congress won’t take even a small stand in favor of competition in education.  This is disgusting.

I’ve written on this particular program several times, and I’ve always been astonished to see Democrats opposing a federal spending program.  Their reluctance to fund innovation in education seems strange in light of their willingness to throw billions at random, unnecessary spending projects in order to push out the JPEG image of the aggregate demand curve on Paul Krugman’s blog.

I conclude that nothing is wrong with the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, but that the Left merely despises solutions that employ competition.  I note that the Democrats’ attempt to style their party as a caring, education-focused political force seems feigning in view of their giving in to teachers unions’ political prowess, and in view of the party’s love for state control of education no matter the effects upon children.  I must excuse Senator Byrd (who is among my least favorite Senators) and Senator Feinstein from these accusations, because they co-sponsored the re-authorization bill.

More on the issue of vouchers later.

17 thoughts on “Dems defend teachers’ unions from innovation

    1. There are other factors at play here, including the potential for the Democrats' loss of the education issue to the Republicans in the 2012/2016 presidential elections, and in local elections across the country. I think that's why Byrd and Feinstein broke from the pack.

  1. Obama has actually been a fairly strong supporter of merit/performance pay and the removal of ineffective teachers. I think he's more concerned with rewarding the best and most effective practices rather than ponying up guaranteed jobs and higher pay to teachers. The Race To The Top grants is a great example: states that do not tie student performance with the evaluation of teachers do not qualify for them. The grants are also pushing states to develop uniform, high national standards… states can then reach these standards by their own methods.

    Each party has groups it is beholden to, but I think that Obama has and will continue to buck the teachers lobby in favor of supporting best practices. It's important to have that kind of leadership coming from the top.

    1. Trust me, there's no way for Obama or anyone in Washington to fix our education problem. It needs to be fixed by individuals at the community level. I've been paying attention to such idiots as Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton, and Newt Gingrich who are trying to amend the situation, and it's sad just how pathetic they are. It's a shame that Obama's working with them, and it's also a shame that Obama actually thinks Washington can amend the situation.

      1. You seem to be rejecting the proposition that central planning (one-size-fits-all) is the proper way to handle a primarily location issue. If that is what you are saying, I most definitely agree.

  2. How does this show the Democrats to be against competition? The program, according to your figures, GIVES up to $7,500/yr to the “needy.” Last I checked, that’s “socialism.”

    “Apparently worried that this competition could spread and eventually detach poor, mostly minority program participants from dependence upon the state, many Senate Democrats voted last Sunday, December 13th, to defeat an attempt to re-authorize the program’s meager $13 million/year funding.”

    How could this program possibly “detach” the needy from dependence on the State? What this program is really doing is spending even more money on the education of people who, for the most part, couldn’t give a rat’s ass about education.

    Unlike you, I actually work in the field of education, and I personally dread these vouchers because they mean that, instead of teaching people that actually want to learn, and instead of dealing with parents who actually want their children to be educated, I’ll end up teaching the people that the State assigns me. We’ll get tons of behavioral problems (drugs, pregnant teenagers, fights on a daily basis, I’ll get cussed out at least once a day, etc.), students whose parents are wealthy will be driven away to even more selective schools, and students whose parents are not so wealthy (but wealthy enough not to qualify for vouchers) will just have to suffer the consequences of attending a school that is private in that it costs much money to attend, but public in every other respect.

    Look, if you really want “competition,” then vote to do away with public education all together. But don’t pretend that vouchers encourage “competition.”

    On a related note, the problem with public education is not the teachers’ union. You mainstream conservatives want everything to be about “competition” and capitalism. But the real problem with public education is rooted in the parents of the kids who attend shitty public schools. Most teachers who teach in ghetto public schools spend most of their days disciplining students. They’re lucky if they can teach at all. There was a time when this wasn’t a problem, because students feared their parents more than they feared their teachers. Getting a beating at school was bad, but having to go home and tell your parents that you got into trouble was even worse. Of course, now, teachers can literally do nothing to discipline their students because, one, they’ll get fired and sued, and, two, they don’t have the support of the parents. So stop blaming the system and be a real conservative and blame the irresponsible parents and students.

  3. Yes, $7,500/yr. That is about about 2/3 of what D.C. spends per child in public school (note that a properly implemented voucher program would make reasonable funding adjustments to public schools accordingly). So, do you like government control of the means of education plus redistribution of wealth, or just a little redistribution of wealth, when those are the only politically feasible options?

    I don't know what kind of voucher system you're envisioning, but parents, not the government, should assign kids to schools.

    Vouchers do encourage competition by allowing parents to select from among competing educational opportunities. And I’m not sure that a different funding model is going to solve behavioral or parental issues. One of the ideas is that parents will have more of an incentive to care about their childrens’ academic success if we move from a public education model to a subsidized but privately-run model.

    1. She has a point. How exactly do government subsidies (vouchers) encourage free market competition? That seems extremely backwards.

      Of course, most education is government-subsidized so vouchers are just moving us from a state-controlled education economy (government operated schools) to a socialist education economy (government subsidized private schools).

      1. Socialism has nearly always meant government control of the means of production. Programs that give money to people to select from among competing options do not constitute government control of the means of production. Instead, such programs constitute welfare statism.

        A limited welfare state is a proper way to move away from a socialized education system and towards a market-based education system.

        "Free market competition" – I did not use that term; if I had, that would have been a problem. Any subsidized market is not entirely free. But in this particular situation, it's easy to see how subsidies allow consumers to choose among competing options. The competing options must improve in order to get the business of consumers. This is a simple idea, and it is a fundamental tenant of any economy with market elements. Your point is rhetorical only and does not invalidate the selection of one option from among competing options.

    2. “Yes, $7,500/yr. That is about about 2/3 of what D.C. spends per child in public school (note that a properly implemented voucher program would make reasonable funding adjustments to public schools accordingly). So, do you like government control of the means of education plus redistribution of wealth, or just a little redistribution of wealth, when those are the only politically feasible options?”

      First, I disagree with your notion that there shouldn’t be State-run schools. I think that the State has an obligation to make sure that it educates its young so that the future generations can be populated with good citizens. That said, if private schools can do the job, then there’s no reason why the State can’t step aside. And the government doesn’t control the education of children. Even if you send your kid to a public school, that doesn’t mean that you, as a parent, are not the chief educator of your children you are, whether you accept that responsibility or not.

      “I don't know what kind of voucher system you're envisioning, but parents, not the government, should assign kids to schools.”

      Okay, let me rephrase. Parents who wouldn’t normally have enough money would magically be able to send their kids to schools most of whose ORIGINAL students started paying an arm and a leg to avoid being in class with the hooligans who would now be able to attend. Forget about the money. To me, it’s not about how much it costs anyway. Maybe vouchers are less expensive. But I still like the idea of teaching the type/caliber of student that I currently teach. Vouchers would flood private schools with people who don’t deserve to be in private schools. There’s a reason why so many people spend $10,000/yr on their children’s middle school education when they could just send them to public schools with no extra cost. And guess what—the reason isn’t necessarily because private schools have better teachers—oftentimes, they don’t. I would say it’s mainly to keep their kids sheltered from the environment of many public schools.

      “Vouchers do encourage competition by allowing parents to select from among competing educational opportunities.”

      Yeah, in the meantime screwing over all the original students and parents who can and always could afford to attend the private schools.

      “And I'm not sure that a different funding model is going to solve behavioral or parental issues.”

      I never said it would. I’m not interested in solving the behavioral or parental problems of the typical publicly-educated student. I don’t teach them, and I don’t want to be forced to. Sorry, I’m not a savior. I
      personally know a teacher who took a $12,000/yr pay cut in order to move from a public school to a private school.

      “One of the ideas is that parents will have more of an incentive to care about their childrens' [sic] academic success if we move from a public education model to a subsidized but privately-run model.”

      You’ve got to be kidding. Please tell me that this is a joke. Are you so obsessed with capitalism and “competition” that you think that parents don’t care about their kids’ education because they have no financial incentive to? I don’t care what school your children attend, if you are a good parent, your kid will be educated. If you are such a bad parent that you are only going to see to it that your children get educated when they attend a private school, then there’s no social engineering (e.g., vouchers) that could possibly be constructed that would cause your children to learn. What really would happen is that the vouchers would enable poorer parents to send their kids to good private schools, which they would have no reason not to do. But just because you send your kid to a private school doesn’t mean you honestly care about his/her education, especially when you aren’t even paying for it or sacrificing anything at all for it.

      Look, the bottom line is that the education, per se, isn't really bad at public schools. It's the environment that causes many of them to be unbearable and therefore causes the education to suffer. Vouchers will take the environment found in public schools and transfer it to private schools. Now, I'll acknowledge that private schools in the 21st-century United States will always be better than the public schools, but basically the playing field is going to be much more level if vouchers become more prominent than they already are. Even private schools are going to become pretty terrible. The answer to our education crisis is not to redistribute the problems to schools that are fortunate enough not to have to put up with them.

      1. "Vouchers would flood private schools with people who don’t deserve to be in private schools."

        Vouchers increase demand for private education, which results in an increase in supply. Are you sure you want to stereotype the kind of people receiving vouchers in such a broad sweep? If kids in the DC OSP did not "deserve" to be in private schools and will just cause trouble, why have things gone relatively well in that program (statistically significant increases in parent satisfaction and reading scores, and a small increase – though not statistically significant – in math scores)?

        I disagree that vouchers will "transfer" the problems of public schools to existing private schools. You were right earlier to imply that private schools that cost, say, $15k will be out of reach of students receiving $7,500 vouchers. But this won't stop new private schools from popping up and specializing to take care of the educational needs – and behavioral needs, in your district and others – of the types of kids who will be receiving vouchers.

        I like vouchers because they give parents more of a stake in their childrens' education. This encourages parents to become more involved in decisions about curriculum, extracurricular programs, etc. I don't like state-run schools because the government sets the curriculum. The result is a very leftward bias in the public school curriculum. It's so biased that the stuff taught in high school history can border on untruth. Diversity of educational curricula – and diversity of perspectives – sustains the democratic paradigm in the United States. It wouldn't be so if the government taught every kid that Che Guevara was a hero and that Franklin Roosevelt's 1932-1937 economic policies were 100% successful.

        "Even if you send your kid to a public school, that doesn’t mean that you, as a parent, are not the chief educator of your children you are, whether you accept that responsibility or not."

        Yeah. But the incentives here are wrong. The parent pays taxes to let the state take care of their kids' education. But I'm saying that the parents should be primarily responsible for education by directly paying a particular institution. Eventually, this needs to be done with their own money. Right now, that's not politically or economically feasible.

      2. "Vouchers would flood private schools with people who don’t deserve to be in private schools."

        Vouchers increase demand for private education, which results in an increase in supply. Are you sure you want to stereotype the kind of people receiving vouchers in such a broad sweep? If kids in the DC OSP did not "deserve" to be in private schools and will just cause trouble, why have things gone relatively well in that program (statistically significant increases in parent satisfaction and reading scores, and a small increase – though not statistically significant – in math scores)?

        I disagree that vouchers will "transfer" the problems of public schools to existing private schools. You were right earlier to imply that private schools that cost, say, $15k will be out of reach of students receiving $7,500 vouchers. But this won't stop new private schools from popping up and specializing to take care of the educational needs – and behavioral needs, in your district and others – of the types of kids who will be receiving vouchers.

        I like vouchers because they give parents more of a stake in their childrens' education. This encourages parents to become more involved in decisions about curriculum, extracurricular programs, etc. I don't like state-run schools because the government sets the curriculum. The result is a very leftward bias in the public school curriculum. It's so biased that the stuff taught in high school history can border on untruth. Diversity of educational curricula – and diversity of perspectives – sustains the democratic paradigm in the United States. It wouldn't be so if the government taught every kid that Che Guevara was a hero and that Franklin Roosevelt's 1932-1937 economic policies were 100% successful.

        "Even if you send your kid to a public school, that doesn’t mean that you, as a parent, are not the chief educator of your children you are, whether you accept that responsibility or not."

        Yeah. But the incentives here are wrong. The parent pays taxes to let the state take care of their kids' education. But I'm saying that the parents should be primarily responsible for education by directly paying a particular institution. Eventually, this needs to be done with their own money. Right now, that's not politically or economically feasible.

      3. Perhaps the vouchers would be available to everyone, and therefore lower-middle, middle, and upper-middle class people could afford to leave their currently less-expensive schools for even more elite/expensive schools. But, again, this doesn't fix the problem, it only transfers the problem from dying public schools to less expensive private schools. You may argue further that private schools will be able to handle problem students better than public schools, but I doubt that this is true. Again, public schools really aren't bad. I know of several public schools to which I wouldn't have a problem sending my kids, but those public schools are not populated with thugs and juvenile delinquents. Rather, they are populated with good-old, hardworking, and dutiful citizens. Perhaps private schools would be less expensive for the taxpayers, but this is only a problem because of typical government waste. The potentially-cheaper cost notwithstanding, however, education per se wouldn't get any better just by being privatized.

        The other problem is that, in the process of privatizing education, the current communities of privately-educated students, private teachers, and private schools would be disrupted and disassembled while balance is restored after the government rocks the boat yet again.

      4. Balderdash. What you propose will inevitably level the playing the field, which means that the standards in private school will be lowered. The only way to "solve" the education problem is to get parents to care about their kid's education. No monetary incentive is going to cure indifference.

        Tracy is absolutely right. Education at the lower level starts at home. The reason why the kids in public school do so poorly is because the parents do not care (which is why they send them to public school). Putting those same kids into a private school won't suddenly make the parents and kids care. Either they will fail, or the school will lower their standards in order to get the kids to pass.

        Like Tracy said, if you as a parent care about your child's education, you will make the sacrifice to get them the best possible education that you can get. Whether that means sending them to a good Charter school, or paying for a private school. It's why teachers like myself take a pay cut to teach in private schools. We like teaching motivated kids who have parents that actually care about how well their children do.

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