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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The teachers' union still hates school choice

The head of the PSEA, the largest teacher union in the state, takes me to task for in a letter to the editor for proposing "private school vouchers" as a way to improve our schools.

Oddly enough, my commentary in question focuses primarily on why the PSEA's solution - more spending into the current system, primarily directed at increasing the PSEA's membership - has failed to produce educational improvement.

Furthermore, my solution was school choice in a broader context than simply vouchers. This includes tax credits, charter schools, cyber schools, (note that the PSEA opposes these types of choices for families as well, unless they result in more PSEA members), and weighted student funding for public schools.

But even so, the PSEA's attack on vouchers is misleading. First, they claim that private schools "turn away students". But in every school voucher program in existence today, schools cannot refuse students unless they reach capacity, and then must enroll students by lottery.

Then comes the big whopper:

Proponents claim that vouchers will improve public schools through competition, but there is no evidence to support the claim.

The PSEA and their national affiliate, the NEA, have been fighting tooth and nail, with union dues, to prevent voucher programs of any scale to be enacted, most recently with a NEA-funded misinformation campaign in Utah. I might say "there is no evidence LeBron James is a better basketball player than I."

But even with few programs on which to measure, there is evidence to support the benefits of vouchers. In fact, a few hours before I read the attack on me, I read this summary of a study showing the competitive benefits of vouchers in Florida.

I also keep a copy of School Choice: The Findings (and the Commonwealth Foundation provided state lawmakers with their own copy) which summarizes the evidence that yes, school choice results in public school improvement. A shorter synopsis of that evidence can be found in The Dollars and Sense of School Choice, and in Andrew Coulson's rundown of the scholarly literature on school choice.

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