National School Choice Week

Thanks to Teachers Unions, Families are Fleeing Traditional Public Schools

The pandemic, says Reason Foundation's Corey A. DeAngelis, is finally forcing districts to put students ahead of teachers and bureaucrats.

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"There's a messed up set of incentives that's baked into the K-12 public school system where they get your money regardless of whether they open their doors for business," says Corey A. DeAngelis, director of school choice for Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason. "Teachers unions had an incentive to keep their doors closed."

Frustration with the slow pace of school reopening is driving parents to look for alternatives to traditional, residential-assignment schools in historic numbers. Over a dozen state legislatures are considering bills that would massively expand publicly funded school choice options ranging from increasing the number of charter schools to education savings accounts (ESAs) to "backpack funding," in which public dollars follow kids to whatever schools they attend.

The pandemic, says DeAngelis, may well accomplish what decades' worth of white papers and school reform activism never did: an education system that puts student needs ahead of teachers unions and education bureaucrats.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by John Osterhoudt.

Photos: Valentina Barreto/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom; Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press/Newscom; MARILYN HUMPHRIES/©2020 Marilyn Humphries/Newscom; MARILYN HUMPHRIES/©2020 Marilyn Humphries/Newscom; Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Lev Radin/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Lev Radin/ZUMA Press/Newscom; John Marshall Mantel/ZUMA Press/Newscom; John Marshall Mantel/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Johnny Louis/JL/Sipa USA/Newscom; Peter Titmuss/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Newscom; Paul Bersebach/ZUMA Press/Newscom; MARILYN HUMPHRIES/©2020 Marilyn Humphries/Newscom; John Nacion/SOPA Images/Sipa U/Newscom; John Nacion/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Will Lester/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Will Lester/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mindy Schauer/ZUMA Press/Newscom; John Nacion/ZUMA Press/Newscom

NEXT: My Family Has School Choice. So Should Yours.

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  1. Who needs school when you have UBI?

    1. All part of the plan.

      1. Who’s going to pay for UBI when in less than a generation literally no one will be working. Is that part of the plan too?

        1. Who needs to work when money can be printed?

          1. Who needs money to be printed when everything can be made free?

            1. You guys are being unrealistic. We’ll need to keep a few billionaires around and working so that we can tax them to pay for it.

              I’d show the math, but that would be racist.

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        2. The government silly, who else would it be?

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    2. Well, I guess if one is happy living a lifestyle which most people call “poverty,” then I guess that might be true: remember, Friedman said that a UBI, handled through a negative income tax, should be set somewhere BELOW the minimum wage.

      On the other hand, it would, for the most part, eliminate the need for taxpayer-supported student loans.

      On the other, other hand, I am very sure the government could figure out a way to screw it up.

      1. I am very sure the government could figure out a way to screw it up.

        This is one of the few things of which we can be absolutely certain.

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  2. Thanks Nick, another good school choice post.

    Reason has always been good on this topic, which is a contributing factor to why I donated to the Reason Foundation again this year. Speaking of donating… I’m going to give one more shameless plug to Children’s Scholarship Fund; check ’em out.

    https://scholarshipfund.org/

  3. Off topic, but after eight months of burning down cities and attacking the proles, Black Lives Matters just got nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/29/black-lives-matter-nobel-peace-prize-petter-eide-norweigan-mp

    Meanwhile, Orangehitler who ended the war in Afghanistan, and arranged peace deals between the Serbs and the Kosovars and the Israelis and Arabs, has a group of lawyers indiscriminately investigating him for war crimes against they don’t know who yet.

    Maybe the world ended in the summer of 2016 and we’re damned to the the stupid ring of hell, where an individual’s reason is tormented by stupidity. Maybe WK, Sqrlsy and sarc are actually malicious psychopomps deliberately affronting our intellects.

    1. Well, once a recipient of the Nobel goes ahead and starts three new wars, I am thinking the bar for “Peace” is pretty damn low.

    2. “ended the war in Afghanistan”

      I think that the end of the war will be news to Afghans.

      https://www.cfr.org/blog/top-conflicts-watch-2021-increasing-violence-afghanistan

      And while it is great that Israel and some Arab states are making progress, what did Trump accomplish to further peace in Yemen with support of the Saudis that don’t care much about how many civilians they kill? Convince Russia to stop trying to break off part of Ukraine for itself and otherwise bully its neighbors?

      1. Do you really think King George III, oh sorry I meant lyin’ Joe Biden will do better on the international front?

  4. Thanks to Teachers Unions, Families are Fleeing Traditional Public Schools

    Fortunately for the teachers union, they’ll still get those families’ tax dollars regardless of which school they send their children.

    1. Um, no, that’s not how school funding works. Public schools are funded based on how many students are enrolled at the schools. And besides, unions get their funding from their members, not taxpayers.

      1. ‘Public schools are funded based on how many students are enrolled at the schools.’

        and that funding comes from where…? Exactly…?

        c’mon, I know you know the answer to this…

        1. Funding for the public schools comes from taxpayers, duh. But, as I pointed out, Moonrocks is wrong to think that such funding would continue if students didn’t enroll at the public school.

          I am a public school teacher. Funding for my union comes from me and other members that get paid as compensation for our labor. My pay comes from the taxpayers, but I get it because of a service I am providing. If I want to give a portion of that to my union, then that is my money to give to it.

        2. It’s attached to how many student rears are present on certain days. That’s why the truancy stuff is blown off most of the year–there is an incentive to make the days that attendance counts fun ones, and pretty much no particular incentive to make the kids turn up on the rest as long as they don’t flunk too hard. So it literally doesn’t matter where the money comes from here; all that matters is the kids are on the books, and if the kids go the funding poofs.

          Backpack funding just makes it follow the kids more tightly, instead of being lost.

  5. What puzzles me is how tone deaf the teacher unions are. They seem to be oblivious to parent anger, and just blunder on as if the rest of the world rotates around them. It won’t happen immediately, what with Biden in power, but they are bound to lose control, and their paradise will shrivel up faster than they can react.

    1. They seem to be oblivious to parent anger

      My experience with public school teachers would have “indifferent” rather than “oblivious.”

      1. My experience as a public school teacher is that the vast majority of us care a great deal about the education of children. I want to be teaching all of my students in class (high school science). The hybrid learning that my district in Florida is using is not working well. About 2/3 of my students are home and log in to a conference online. It is not the same kind of experience, and even students in class can’t work together in groups in the same fashion since they have to maintain physical distance.

        And while Reason correctly points out that schools are not the main drivers of the spread of infections, the articles I read where they talk about the data don’t go into the further details about what schools do need to do in order to keep things that way. School events that didn’t social distance, enforce mask wearing, were held indoors in areas not properly ventilated, etc., have been ‘super-spreader’ events. They also don’t properly emphasize that keeping schools open safely means controlling the spread of infection in the rest of the community by doing all of the things that we all need to do along those lines.

        Schools should have been able to open fully in August/September with little worry, but some states squandered the pain of the stay-at-home orders in March and April by relaxing restrictions too soon and then not providing the right messaging and support for continued social distancing, mask wearing, and other things that would have kept that summer surge from happening. Add to that the Trump Administration’s insistence on not doing much of anything to lead, so that we had 50 different sets of efforts to contain the virus, never got a nationally coordinated effort at testing and contact tracing, and data was not as forthcoming as it should have been generally.

        People here that are libertarian, conservative, or Republican or Republican leaning should simply face up to the fact that their team blew it. We need to deal with the situation as it is, not as we would wish it to be. People are tired of the restrictions, the education of students is suffering, but it is the lack of leadership from the right to encourage people to do what we all need to do that is keeping us from getting things under control.

        1. My kids go to a public charter in Texas with 30 kids per class and they’ve been in school since September with no major outbreaks and no one seriously ill. And with only 88% of the funding traditional public schools receive with better results. There’s no reason for traditional public schools or teacher’s unions in most part of the country, they’re both relics.

          1. Oh, I see. Since you did reply with a copy/paste version of this to what I wrote below, you did intend it to be a reply.

            “My kids go to a public charter in Texas with 30 kids per class and they’ve been in school since September with no major outbreaks and no one seriously ill.”

            What is the spread of COVID like in the surrounding community? As I noted, that matters.

            “And with only 88% of the funding traditional public schools receive with better results.”

            Charters have self-selection in that parents that are closely involved with their children’s education are the ones that send their kids to charters. Charters can also require a certain level of participation from parents, have more strict codes of conduct and discipline ladders for students, require them to attend after-school tutoring, and more. Traditional public schools have to enroll everyone, regardless of how involved the parents are, what their special needs are, prior academic performance, etc.

            This is another thing that school choice advocates never seem to address, besides the lack of accountability in voucher systems I talk about below. What happens when there are no more traditional public schools that have to take all students? Charters are public schools that can’t discriminate, but they can require things that regular public schools can’t, precisely because they are ‘choice’ schools. If they don’t have the specialists or resources for certain disabilities, they can point that out to parents that have children with those needs and encourage them to seek a different school. They have no requirement to hire someone to serve that student’s needs.

            As far as I know, every state’s constitution provides that a free, public education is a right for every child. “School choice” isn’t just a choice by the parents. It is also a choice for the school. Private schools can expel or refuse to enroll students for all kinds of reasons, including ones that are controversial. (There are religious private schools that receive public money through vouchers in Florida that refuse to enroll gay students or even students that have a gay parent. Look up “segregation academies” to learn about the religious private schools started by racists in the South as a response to integration efforts in the 60s and 70s.) And charter schools can be somewhat restrictive through less obvious means.

            Any discussion of differences in results between charters or private schools and traditional public schools needs to keep all of that in mind. Besides, that the charter your children attend may see better results than the regular public school that they would have otherwise attended is just two data points. There are certainly traditional public schools that get fantastic results. How about we look into what schools that get good results do differently than schools that don’t get adequate results? (Assuming of course that the research would show that the problem is with the school, and not factors outside of the school’s control.) Instead of simply assuming that the Invisible Hand will fix everything, why don’t we actually see what specific actions work and what doesn’t, so that we can apply that knowledge to all schools?

            School choice is mostly about politics and ideology, not education. Unions are evil (they donate to Democrats), so anything that weakens them or that they oppose must be a good thing. Introducing “free market” principles into public education will fix the problems with “government” schools. Boom! Done! No pesky need to actually research the details and understand the challenges in different communities or with different students. And definitely no need to raise taxes! In fact, we can lower them!

            1. We get it – nothing is the teacher’s faults. COVID is Trump’s fault, school choice and charter schools working is parents’ faults.

              But nothing, and I mean nothing is the fault of teachers or teachers unions when discussing those students they educate.

              Idiot- do you even see it?

  6. My family goes to a charter school. The problem with competition is its so limited–as soon as the teacher’s union says “we’re not working” our charter school scraps its reopening plans–twice now. It’s not like we have anywhere else to go. Public schools are the market makers. The only way out of this is to abolish public schools–especially the teacher’s unions.

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  9. Thank God for teachers’ unions!
    They keep America’s kids illiterate, well indoctrinated and undisciplined.
    God knows where America would be if public educators actually started doing their jobs of teaching our kids how to read, write and add a column of numbers.

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  11. Ideally, government schools will be reduced to one little rented office administering one little rented studio per state, offering remote learning as an emergency stop gap for those students transitioning to private schools. Willingly sending our children to government schools is a form of child abuse.

    Innovation and adaptation, even to a horrible pandemic, bring general improvements along with their specific fixes for the problem at hand.

  12. If I take the time and listen to this podcast, I am wondering what the odds are that they will talk at all about accountability.

    The education reform movement on the right has always been two pronged: school choice on one side, but also accountability for the public schools on the other. Jeb! and George W. Bush made their education bona fides in pushing for public schools, and the teachers in them, to be held ‘accountable’ for the results of their students. Sounds reasonable, you would think. But given that measuring student outcomes objectively is almost entirely a matter of looking at test scores and graduation rates, that became virtually the entirety of their efforts at accountability and how success is determined.

    The testing industry was ecstatic at this movement, of course. They get contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from states to design and administer standardized tests, with them usually being virtual black boxes. Even though they do have their flaws, tests like the SAT, ACT, and AP exams are much more transparent.

    The story is that parents and the general public need this data and accountability to know how well the schools and teachers are actually doing. So, are the school choice advocates pushing to have students in private schools taking the same state tests that their public school counterparts are required to take? (And pass in order to graduate high school.) Are they pushing to have that data made public so that parents and taxpayers will know which schools are succeeding and which aren’t? Are they pushing to have teachers at private schools evaluated based on the test results of their students, possibly even losing their jobs if their students don’t perform well enough?

    My experience in Florida says that they actually resist any accountability for private schools through objective measures. That the parents will choose the school is good enough for them, and making students at these schools take tests would be violating the freedom of those schools to do what they think best. Local newspapers in Florida have done whole investigative series on how there is almost no accountability for schools that receive vouchers. Schools have closed in the middle of the year because of how badly they have mismanaged their finances, leaving parents and students scrambling. Schools have been caught falsifying fire inspection records, hiring felons, and having teachers without even a college degree in anything, let alone their subject. As the vast majority of private schools are religious, hundreds will say explicitly on their websites that they teach Biblical creation in their science classes. Those students would certainly be at a disadvantage on the Florida Biology End of Course Exam that all public school students have to take before they can graduate high school. If they had to take it, that is.

    So, how about it? Will I hear anything about these issues if I listen to the podcast?

    1. My kids go to a public charter in Texas with 30 kids per class and they’ve been in school since September with no major outbreaks and no one seriously ill. And with only 88% of the funding traditional public schools receive with better results. There’s no reason for traditional public schools or teacher’s unions in most part of the country, they’re both relics.

      1. You said absolutely nothing in reply to what I wrote. Did you hit the button to reply to me on accident?

    2. We get it – nothing dealing with education is the fault of teachers of their unions. All blame falls elsewhere.

      Must be a great job to have where all successes are due to teachers and all failures are due to others, though it’s more likely just a lie you tell yourself than it is part of the job itself.

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  14. Education by govt. is indoctrination. It’s sold as a “free”, but forced gift? Why is it necessary to force a gift on all? Because it’s a necessary tool of authoritarianism. Without universal early brainwashing, more people would be questioning the political paradigm based on the initiation of force, threats, fraud. Faith in force could not be defended as a viable, civil, sustainable social system. The politics of violence serves an elite nobility in the short run at the cost of humanity in the long run. This fact is not widely known. It is kept from discussion by authorities who label its alternative, a voluntary politics, as anarchy/chaos. The opposite is true.

    The non-violent society is a society free to innovate, to evolve, to grow more civil by disruptive experimentation. This is forbidden by the concept of law, one way forced on all, no dissent, no freedom to live by one’s sovereign intellect. Reason be damned. Force trumps it. And that is sold as “order”, despite the chaos this authoritarian superstition produces.

    And still, the majority worship it, kill/die to force it on all.

  15. Home schooling is a whole family project. Home schooling takes money, lots of it, and time, lots of it. We home schooled our kids, and they have thanked us for that, as adults with their own families. We had problems with the Democrat politicians running the local school system. Law suits abounded. The judge settled the matter of curriculum, and competency by saying that If our children were on par with the public school children then we were not to be bothered, and the measure would be the state achievement tests to be taken every year by our children at the school corporation’s expense. The results of those tests showed our children had achieved progress 3 to 5 grades above the public school children. All of our children were taking college courses beginning their junior year in high school, accumulating college credit, except one recalcitrant daughter. That daughter got her GED when she was 16 then sued us for emancipation. She got it. The school corporation did take us to court for not teaching an adequate curriculum for high school. The judge dismissed the case in our favor with prejudice. The daughter who opted out got a PhD while serving in the U. S. Army and retired as a Warrant 5. The other three children are highly placed executives in private companies all with advanced degrees.

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