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Choosing children over teachers unions

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

While the D.C. school system spends more per pupil than most US cities, its student test scores are the lowest in the country. Recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige praised a new federal voucher law granting up to $7,500 to low-income children in the District of Columbia to attend private schools.

Research shows that school choice can improve participants’ academic performance and might also boost the performance of the public schools with the resulting competitive pressure.

Paige criticized teachers unions for opposing such programs, which led the President of Oregon’s teacher union, Kris Kain, to chide him in The Oregonian. She then critiqued federal education policy for its “one-size-fits-all approach to measuring student achievement.” Kain claimed such an approach “sets up students and schools for failure.”

A privately funded D.C. voucher program was credited with raising African American students combined math and reading scores 9 points above their public school peers — a significant increase.

Why then do teachers unions continue to fight the very remedies designed to change the “one-size-fits-all” public school system — and thus block opportunities for each child to succeed?

The Mayor of D.C., the President of the D.C. Board of Education and the U.S. Secretary of Education all support the Capitol’s school choice program — one parents have demanded for years. Yet the unions won’t budge.

Apparently teacher unions have no trouble opposing anything that challenges their monopoly status, even if it harms innocent children.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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