Teachers unions are mad at me. The New York State United Teachers demands I apologize for my "gutter level" journalism, "an irresponsible assault on public school students and teachers." This is because I hosted an ABC News TV special titled "Stupid in America," which pointed out:
American fourth-graders do well on international tests, but by high school, Americans have fallen behind kids in most other countries.
The constant refrain that "public schools need more money" is nonsense. Many countries that spend significantly less on education do better than we do. School spending in America (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled over the past 30 years, but national test scores are flat. The average per-pupil cost today is an astonishing $10,000 per student -- $200,000 per classroom! Think about how many teachers you could hire, and how much better you could do with that amount of money.
Most American parents give their kids' schools an A or B grade, but that's only because, without market competition, they don't know what they might have had. The educators who conduct the international tests say that most of the countries that do best are those that give school managers autonomy, and give parents and students the right to choose their schools. Competition forces private and public schools to improve.
There is little K-12 education competition in America because public schools are a government monopoly. Monopolies rarely innovate, and union-dominated monopolies, burdened with contracts filled with a hundred pages of suffocating rules, are worse. The head of New York City's schools told me that the union's rules "reward mediocrity."
All that angered the unions. But when they criticize my "bias and ignorance," I don't hear them refute the points listed above. They don't refute them because they can't. It's just a fact that rules that insist an energetic, hard-working teacher who makes learning fun must be paid exactly the same as a lazy, incompetent teacher are rules that promote mediocrity.
Ironically, before I did "Stupid in America," the New York teachers union wanted to give me an award. The United Federation of Teachers' Social Studies Conference wrote: "Our organization, ATSS/UFT, would be proud to present you with the Hubert H. Humphrey Humanitarian Award for the outstanding work which you have done for social causes. … Your development and generous sponsorship of In the Classroom Media provide students with the opportunity to enhance their civics education. This is the highest award that we can give to an individual. Past honorees have included Mario Cuomo, Shirley Chisholm, Charles Schumer, Dolores Huerta, Major Owens, Charles Rangel ... "
Wow! Chuck Schumer, Charlie Rangel and me! Alas, after my education special aired, they decided not to give me the award. Apparently my work with In the Classroom Media -- which provides teachers with videos about the free market -- only helps kids as long as I stay away from the "social cause" most relevant to them: their education.
Instead, teachers' unions announced that Wednesday (March 8), they will hold demonstrations against me and ABC in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, and elsewhere. One police permit suggests the crowd outside my office will number 750-1,000 people. It should be interesting.
"We want to make sure that ABC hears the voices of incredibly hard-working teachers," says the union Web site, quoting New York City's UFT President Randi Weingarten. "The network needs to hear how unfair and biased those of you in the trenches believe their broadcast to have been."
I'm sorry that union teachers are mad at me. But when it comes to the union-dominated monopoly, the facts are inescapable. Many kids are miserable in bad schools. If they are not rich enough to move, or to pay for private school, they are trapped.
It doesn't have to be that way. We know what works: choice. That's what's brought Americans better computers, phones, movies, music, supermarkets -- most everything we have. Schoolchildren deserve the joyous benefits of market competition too.
Unions say, "education of the children is too important to be left to the vagaries of the market." The opposite is true. Education is too important to be left to the calcified union/government monopoly.
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