Fleeing Public Schools

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For starters, the average salary for full-time public school teachers in 2010–11 was $56,069, but an analysis done by the Heritage Foundation found the typical public school teacher makes about $1.52 for every dollar made by a private-sector employee with similar skills.

Moreover, the generous fringe benefits offered to teachers — which include government-funded pension and health benefits — raise teacher compensation 52 percent above the going market rate, “making it the equivalent of a $120 billion overpayment charged to taxpayers each year,” the Heritage study found.

Yet, for cash-strapped state and local governments plagued by a harsh recession, dwindling property taxes and gaping budget deficits, teacher unions and their allies in the Democratic Party have vigorously fought any reform efforts offered to rein in public employee benefit plans, however modest they may be.

New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, for example, was pilloried by the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, for having the temerity to ask teachers to accept a pay freeze and increase their contribution to their healthcare plans from 0 percent to 1.5 percent.

In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker staved off a recall effort for asking public-sector employees (including teachers) to increase their contribution to their pension plans from 0 percent to 5.8 percent and pay 12 percent of their health care benefits.

In Chicago, where student reading proficiency is just 15 percent, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has threatened to strike if not given a 30 percent pay raise in exchange for extending the school year an extra ten days, even though that demand would reportedly force property taxes up 150 percent and require classrooms of 55 students.

Yet, while teachers have fought vigorously to protect their monetary benefits, they have also railed against calls to eliminate teacher tenure, have teachers measured against student performance, or provide parents an alternative choice of schools in which to educate their children.

Despite those efforts, however, an increasing number of parents and state and local leaders have begun to wise up and see there are a number of enticing options beyond the corridors of the public school system; educational options which include charter schools, private and parochial schools, homeschooling, and online schools.

To that end, 13 states since 2011 have enacted school choice legislation with 28 other states with similar legislation pending. These measures include creating or expanding tuition tax credit programs, expanding the number of students eligible for school vouchers, and eliminating caps on the number of charter schools.

The net result has begun to have an effect, most recently noted in the announcement by the nation’s largest teachers union, The National Education Association (NEA), that it has lost more than 100,000 members since 2010 with projections that by 2014 it could lose a cumulative total of about 308,000 full-time teachers and other workers.

Moreover, the net loss of dues paying union members will shrink the NEA budget, an estimated $65 million, by 2014, leading to a smaller seat at the Democratic Party table, something Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute said is “the kind of shift in the landscape that can force union leaders to shift their stance on issues.”

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but as one NEA leader lamented, “Things will never go back to the way they were.”

Given the recent sorry spate of news being generated by the American public school system, one can only hope that’s true.

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  • Schlomotion

    This article does not demonstrate in any way that Charter Schools are better than Public Schools or that this alleged flight from Public Schools is a change for the better.

    • davarino cont.

      Hey Schlo-ret@rd, number one, you are insane, number two, your brain dont think good. With the kind of results that keep coming from the public schools, you could leave the kids at home and just let them watch TV and get the same results. For anyone to defend the NEA, and public schools, shows that you either dont care, you dont have children and just dont know, or you dont think a good education fits well with the left's destruction of America

      • Schlomotion

        And yet, despite the way you so eloquently stated your opinion, this article does not demonstrate in any way that Charter Schools are better than Public Schools or that this alleged flight from Public Schools is a change for the better.

      • aspacia


        When insulting an individual's intellect it helps you use correct grammar and word choice.

    • tagalog

      Yup, one of the unfortunate defects in the article is that the writer does not report on the statistics on violence in the non-public schools, the cost of the budgets to run them compared with the public schools, the statistics on home study, and the comparative learning scores on things like reading, math, and the comparative levels of learning among students.

    • kafir4life

      Says another successful public school "graduate".

  • clarespark

    MIchelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz are but two names in a growing movement that will put the students' needs above the increasingly irrelevant and underperforming (but expensive) teachers union and their obsolete rules. I gathered all my education reform blogs under one index, and recommend that you read at least some of them. This category overlaps too with the transformations in Diane Ravitch's stance toward the history of education. See http://clarespark.com/2012/05/03/index-to-blogs-o…. "Index to blogs on education reform." My review of Terry Moe's recent book is recommended for starters. I know Eva Moskowitz and she is demonstrating that black and brown youngsters can exceed all expectations when the parents and teachers work as a team in charter schools that do not assume inferiority in the young students' ability to learn.

    • davarino cont.

      You see Schlomotion, this is how you make an arguement, with facts and things that make sense.

  • davarino cont.

    My daughter put her child back into public school for half a year because she needed more time to build her business, but the results were horrendous, so she is back to home schooling again. Good luck with your ever shrinking NEA union membership : )

  • EthanP

    This is the result of the teachers unions concern with the teachers union and not the students.

  • Lady_Dr

    Vouchers might sound like a good idea – but they are just the camel's nose in the tent. We need to get the government out of education all together. Only then will we see real success, i.e. real education.

    • johnnywoods

      Lady_Dr. You make a great point and we should begin by dismantling the Dept. of Education. I will never forgive Ronald Reagan for not doing that after stating that he would.

  • BLJ

    I send my three children to Catholic schools. Paying the tuition (on top of ever increasing property taxes) isn't enjoyable, but they are worth the investment. I know they are getting a quality education that also teaches values.

    I was a product of the public school system (Class of 1982) but the times have changed. Public schools are being run by corrupt unions and are more concerned with teaching useless subjects and not the basics. I do believe there are still good kids in those schools, but too many negatives for my taste.

    In a fair world a guy like me would get some sort of property tax break, but alas, I live in Cook County Illinois in the corrupt Land of Obama. Have a nice day.

  • Ghostwriter

    I like to see the public schools improve. That's most of our children go. I'd like to see the public schools get better,not disappear.

    • johnnywoods

      Don`t hold your breath Ghost.

  • Indioviejo

    It is a concerted drive from Marxist teacher's Unions to bring down the educational level of the country in order to better control the captive masses. Obama's best buddy Terrorist Bill Ayers, has devoted his life and the Annenburg Foundation's money to help in this "Fundamental Transformation" of American children. Charter Schools and private schools are but a drop in the bucket.

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