Myth #11: School choice is just an anti-teacher ploy

The "anti-teacher" argument against school choice seems to assume that the government school system is nothing more than a big jobs program with education ranking second in importance.  School choice makes the education of children the top priority by allowing parents to choose the best school for their children.  There is nothing inherently "anti-teacher" about choice:  Many government school teachers themselves choose to place their children in private schools.  As long as demand for education exists, there will always be jobs for teachers.[138]

The Facts: 

  • More choices for parents also mean more choices for teachers.  Today, if a teacher believes he or she is underpaid, overburdened by red tape, not respected as a professional, or otherwise treated poorly by administrators, the only real option is to leave town and move to another school district.  This is because the same employer, the school district, operates nearly all the schools in the area.[139]  When parents are allowed to choose, schools not only will have to compete for students, they will have to compete for teachers, too.  As a result, there will be increased pressure on school administrators to treat teachers well or risk losing them to other schools.

  • Teachers who work in schools-of-choice are more satisfied.   According to a July 1996 report from the U.S. Department of Education, 36.2 percent of private school teachers were "highly satisfied" at work, while only 11.2 percent of government school teachers could say the same thing.[140]  In a separate study done by the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, only 2 percent of 920 private school teachers surveyed said they would be willing to leave their current job for a higher-paying job in the local urban government school system.  Most private school teachers experience a higher job satisfaction rate than do government school teachers because they have more freedom to teach, student discipline is greater, they enjoy a more collegial work atmosphere, and parental involvement is higher.[141]

  • Many teachers support and exercise school choice for their children.  A 1995 study of the census found that significant numbers of teachers choose private schools for their children.  Whereas only 13 percent of all families in the United States choose private schools for their children, 17 percent of all school teachers make that choice for their children.  In urban areas, like Detroit, the statistics are more dramatic: 33 percent of government school teachers choose private schools, but only 17 percent of all families do so.[142]

  • Labor unions that argue against school choice do not necessarily represent the interests of either children or education.  Perhaps the strongest reason for unions to oppose school choice is their financial self-interest.  Unions stand to lose millions of dollars of dues income as school choice grows.  Why?  In many states, one hundred percent of government schools are unionized, but only a few charter schools and even fewer private schools are unionized.[143]  If enrollment increases at schools in which unions have been unable to gain a foothold, that will create more teaching jobs in nonunion schools where teachers are not forced to financially support a union.  The purpose of school employee labor unions is to bargain wages and terms and conditions of employment for its dues-paying members.  It is a mistake to assume that the best interests of labor unions are necessarily the same as those of parents and students. 

[138]      Greene, The Cost of Remedial Education.

[139]       Anderson, et al, The Universal Tuition Tax Credit., p. 17.

[140]      Deroy Murdock, "Teachers warm to school choice," The Washington Times, National Weekly Edition, 25-31 May 1998, p. 34.

[141]      William Styring, "Teachers and School Choice," American Outlook, spring 1998, p. 51.

[142]       Denis P. Doyle, Where Connoisseurs Send Their Children to School: An Analysis of 1990 Census Data to Determine Where School Teachers Send Their Children to School, The Center for Education Reform, May 1995, p. 21.

[143]      Brouillette and Williams, The Impact of School Choice.

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