The Teachers Unions’ Misbegotten Efforts Have Ignited The Push For Educational Freedom

As this troubling year moves to a conclusion, there is certainly one thing worth celebrating: the great leap forward for educational freedom throughout the country. As I wrote last week, the countrywide union-mandated school shutdowns have had major consequences, and perhaps none more prominent than the advancing of parental choice in education.

In a report released last week, the American Enterprise Institute notes that over the past year, 18 states have enacted or expanded programs that fund students instead of systems. Also, “the number of states with education savings account programs—the purest form of funding students directly and empowering families—doubled from five to 10 this year.” Support for school choice is at an all-time high, as parents greatly disapprove of government-run schools. A poll by EdChoice speaks volumes. While 83 percent of children attend government-run schools today, only 39 percent of parents (of all demographic backgrounds) would choose those schools if given the option.

Here in California, where the California Teachers Association rules the educational roost, there are now two choice measures in the works for 2022, and both would give parents—instead of bureaucrats—control over the state’s educational dollars.

Needless to say, CTA is in a snit about this development. At a speech to the union’s state council in October, CTA President E. Toby Boyd proclaimed. “Vouchers Rear Their Ugly Heads: Two school voucher initiatives have been submitted in hopes of qualifying for the November 2022 ballot. Both would use public funds to send students to private and religious schools, taking money and vital resources away from public schools. Voters have rejected school vouchers twice before, but there’s no doubt these measures will be well-funded and will require our solidarity, strength and good organizing to defeat.”

On a page from its website, CTA goes into more detail about the looming initiatives, advising the flock that the union is about to give us “facts, based on research.

But, in reality, their “facts” are pure bushwa.

CTA “Fact” #1 – Vouchers reduce funding for neighborhood schools, meaning fewer textbooks, teachers and more overcrowded classrooms.

There is actually a kernel of truth here, but it’s a half-truth. If parents decide that a private school can do a better job than their zip-code mandated government run school, yes, the funding for public schools would be reduced, but so would the number of kids. So, if 50 percent of kids leave a public school and the school loses 50 percent of its funding, the remaining students have the same amount of per-pupil funding to work with. It’s worth noting that researcher Greg Forster looked at 34 studies on the effects of school choice on public schools, and finds that in 32 of them, school choice improves academic outcomes in public schools affected by the program, while one finds no visible difference and just one finds a negative impact.

CTA “Fact” #2 – Voucher programs are associated with reduced educational outcomes.

CTA mentions here that a few states’ programs have been less than stellar. Yes, and Ty Cobb struck out on occasion also, but looking at the whole, Ty Cobb and school choice have been raving successes.

As Greg Forster reports, the latest empirical school choice research found that of 19 studies, 14 showed positive results and two reported no difference. Due to design flaws in the D.C. and Louisiana programs, three studies showed negative effects.

CTA “Fact” #3 – Voucher programs do not work for students in rural areas.

This is downright silly. If there is no private school available in a given area, then kids will still attend the government school in the area. Hence, it really makes no difference to many families who live in parts of rural America if there is a choice option or not.

CTA “Fact” #4 – Voucher programs have their roots in discrimination and continue to foster it.

This is a disgusting myth and joins the Salem Witch trials, Y2K, the population bomb, etc., as a cruel hoax advanced by the union to further its own interests.

As Greg Forster reports, ten empirical studies have examined private school choice programs on segregation, and nine found that the programs reduced it, while one found no visible difference. Additionally, a recent EdChoice poll shows that when given a fair description of school choice types, a great majority of minorities approve of them. In fact, 80 percent of black and Hispanic parents support ESAs. So, four out of five minority parents are in favor of choice and CTA has the audacity to claim that school choice “fosters discrimination?!”

Not only do vouchers not lead to segregation, but as Phillip Magness, a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, notes, “Vouchers sped up integration, while teachers unions fought them to preserve segregation.” Indeed, it’s the labor unions, not school choice, that have a racist history. Writing in Commentary in 1959, Herbert Hill explains that in various industries, “. . . trade unions practice either total exclusion of the Negro, segregation (in the form of ‘Jim Crow’ locals, or ‘auxiliaries’), or enforce separate, racial seniority lines which limit Negro employment to menial and unskilled classifications . . . In the South, unions frequently acted to force Negroes out of jobs that had formerly been considered theirs.”

The real reason CTA is anti-choice is very simply because private school teachers are not unionized and it would be very difficult to organize them. The CTA’s opposition has nothing to do with education or their love of children. It’s all about money and power. Their “facts” are about as valid as a late-night TV pitchman who’s trying to sell men spray-on hair to cover bald spots. The only difference between the two is that the boob tube huckster doesn’t control educational policy for six million children.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Photo: School faculty members at the Xavier Academy, August 23, 2021, Houston, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images