Imagine the day when all the teachers unions have been neutered and all the bad teachers have been fired and only highly effective teachers are left. In other words, imagine the utopia that the so called education reform movement is working so hard for. Then ask yourself a question, “How are we going to get good teachers to work at schools that serve low income children?” Certainly we won’t pay them more—at least by default—because that goes against the very idea of how we fund education where more money is spent on richer kids. We also aren’t likely to see such teachers getting the “good teacher” bonuses. They will be teaching with less and worse infrastructure to kids with parents who do not have as much ability to help at home. So why would a teacher work with low income children except out of a sense of altruism?
This is a really important question for the education reform movement. Obviously, there are solutions to this problem. We could, for example, provide financial incentives to teachers to work in low income areas. But that would require a policy change. We could provide more funding for schools serving low income children. But that would require a policy change. We could start providing financial incentives to low income families. But, again, that would require a policy change. Any and all of these could be priorities for the education reform movement right now. But they aren’t.
My point here is that the main policy goal of the education reform movement doesn’t seem to lead us anywhere with regard to the better education of our kids. I’ll fully admit: it seems to be doing a hell of a job decreasing worker rights. But the best you can say about the stated goals of education reform is that it will get rid of a small percentage of teachers who are incompetent and whip some other teachers into shape. This isn’t something that is going to revolutionize teaching, much less help the students who need the most help.
What I fear will happen is that after the “reformers” are done stripping away teacher rights, all the money (and therefore enthusiasm) will go away. Then we’ll be left with pretty much the same system we have now—except, of course, teaching will be an even less appealing job for exactly the kind of people we would want teaching. This kind of shortsighted and simplistic approach to problems is very common here in America.
Remember after 9/11 how suddenly flying was a much bigger pain without us being any safer? Remember how the changes that were made were the ones that were easiest for government and business? Remember how difficult changes like separate compartments for pilots were not done, because they just weren’t easy and would cost money? Well, that’s education reform. Whenever I get into an argument about education reform, I always hear the same thing, “Well at least they are doing something!” It is more correct to say, “At most they doing something.” And that something doesn’t seem to have much to do with improving education.
In the end, we will have a mediocre education system, just like we do now. It might be slightly better, but I think it will likely be slightly worse. And we’ll have the same choices that we have now if we are serious about reforming our educational system. But then, like now, we avoid those hard things. Because we aren’t very serious about reform. And the people subsidizing “reform” aren’t interested in it at all.
Image edited from one displayed on Hemlock on the Rocks.