Teachers unions are mad at me. The New York State United Teachers demands I apologize for my "gutter level" journalism, "an irresponsible assault on public school students and teachers." This is because I hosted an ABC News TV special titled "Stupid in America," which pointed out:
-- American fourth graders do well on international tests, but by high school, Americans have fallen behind kids in most other countries.
-- The constant refrain that "public schools need more money" is nonsense. Many countries that spend significantly less on education do better than we do. School spending in America (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled over the past 30 years, but national test scores are flat. The average per-pupil cost today is an astonishing $10,000 per student -- $200,000 per classroom! Think about how many teachers you could hire, and how much better you could do with that amount of money.
-- Most American parents give their kids' schools an A or B grade, but that's only because, without market competition, they don't know what they might have had. The educators who conduct the international tests say that most of the countries that do best are those that give school managers autonomy, and give parents and students the right to choose their schools. Competition forces private and public schools to improve.
-- There is little K-12 education competition in America because public schools are a government monopoly. Monopolies rarely innovate, and union-dominated monopolies, burdened with contracts filled with a hundred pages of suffocating rules, are worse. The head of New York City's schools told me that the union's rules "reward mediocrity."
All that angered the unions. But when they criticize my "bias and ignorance," I don't hear them refute the points listed above. They don't refute them because they can't. It's just a fact that rules that insist an energetic, hard-working teacher who makes learning fun must be paid exactly the same as a lazy, incompetent teacher are rules that promote mediocrity.
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