School Choice (+The Machine)

(Below video description) Poor students deserve just as good an education as rich students, right? So why are so many stuck in failing public schools? Denisha Merriweather, who benefited from school vouchers, explains the problem and the solution.

(Take the pledge for school choice! http://www.schoolchoicenow.com

(Below video description) Can every child receive a good education? With school choice and competition, yes. The problem? Powerful teachers unions oppose school choice. Rebecca Friedrichs, a public school teacher who took her case against the teachers union all the way to the Supreme Court, explains why school choice is the right choice.

(Below video description) America’s public education system is failing. We’re spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children.

That’s because the machine that runs the K-12 education system isn’t designed to produce better schools. It’s designed to produce more money for unions and more donations for politicians.

For decades, teachers’ unions have been among our nation’s largest political donors. As Reason Foundation’s Lisa Snell has noted, the National Education Association (NEA) alone spent $40 million on the 2010 election cycle (source: http://reason.org/news/printer/big-ed…). As the country’s largest teachers union, the NEA is only one cog in the infernal machine that robs parents of their tax dollars and students of their futures.

Students, teachers, parents, and hardworking Americans are all victims of this political machine–a system that takes money out of taxpayers’ wallets and gives it to union bosses, who put it in the pockets of politicians.

Our kids deserve better.

Do BIG Unions Buy Politicians? (Daniel DiSalvo)

Who poses the biggest threat to America’s economy by striking deals with crooked politicians? Big Oil, Big Pharma, or Big Unions? Daniel DiSalvo, political science professor at the City College of New York, gives the answer.

The Machine

America’s public education system is failing. We’re spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children.

That’s because the machine that runs the K-12 education system isn’t designed to produce better schools. It’s designed to produce more money for unions and more donations for politicians.

For decades, teachers’ unions have been among our nation’s largest political donors. As Reason Foundation’s Lisa Snell has noted, the National Education Association (NEA) alone spent $40 million on the 2010 election cycle (source: http://reason.org/news/printer/big-education-and-big-labor-electio). As the country’s largest teachers union, the NEA is only one cog in the infernal machine that robs parents of their tax dollars and students of their futures.

Students, teachers, parents, and hardworking Americans are all victims of this political machine–a system that takes money out of taxpayers’ wallets and gives it to union bosses, who put it in the pockets of politicians.

Our kids deserve better.

Did Matt Damon “School” This Reporter?

Two quick responses ~ Firstly, teachers ARE well paid:

$34.06 an Hour ~ That’s how much the average public school teachers makes. Is that “underpaid”?

Who, on average, is better paid–public school teachers or architects? How about teachers or economists? You might be surprised to learn that public school teachers are better paid than these and many other professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, 36% more than the hourly wage of the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty or technical worker.

In the popular imagination, however, public school teachers are underpaid. “Salaries are too low. We all know that,” noted First Lady Laura Bush, expressing the consensus view. “We need to figure out a way to pay teachers more.” Indeed, our efforts to hire more teachers and raise their salaries account for the bulk of public school spending increases over the last four decades. During that time per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled; overall we now annually spend more than $500 billion on public education.

The perception that we underpay teachers is likely to play a significant role in the debate to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. The new Democratic majority intends to push for greater education funding, much of which would likely to go toward increasing teacher compensation. It would be beneficial if the debate focused on the actual salaries teachers are already paid.

It would also be beneficial if the debate touched on the correlation between teacher pay and actual results. To wit, higher teacher pay seems to have no effect on raising student achievement. Metropolitan areas with higher teacher pay do not graduate a higher percentage of their students than areas with lower teacher pay.

In fact, the urban areas with the highest teacher pay are famous for their abysmal outcomes. Metro Detroit leads the nation, paying its public school teachers, on average, $47.28 per hour. That’s 61% more than the average white-collar worker in the Detroit area and 36% more than the average professional worker. In metro New York, public school teachers make $45.79 per hour, 20% more than the average professional worker in that area. And in Los Angeles teachers earn $44.03 per hour, 23% higher than other professionals in the area.

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Mr. Damon is simply passing on talking points probably heard from “memes.” A second point is that tenure is a huge part of the problem. A teacher reaches tenure after just two years of doing what, working. This should be based on how well they perform and have a go at tenure after say, 5 years with a two-year interim to try again.This will weed out bad teachers or teachers that may be predators of younger persons. You see, is a teacher is tenured after only two-years, when it comes to light that they may have some indecent relationships with students it is almost impossibly to fire them and they get moved from district to district before they are finally canned. Having a longer period of tenurship often times allows some committee that would tenure teachers more insight into the teachers character.

Here is the video from the people that asked the question of Matt:

And from ReasonTVs blog on the topic:

At last Saturday’s “Save Our Schools” rally, a fairly livid actor Matt Damon told Reason.tv that teachers make a “shitty” salary. Is the Oscar winner right about that?

The short answer is no. The longer answer? Also no.

According to Department of Education statistics for 2007-2008 (the most recent year listed), the average public school teacher brought in a bit over $53,000 in “total school-year and summer earned income.” That figure, which is about $13,000 more than what the average private-school teacher gets in straight salary, does not include health and retirement benefits, places where teachers almost always get better deals and bigger employer contributions than the typical private-sector worker. For more on teacher compensation, go here.

An average salary of $53,000 may not be much for a movie star such as Damon, but it’s a pretty good wage when compared to U.S. averages. Indeed, the Census Bureau reports that median household income in 2008 was $52,000. Teaching in most public schools requires a bachelor’s degree and here teachers fare less well on first glance, though still not awful. The median income for a man with a B.A. was $82,000; for a woman, it was $54,000. About three-quarters of teachers are women, so the average salaries when gender comes into play hew closely to one another.

More to the point, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other surveys that take into account the reported number of hours worked in a year consistently show that on a per-hour basis, teacher income (again, not including fringe benefits, which are typically far more robust than those offered other workers, including college-educated professionals) is extremely strong.

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One should remember that this pay rate to teachers varies from state to state, for instance:

High Paying State and Low Paying State

  • Teacher pay, as mentioned earlier, varies a lot depending on which state you teach in. California ranks number 1 in teacher pay with an average pay of $63,640. South Dakota ranks number 50 in average teacher pay with an abysmal $35,378.

The reality is that unions are a big part of the problem, not the teachers individually, but corporately.

The problem is not money!

Real spending per pupil ranges from a low of nearly $12,000 in the Phoenix area schools to a high of nearly $27,000 in the New York metro area. The gap between real and reported per-pupil spending ranges from a low of 23 percent in the Chicago area to a high of 90 percent in the Los Angeles metro region.

To put public school spending in perspective, we compare it to estimated total expenditures in local private schools. We find that, in the areas studied, public schools are spending 93 percent more

[….]

The Washington metro area comes in second highest in spending for our study at an average $22,400 per pupil (Figure 3). Only New York tops that figure.28 This real perpupil spending figure is 34 percent higher than the average of $16,700 stated by the school districts. Real public school spending is also more than double the estimated median private school spending of $11,000. The District of Columbia, at over $28,000 per student, has the highest spending of the three DC–area districts we examined. This real spending figure is 61 percent higher than the official one—the largest gap of any district in the area. Arlington comes in second place, spending just under $24,000 per student. And Prince George’s spends the least of the three, at just over $15,000 per pupil

[….]

The New York metro area has the highest average real per-pupil spending among the metro areas in this study, and the average real per-pupil spending figure of more than $26,900 is 44 percent higher than the average of $18,700 that the districts claim to spend (Figure 5).36 Real public school spending is almost 155 percent higher than the estimated…

(POLICY ANALYSIS – CATO INSTITUTE)

For a longer, more in-depth discussion on this topic, see C-SPAN’S video, but here is a snippet from JOHN STOSSLE:

For a more updated look at the numbers, see AEI’S report: Debunking The Myth Of The ‘Teacher Pay Gap,’ Again

A Newsbusters Update:

But as conservative Boston-area talk show host Michael Graham argued in today’s Boston Herald, Damon’s wrong both about the quality of teacher pay and the importance of economic incentives:

Sorry, Matt, but if I were your math teacher back at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, I’d have to give you an F. Wrong on theory and fact.

First the data — starting with Matt’s myth that teachers work for a shi— . . .  er, “less-than-adequate” salary.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the average Boston teacher earned around $80,000 last year. That was the average. And that doesn’t include the generous health care or pension benefits, which would equal $100,000 in the private sector. All for just 180 days of work.

Nationally, the average teacher salary is significantly lower — $53,000. But a teacher still earns more by herself (and about 75 percent of K-12 teachers are women) than the household income of the average American family. Once again, with summers and holidays off.

That fact is important because when you break down what teachers earn per hour, the average teacher is better paid ($30.52) than the average computer programmer ($21.27) or architect ($27.71).

So Damon is wrong on the numbers. And his theory is even worse. Modern economic theory is based on the premise of incentives. Damon’s position that incentives don’t affect behavior puts him in the fiscal Flat Earth Society. He’s the equivalent of an economic creationist.

Of course people work harder if they believe it will pay off. Naturally people slack off otherwise.

Nobody denies this is true of cabbies, car salesmen or newspaper columnists — why wouldn’t it be true of teachers?

Oh, that’s right: “Teachers want to teach.” They’re above worldly concerns like pay and job security. Which some teachers are.

But isn’t it likely that others have more materialistic motivations? Like the fact that it’s a great way for underachievers to prosper?

“Slackers wanting to earn the country’s easiest college major, should major in education,” reports Lynn O’Shaughnessy of CBS’s Moneywatch. “It’s easy to get ‘A’s’ if you’re an education major.”

Which is good news for education majors who, according to O’Shaughnessy, “enter college with the lowest average SAT scores.”

Damon wants us to believe this all-but-guaranteed lifetime employment has no impact on performance? Nobody’s a good enough actor to sell that.

So if you’re a “slacker” who wants to earn more than your brother the accountant, the public schools have got a deal for you!

And once you’re in, you’re in. If you’ve seen “Waiting for Superman,” you know that while one of every 57 doctors loses his license and one out of 97 lawyers gets disbarred, just one out of 1,000 teachers gets fired from big-city school systems for performance issues.

Damon wants us to believe this all-but-guaranteed lifetime employment has no impact on performance? Nobody’s a good enough actor to sell that.

Now that, Ms. Gibson, is how you school someone.

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Part of the issue as well is that unions merely want to hire more and protect existing jobs of teachers and administrators… not take care of students learning ability. As an example of this we see the hiring practices of these unionized organizations:

Which brings to mind these two great short videos:

Who poses the biggest threat to America’s economy by striking deals with crooked politicians? Big Oil, Big Pharma, or Big Unions? Daniel DiSalvo, political science professor at the City College of New York, gives the answer.