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Union power and lack of competition hurting schools more than funding

By Nick May ’13

The opportunity gap in America is a problem that has increased in size over the past 50 years.

One of the most widely talked about opportunity gaps is that of education.

Students in struggling schools do not have the same amount of opportunities as a school that is productive and well run.

Many attribute America’s struggling education system to a direct lack of funds and claim that property taxes need to be increased to bring in more money.

However, according to, Washington, D.C. spends around $19,000 per student, which was the highest per-pupil average in the country. But in 2009, the district was 27th in the nation for graduation rates behind No. 8 Utah, which spends the least per pupil at just over $6,000.

It is clear that throwing money at the problem is not the answer.

The true problem is the power of the teachers’ unions over the schools in holding them back from firing lackluster teachers.

The unions are culpable because they have the power to keep underperforming teachers hired and make it very difficult to let schools fire teachers unless they are a direct threat to the students.

At private schools, the administration is allowed to fire teachers if they do not meet the standards of the school.

This is one reason why some private schools that spend less money per student have much better education proficiency then public schools that spend more money.

What also needs to be acknowledged is that private schools may have students who are more willing to learn and have families who push them to achieve in school.

Students from lower socioeconomic schools can have less family support and may lack the drive to want to achieve in school. As a result this tends to lead to high dropout and truancy rates.

Unfortunately, this issue is much larger than just dollars allotted to classrooms. But pouring money into a broken system will not make students who don’t want to come to school want to be there anymore.

Finally, public schools are continually allowed to  underperform without any consequences.

What is worse is that students are limited to the schools in their school district and if they are in a district with underperforming schools they have no real hope of an education.

If private schools underperform, they go out of business. But public schools have no such system, which lets schools perpetually produce poor results.

A possible solution is to let hard working, lower socioeconomic kids who do not live within a district with high achieving schools, take admissions tests for schools who are efficient and let them go to these schools if they want to achieve and want to be there.

The real solution is to make structural changes in the way schools are run, not just money.

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