The case for teacher support of school-choice

I come from a family of teachers. My mother, father, both sets of grandparents, brother and aunts are all teachers. You can imagine the fun family discussions we have when I suggest that the NEA (National Education Association) is bad for them.

I’m well aware that many Republicans have strong opposition to the NEA. But at its root, the NEA is just another union. There is a natural conflict between unions and management as unions attempt to take control away from managers. The Republican party generally shares the sensibilities of managers and therefore doesn’t get much support from the union movement including the NEA.

However I do support a person’s right to form a union and to bargain collectively. It’s a free country.

The education unions just have it all wrong.

My mother and I were having a particularly heated discussion about the NEA when I finally asked her, “You’ve been in the NEA for many years now and you’re still complaining, so how’s it been working for you”. This has pretty much stopped the argument.

Opposition to school-choice has been a central position of the NEA for years. This policy position is bad for students, teachers and even unions.

Of course students are better off through the discipline of competition among schools. One only has to observe the desperate measures parents of children in underperforming districts, like Trenton, will take to sneak their kids into better systems. School systems won’t crumble either, they’ll just get smaller or maybe larger depending on how they perform. What I really want to concentrate on is the argument that choice is good for teachers.

Consider the logic:
If you are negotiating with an employer and it’s the only employer in town, then you have very little leverage because quitting is not an option for you. You would much prefer to have several employers bidding for your valuable services. While there are a small number of private and charter schools operating today, there is essentially only one employer of K-12 teachers since schools are supported by the state.

Naturally you as an employee would unionize in order to increase your bargaining position against this monolithic employer. However, you would also hope like mad that another employer would come into town. In non-governmental industries this almost always happens because a competitor knows it can poach poorly paid employees. This drives up salaries.

Even unions themselves are better off with competition. Think about the AFL-CIO’s negotiations with the auto manufacturers. They pick the most vulnerable company and target it for negotiation thereby setting the contract standard for the industry.

School-choice has been a hot topic for many years and is a key difference between Democratic and Urban Republican viewpoints. Because choice is good for both teachers and the inner-city students they serve, the Democratic agenda is out of touch with the needs of urban America.

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