Why School Choice Matters But Not to Teachers’ Unions
James L. Casale
Five catholic schools are closing their doors in New York City.The parents are sad; the students are sadder. These parents don’t trust public schools to protect their children. Parent José Marin said, “Public school is very dangerous. Here (St. Rose of Lima Elementary School), everybody’s safe. At another school, you’re just a number.” Another parent, Marilu Rodriguez (St. Brigid Elementary School), added, “It’s horrible. It’s affecting low-income families. Now we’ll have to deal with the public schools.”
The archdiocese of NY currently operates 91 schools and serves 28,000 students. They are especially affordable for poor parents (about $300 per month for elementary schools) who are seeking alternatives to public schools. And students do not have to be Catholic.
Who is against school choice?
Teachers’ unions and their Kool-Aid-drinking-members are against anything that infringes on the status quo, their turf, and their obsession with mediocrity. The charter school movement and the voucher system, which permits parents to choose a private or parochial school, are testaments to parent dissatisfaction with local public schools. Throughout the country, there are pockets of successful public schools. Charter schools are not always successful, and neither are private and parochial schools, but shouldn’t parents who are seeking safer environments and a better education for their children have a choice?
Who is for school choice?
Joel Klein, former chancellor of the NY City School System, and Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago, have different views on the charter school movement than the teachers’ unions. Their opinions are anathema to the liberal cities they represent. In Joel Klein’s book Lessons of Hope, he reveals that “poor parents deserve options for their kids; smaller schools are better than large schools, the self-esteem movement does not provide the tools and knowledge kids need, teacher preparation programs are weak, and teachers’ unions and their contracts that include tenure are obstructionists to progress.” This is not a revelation. His comments were true 50 years ago.
Mr. Emmanuel recently commented on the teachers’ unions in Los Angeles and West Virginia, who are going on strike to protest charter schools. He stated, “The brain-dead debate between charter schools and neighborhood schools should be replaced with a focus on quality over mediocrity.” He gets it.
Charter schools are an affront to the culture of mediocrity, and they have been perpetuated by teachers’ unions for as long as I have been in my profession as an educator—more than 50 years. If you need more evidence about the debate, view the award-winning documentary, Waiting for Superman.
Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator. He is a national speaker and the author of two five-star-rated parenting books. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. His website is http://www.commonsenseparenthood.com.