School Choice Is about Rewarding Good Teachers

by Dr. Corey DeAngelis

Note: This article first appeared on the blog of the Cato Institute. Reproduced with the permission of the author in its original form.

One of the most common myths in education is that school choice is somehow bad for public school teachers. In fact, teachers started striking against school choice in Los Angeles just last week. However, basic economic theory tells us that school choice is actually good for teachers because it introduces competition for their employers. In a competitive education labor market, employers must compete for talent by offering teachers smaller class sizes, more autonomy, and higher salaries.

In fact, the five studies that exist on the subject all find that charter and private school choice leads to higher salaries for teachers in traditional public schools. For example, a study published in the Journal of Public Economics finds that charter school competition increases teacher salaries by about 3.4 percent in difficult-to-staff public schools. None of the five studies indicate that school choice competition is bad for public school teachers.

But that’s not all. As shown in Andrew Coulson’s School Inc. documentary, teachers in private institutions in South Korea are highly satisfied with their jobs because their students actually want to be there. And, of course, it’s easier for teachers in private educational institutions (“hagwons”) to tailor their lessons to students because the children “are matched with classes based on their performance levels” and interests.

Highly demanded teachers in South Korea are also financially rewarded for a job well done. As shown in the clip below, some of the teachers make well over $1 million each year. Now that’s an incentive structure that’s good for both students and teachers.

Maybe the teachers in Los Angeles should have been striking for more school choice, not less.


Organized Labor Takes Aim at non-Union Teachers

It's taken about two years to wind up for the swing, but national teacher unions have been relentless in their attacks against school choice during the current legislative cycle. As in the past, they have been leaning heavily on their friends in the media and in state governments to push for ever-tighter restrictions on school choice.

Their primary target: charter schools.

The union employees themselves derive all of their salaries from union dues, so it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that anything that grows that source is what they'll encourage and feed. The other side of that coin, however, is more sinister--they diminish, attack, and strangle anything that threatens to reduce union dues. As it happens, the vast majority of charter school teachers are not members of a union.

At its annual "Representative Assembly" meeting in 2017, the largest teachers union in the United States, NEA, adopted "New Business Item 47." This item states:

NEA will develop and promote resolutions that local associations can introduce at school board meetings calling for county-wide and state-wide moratoria on new charter school authorizations in every state that has legislation authorizing the creation of charter schools.

Two years later, the local affiliates of NEA have made inroads with legislators in several states on this initiative:

Source: Table

A quick look at the sponsors of the proposed legislation in each state turns up some predictable results.

For instance, State Senator Daniel T. Blue, Jr. (D-NC), received $25,700 from North Carolina Association of Educators during his 2016 re-election campaign. During that year, NCAE took in $7,032,140.00 in "association" dues from members across the state.

Even with fervent public support from school choice advocates, charter schools will continue to find it difficult to overcome the moneyed power of teachers unions.

Your support of the family's right to choose what's best for their children is vital. How can you help?

  • Volunteer at your local charter school.
  • Contribute materials to a home school group in your area.
  • Help a district school teacher with their classroom.





Families Choose Choice

When given the option, families tend to pursue alternative educational options most often when one or more of their students’ needs aren’t being met to their satisfaction by the status quo. Choosing to send a child to a private school, while often appealing, is out of reach for most families because of tuition costs. In most U.S. states, families can select to send their students to public charter schools, which are tuition-free.

Educational Freedom Institute exists to research, document, and report the benefits that school choice provides to students, families, and communities.

We also protect and promote school choice to provide families with maximum individual freedom relative to their educational needs.

If you’d like to support our work, please consider donating to EFI today.