Teachers and School Choice

January 27, 1999

Last month when the New York Legislature voted to create 100 charter schools, one of the greatest sources of opposition came from teachers unions. How can that be? I would think teachers would be the greatest beneficiary of any form of choice in education, whether in the public sector or the private sector.

And I'm not alone in my puzzlement about teachers' opposition to any form of school choice. A New Jersey teacher writing in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal said that "teachers should be pro-choice." He's not talking about abortion; he's talking about school choice. And I find his arguments persuasive.

He says the "current system entrenches apathetic teachers. Exceptional teachers get no financial reward and only minimal professional recognition. Once a teacher gets tenure, pay increases are almost exclusively based on the number of years taught. While few will admit it publicly, it is demeaning to be treated the same as a teacher who gives only minimal effort."

He argues that "under a school choice program, the best teachers would quickly get a reputation for excellence. Parents would send their children to a particular school to have them taught by a certain teacher. Administrators trying to attract students would soon realize the importance of good teachers and treat them accordingly."

He believes that school choice would effectively transfer power to the teachers because they would be recognized as the source of revenue for the schools. Administrators would have to please the teachers to keep them from leaving. And teachers would be able to choose work at a certain school because of its program and environment.

So I guess I am still puzzled why teachers unions usually oppose school choice. Maybe if some of these arguments got out, many of the teachers in these unions would change their minds and embrace the idea of school choice.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International