With the entire nation watching, Wisconsinites are now debating whether the state's public school teachers ought to be required to pay 5.8 percent of their wages to support their own retirement plans and 12.6 percent of their own health-insurance premiums, and also whether their union ought to be able to negotiate a pay increase on their behalf that exceeds the rate of inflation without letting voters approve or disapprove that raise in a referendum.
What Wisconsin ought to be debating is whether these public school teachers should keep their jobs at all.
Then every state ought to follow Wisconsin in the same debate.
It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees' unions.
The well-documented incompetence of America's public schools -- including Wisconsin's -- is damaging our nation. Their educational product is simply not good enough for our children. In some cases, it is toxic.
According to data collected and published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Wisconsin's public schools have been consuming more and more tax dollars over the years while doing a consistently miserable job educating children in the basics of reading and math.
Nor are Wisconsin's public schools unusual.
In fiscal 1998, according to the NCES, Wisconsin spent $7,123 per pupil in its public primary and secondary schools. In the Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test that year, Wisconsin public school eighth-graders scored an average of 266 out of a possible 500. As a result of that test, only 33 percent of Wisconsin's public school eighth-graders earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading.
By 2008, Wisconsin was spending $10,791 per pupil in its public primary and secondary schools. Yet, in the 2009 NAEP reading test, Wisconsin public school eighth-graders again scored an average of only 266 out of a possible 500. Only 34 percent earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading.
When the $7,123 per pupil Wisconsin spent in its public schools in 1998 is adjusted for inflation, it equals $9,408 in 2008 dollars. Thus, even though Wisconsin increased per pupil spending by $1,383 dollars from 1998 to 2008 (from $9,408 to $10,791), it did not gain a single point on its average eighth-grade reading score.
Wisconsin had similar results in math. In 1996, the state's public school eighth-graders scored an average of 283 out of 500 in math. In 2008, they scored an average of 288 out of 500 -- or 1 percent higher than in 1996.