Two-time New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto explains to National Public Radio's Claudio Sanchez that professional teachers should have independent decision-making authority to do their jobs. Gatto delivered remarks at a Washington, D. C. news conference September 22 organized by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
American education is in need of fundamental reforms that include school choice and an
end to compulsory unionism, according to a declaration signed by hundreds of classroom
teachers, parents, citizens, and policy experts and released to the public at a September
22 news conference in Washington, D.C.
1993 National Teacher of the Year Tracey Bailey and two-time New York State Teacher of
the Year John Taylor Gatto joined other educators and policy experts at the National Press
Club to unveil the 15-point "Letter to the American People," which contained
teachers' recommendations for systemic improvement to the nation's school system. (See the
full text of the letter, below.)
The award-winning teachers endorsed the letter and called for bold action in statements
made at the news conference. Bailey said teachers should demand "a full and public
disclosure" of their unions' business and political spending. Such disclosure would
tell teachers the true cost of their insurance benefits, and would help them exercise
their legal rights to prevent their dues from being spent on political campaigns with
which they may personally disagree, according to Bailey, who was also the 1992 Florida
teacher of the year.
Gatto, who is also a three-time New York City teacher of the year, urged teachers to
"sabotage" school systems that expect teachers to be "childlike and
The teachers' letter recommends greater freedom for parents to choose their children's
schools, a renewed emphasis on traditional methods and subjects of teaching, and an end to
government and union interference with individual teachers' rights to manage their
The hundreds of names endorsing the letter include school administrators, education
reform advocates, parents, concerned citizens, current and former teachers, elected
congressional representatives, and governors including Oklahoma's Frank Keating and
California's Pete Wilson.
The letter was drafted by Bailey and nearly three dozen other educators from 16 states
at the National Summit of Teachers for Education Reform, held June 12-13 at Mackinac
Center for Public Policy headquarters in Midland, Michigan. The summit commemorated the
15-year anniversary of the landmark report on American education, A Nation at Risk,
and marked the first time teachers themselves assembled to offer to the nation
recommendations to improve the state of education.
"We brought together some of the nation's best and most accomplished teachers to
draft this letter because they are the ones on the front lines of education," said
Daniel J. Cassidy, the Mackinac Center's education policy director who coordinated both
the teachers' summit and the Washington news conference.
Newspaper and radio journalists attended the news conference. National Public Radio
(NPR) education correspondent Claudio Sanchez recorded interviews with participating
teachers for a lengthy segment for broadcast on NPR affiliates.
Interested persons may add their names in support of the letter by pointing their Web
browsers to www.mackinac.org.