Teachers' Choices

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Teachers' Choices


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Few interest groups oppose making school choice available to low-income families more vigorously than the public-school teachers unions. Captive markets appeal even to labor unions. Indeed, as the 2.7 million-member National Education Association (NEA) reiterated in its "NEA Resolutions, Legislative Program and New Business 2001-2002," the nation's largest labor union opposes "tuition tax credits for elementary and secondary schools; the use of vouchers or certificates in education; [and] federally mandated parental option or 'choice' in education programs." On the other hand, public-school teachers in many of the nation's largest school districts exercise their own school-choice option by sending their children to private schools. In fact, they choose private schools for their own children at much higher rates than the public at large.

This, of course, has not been a recent trend. In 1983, for example, a national commission issued its famous "rising tide of mediocrity" report ("A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform"). That same year the Chicago Reporter revealed that 46 percent of public-school teachers in Chicago, whose school system William Bennett (Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1989) would describe as the worst in the nation, sent their children to private schools, compared to 22 percent of all Chicagoans.

As more data became available, analysts began comparing this phenomenon to the notion of connoisseurship. In a report titled "Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?," the Thomas B. Fordman Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts research on elementary and secondary education reform, recently released the latest comprehensive analysis of this trend. The study explains the issue of connoisseurship thusly: "Stock analysts, for example, watch carefully when corporate directors buy or sell the stock of companies on whose boards they serve. Similarly, we can assume that no one knows the condition and quality of public schools better than teachers who work in them every day." If teachers are far less likely than the general public to send their own children to public schools, the analysis continues, "then we might reasonably conclude that those in the best position to know" - the connoisseurs - "are signaling a strong 'sell' about public education in their communities."

Based on an extensive review of 2000 census data, here are the primary conclusions of the study:

* Compared to 12.

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