There is a national crisis in the quality of public K-12 education. Much of that crisis is the
responsibly of the teacher’s unions. This essay will explore this problem.
The “business plan” for public K-12 education is as follows. First, start with the least
qualified college students. According to the State of Minnesota,* the median SAT score
for college-bound students that say that they want to be teachers, is the 35th percentile,
which is the average for the lowest 1/3rd of college-bound students. It was common
knowledge, even in my day, that If you couldn’t get into business school, veterinary,
medical, law school, you could always go to the college of “education” and become a
teacher. Of course it politically incorrect to voice an opinion on teacher quality, even if it
is based upon facts. See the SAT website :
One of the main attractions of becoming a teacher is a short work day, typically 6 hours
or less, plus time off for summer, Easter, Christmas, Presidents Day, etc. and therefore
you don’t necessarily get the most motivated high school graduates to become
The entire public school system is based on a socialistic model where all the teachers
get paid exactly the same regardless of how hard they work or what skills they bring to
Teachers are government employees that work in government-owned schools that can’t
be fired. This is socialism and teachers that accept this kind of employment by their very
nature probably feel that this system is normal. They accept the idea that it is normal to
work 1040 hours per year with 1/2 hour of paid lunch time and another hour of “prep”
time, so if you subtract the 270 hours for lunch and prep time, the teacher is contracted
to work 770 hours per year. I know that some teachers have a difficult job, especially in
the inner city, but 770 hours per year is a part-time job for most workers. so it is not
surprising that the whole public school system, inadvertently by example, teaches
socialism. Most teachers and parents are not aware that they are part of a socialistic
organization, and many would object to that idea, but that’s what it is.
Communism, socialism, left-wing Democratic party ideology all rely on the concept of
equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity. Each teacher, no matter how skilled or
incompetent will have the same salary and the same job security. How could any
system designed this way do anything but promote and teach, by example, the failed
idea of socialism?
Not too long ago when teaching quality was higher than it is today, teachers colleges
use to be a 2-year course. Learning to be a teacher doesn’t take 4 years of training, so
the teacher’s colleges needed to come up with courses that are quite useless in order to
fill the 4-year requirement.
Teach for America is a national organization that gives bright college graduates 6 weeks of
teacher training and then sends them into the worse schools in the inner city to teach for
two years. Even though these recent graduates get only 6 weeks of teacher training
they knock the socks off of the full-time union teachers that have a 4-year college
degree. The 4-year requirement and so-called licensing procedures to become a
teacher are there to protect the existing teachers from unwanted competition.
So for teacher training, we start with the less motivated college students who have the
the lowest academic scores that get a poor education in schools that offer courses of
dubious value to actually teaching a student, and that’s just the beginning because it
gets worse from here.
A new teacher then becomes a government employee working at a government school.
This means many things, all bad for the students and their parents. This new
government employee will not get paid even a penny more for doing a good job, so
there is not an incentive to do a good job. I’m sure some teachers overcome this but
from my experience and observation that eager willingness to be an excellent teacher s
moderates over the years and then eventually dies. Teachers that work beyond the
union contract are routinely criticized by other teachers for doing so. It’s just plain old
common sense to be responsive to financial incentives, and when there are none, most
people will eventually fall in with the crowd.
Probably more important than having no incentive to be good, there is no penalty for
being bad. A tenured teacher cannot be fired. Sure the teachers union says that there
are procedures to fire incompetent teachers, but the hurdles are so high it hardly ever
happens. In NYC they put these really bad teachers in a “rubber room”, a room of really
bad teachers, receiving full pay, but having no one to teach. It costs $250,000-
$450,000 to fire a teacher in California, so a firing rarely happens and only 2 teachers
were fired there last year.
At the beginning of this essay, I said that I don’t have a practical solution to this
education problem, but there is a theoretical solution and that is vouchers. Vouchers are
given to parents and can be redeemed at a school of their choice-a good school. Right
now the students are confined to a failed public school system. Vouchers would
revolutionize the public school system as they would have to successfully compete or
go out of business. The unionized public school teachers and their Democratic partners
will never let this happen, at least in Minnesota.
A voucher system would be good for taxpayers, it would be good for parents of school-aged children, it would be good for the community at large that would get a better-educated graduate. It would be good for all of the stakeholders in community k-12 education but would be a disaster for public school teachers and the Democratic party that they currently finance. The union is acutely aware of this fact, but the public is not,
and therefore change is problematic.
This editorial was submited by Bruce Hendry. If you wish to submit editorials that you believe will start a productive conversation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org