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31.7.06

Unions spread propaganda, not facts, concerning study

Is it any wonder that Louisiana’s system of public education is so dismal when representatives of the state's teachers unions continue to demonstrate that they are more interested in fattening their members' own wallets without any improvement in performance than they are in educating children?

That was the impression left by the leaders of the state’s two largest unions, Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, and Carol Davis, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, in comments about a U.S. Department of Education study that when scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are adjusted for socioeconomics, race, and other characteristics, public school students do as well or better in some categories as students in private schools.

In the context of this study, both criticized the recently-announced Opportunity Scholarships for Kids, a $100 million voucher program for low-income students. But, in striving for maximal propaganda points against bringing accountability to teachers, they are their own worst advertisements for the deficiencies in education that unions sponsor, by their own demonstrated ignorance of their criticisms.

(Increased accountability is important because education has artificially high labor costs because of teacher unions. A voucher program would bring these costs into line as it would increase competition, necessitating that teachers make greater efforts to increase knowledge in their own disciplines, as well as in their abilities to communicate properly with students and to spur them to think critically – all of which means an increased workload but better achievement for the same or lower labor costs.)

One error they make is in content, as these critiques show they do not understand the limitations of the study. It has two problems that limit the ability to draw the conclusion that there’s little difference between public and private school performance, holding some characteristics constant. First, the sample studied was not chosen randomly and its sizes for various private schools lead to questionable validity. Second, construct validity also is called into question by the fact that the study used potentially unreliable measures in the varying demographic categories, because schools self-reported their perceptions rather than collected the data directly from the student populations. Indeed, the head of the agency that produced the report warns that it is more informational than investigatory.

The other is a conceptual error (should we be surprised; we already know one critic has trouble using proper English?) by saying the study and the new voucher program means the federal government is not on the same “page.” They discount entirely that, even if the new program is intended mainly to provide opportunities at private schools, that it is the very presence of increased choice that increases competition that increases quality at public schools – but that’s the very things these union flacks wish to avoid.

Instead, we get from them the same old, tired and failed “solution” – throw more money at public schools. But here’s the dirty little secret these dissemblers don’t want you to know – private school tuitions typically are considerably below the per-pupil cost the government pays to educate a child. From the same source as the previous report, one in 2003 shows the typical private school tuition to be less than $7,000 a year while it in the U.S. for that year the average per-pupil expenditure was close to $9,000 a year – meaning government will actually save taxpayer dollars with vouchers.

What these mouthpieces will try to argue (to explain away what they don’t state about the tuition advantage to private schools) is that private schools “cherry-pick” students, etc. This and related claims are myths, as a little research shows.

Their response was typical, because one must recall three things about teachers unions:

  • They have no interest in educating children
  • They wish to transfer as much of the taxpayers’ money as possible into their members’ pockets
  • They want teachers to face as little accountability as possible

    Which is why when Monaghan states “Americans aren't going to be fooled” by a voucher program, what he desperately hopes for is that Louisiana will continue to be fooled by his ilk’s misinformation and illogical argumentation.
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