Have you heard the outrageous story of what happened recently in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital? Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.), elected in 2022, had campaigned on school choice for tens of thousands of children, mostly minorities, who are forced to attend failing public schools in places like Philadelphia.
“It’s what I believe,” Shapiro, then state attorney general, assured voters as he ran for governor. Last month on a national Fox News broadcast, Shapiro was unequivocal in his support for school choice because “every child of God” deserves “a quality education.”
But there’s a force far more powerful in politics than Shapiro’s convictions, such as they are. And that force is the teachers unions. They put on a full-court press to stop the roughly 10,000 vouchers for the poorest kids in Pennsylvania’s worst school districts even though the state budget bill gave billions more for the public schools. It didn’t matter that this voucher program comprised less than 0.5% of state spending. The union brass commanded Democrats to vote no on even a single penny going to schools that work.
In the end, Shapiro did a full flip-flop. He vetoed his own promise. He might as well have declared that black lives don’t matter.
Shapiro has presidential ambitions — so he figures he needs the teachers unions behind him. But if he can’t face down Randi Weingarten, how is he ever going to stand up to bullies like China’s President Xi Jinping or Russia’s President Vladimir Putin?
This story isn’t just about Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania. In North Carolina, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in the Tar Heel State because the legislature wanted to fund vouchers for kids to go to the best schools possible. Egads!
In Arizona, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs wants to defund a school choice program that is already serving tens of thousands of kids, most of whom are Hispanic, with proven results of better performance and higher test scores. Why would she kill a program that is working? The teachers unions want the money and the kids under their control.
In New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, charter schools are flourishing. They are alternatives to public schools but are still regulated by the state. They are oversubscribed because parents want to choose the best school for their kids. Now, the Democrats want to put a cap on the charter schools because the teachers unions want to warehouse the kids in public schools where a majority of the kids can’t read or do math at grade-level proficiency. In other words, many of the public schools are worse than mediocre. And it’s not for lack of money. New York spends more than $20,000 per child in public schools.
Did I mention that in nearly every one of these cases across the country, the Democrats blocking private and Catholic school options went to private schools themselves? Or they send their kids to private schools. But poor black kids aren’t allowed that same opportunity? These are hypocrites with a capital H.
There’s a cruel historic irony here. Sixty years ago this summer, Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood before the doors of schools to prevent black children from attending the schools with white children. He was trying to preserve the stain of segregation.
Today, Democrats are employing the same tactic to keep minority kids from attending excellent schools. Why? They say that school choice will hurt public schools or cause more segregation.
Wrong on both counts. Monopolies are always bad for consumers and competition improves service. Education choice requires public schools to compete. Would you get good and friendly service if there were only one restaurant in town?
Instead of draining public schools of money, studies show that per-pupil funding rises when some kids take advantage of vouchers to attend alternative schools. Charter and Catholic schools tend to be, in most cases, more racially diverse than inner-city public schools.
I’m a parent of five boys, so I know that each of my kids has different skills, interests, behavior issues and attention spans. To warehouse them all in the same schoolroom is madness. Schools should be tailored toward the kids and serve their interests — not those of the $1 trillion a year public-school-industrial complex.
More importantly, as an economist, my biggest worry about America’s future is what happens when kids are graduating without being able to read their diplomas and with no useful skills. There are hundreds of schools around the country where not a single child can pass a basic math or reading test.
That’s an economic, civil rights and national security tragedy. Shame on Democratic leaders, and some Republicans, too, for putting their own political ambitions ahead of our nation’s children.
Stephen Moore is a contributor to The Daily Caller News Foundation, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity. His latest book is “Govzilla: How the Relentless Growth of Government Is Devouring Our Economy.”
It’s not exactly breaking news that America’s public schools are failing academically.
There have been encouraging stories of charter schools and other schools of choice successfully raising achievement levels for underprivileged students previously deemed uneducable.
But our schools are still producing a generation of students lacking basic computational or literacy skills, much less an understanding of government, culture, or science. That is, unless you count gender ideology and slanted anti-American interpretations of history.
Twenty-three public schools in Baltimore this year had zero students rated proficient in math and several more had only one or two. Baltimore spends $21,000 per student yearly, but it’s unfair to pick on Baltimore. Neither its spending levels nor the dreadful outcomes distinguish it from many other urban school districts.
Many Americans are aware and concerned. We even know a lot about what works (school level control and accountability) and what doesn’t (more money, more administrators). Yet at every turn, efforts at system reform have been stymied by…teachers’ unions.
Until the 20th century, Americans would have been astonished to see a critical policy debate dominated by a public union. Such unions didn’t even exist until President Kennedy approved collective bargaining for federal employees in 1962. Until then, union bosses and government leaders had been skeptical of the notion.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “The process of collective bargaining…cannot be translated into public service.” AFL – CIO President George Meany agreed that “it is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”
They were saying that true collective bargaining is a two-way negotiation to divide the profits generated by an enterprise, in which unions must limit their demands so their companies remain viable.
But as Philip Howard explains in his new book on public unions, government by design doesn’t generate any profit. Any concessions made to government unions come at the expense of taxpayers, who are seldom represented in the negotiations.
After decades of “negotiating” with friendly politicians whom they help elect, government employees have gained immense wealth and influence. It hasn’t turned out so well for the rest of us.
For example, government unions were effectively able to dictate health policy, including shutdowns and mandates, during COVID, as CDC e-mails subsequently revealed.
Worse, teachers’ unions demands that public schools close and stay closed during COVID prevailed despite overwhelming evidence that it was unhelpful. Millions of students will endure permanent educational scars from the union intransigence.
Union participation in policy making goes far beyond healthcare. Government unions work hard and successfully to boost virtually all tax and spend proposals, especially at the state and local levels. After all, tax revenues pay their salaries.
Unions have also been successful in thwarting the growth of charter schools in the three decades of their existence. This is a particularly impressive display of raw political power since charter schools have proven themselves many times over to be academic successes serving those students who need it most.
Moreover, there is no coherent argument that charter schools harm public schools because they are public schools, albeit usually without mandatory unionization, but still with long waiting lists.
Union workers are notoriously difficult to fire, thanks to the work rules they write for themselves. California is able to terminate only about one of each 100,000 teachers annually for poor performance. Derek Chauvin, the murderer of George Floyd, was a known bad cop with multiple citizens’ complaints, but was protected by union work rules from losing his job.
All these instances and many more are the result of unions essentially dictating the terms of their employment. Citizens’ interests are secondary. Government has been rendered nearly inoperable for everyday Americans.
Although government unions seem to have a vice-like hold on their privileges, there may be a solution this time. Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution requires that every state “shall be guaranteed a republican form of government,” meaning that policy decisions can be made only by elected officials and may not be delegated.
State and local officials must reclaim their authority either by challenging union-made policies in courts or simply by refusing to comply with them on constitutional grounds.
The framers of the Constitution would be honored if we used their great gift to make government work again.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.
Just over 87 percent of parents support school choice, according to a recent survey by Wordtips. The greatest majority of parents to express support were Black or African American parents at nearly 58 percent, followed by Hispanic or Latino parents at about 51 percent. A slight majority of parents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t change their perception of school choice; 2 in 5 parents supported school choice more since the pandemic.
776 parents were surveyed across the country. Nearly 53 percent were female and over 47 percent were male, averaging about 39 years old.
The study explained that nearly 90 percent of parent respondents understood the concept of school choice. A majority of respondents familiar with school choice were White, with Black or African American parents coming in a close second. Hispanic or Latino parents ranked third in familiarity, with Asians ranking last.
Access to safe schools was the primary reason that 87 percent of parents support school choice. Parents were nearly split on the runner-up reasons for supporting school choice: choosing better schools outside the district, greater flexibility for parents, supporting children’s talents, and better resources for children with learning disabilities or special needs.
Additionally, the concept of inclusivity was a sweeping reason for parental support of school choice: just over 65 percent of parents agreed with that sentiment. They believed it would make private and charter schools more inclusive environments.
Republicans strongly supported school choice by about 6 percent more than Democrats; independents and Democrats nearly tied on strong support, with Democrats strongly supporting school choice by about half a percentile more. Although, independents ranked higher on somewhat supporting school choice than both Republicans and Democrats.
Generation X strongly supported school choice slightly more than millennials.
Nearly half of the parents that expressed support for school choice reported that they don’t use it. The vast majority of those respondents explained that it was due to living in a district with a good public school.
Of the 116 parents that opposed school choice, over 46 percent said they were deterred by private and charter schools’ ability to deny admission. 42 percent reported that vouchers don’t provide full tuition. The three reasons listed after those two are often the top arguments for opposition to school choice: it takes away funding from public schools, it would lead to privatization of education, and it would benefit wealthier families over low-income ones.
Additionally, 46 percent of parents feared that school choice harbored a hidden agenda in which religious institutions would receive indirect, secret funding.
When asked what priorities schools should have, 43 percent of parents believed that “life skills” classes should be taught. A close second in desired priorities was increased teacher wages.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.