I think there can be no doubt that Americans for Prosperity - a free market libertarian-esque organization - supports the expansion of School Choice. This past weekend, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) arranged the flights and hotel accommodations for various bloggers all over the country for a San Diego conference on how to utilize social media to promote small and efficient government. They also showcased a film called "The Cartel" - produced by Bob Bowden - that exposes the corruption of teachers' unions in New Jersey.
Friday was the official day of registration, but Saturday was the day when all the action took place. It included a day chalk-full of seminars taught by experts in fields like investigative reporting, blogging, and online pod-casting. Other speakers illustrated how to use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to network with like-minded individuals sharing a conservative philosophy.
Speakers like Andrew Breitbart - a conservative activist involved in the ACORN and Shirley Sherrod controversies - spoke about his newest investigation into the Pigford Settlement involving black farmers. He alleged that the Pigford Settlement will be a scandal ten times the magnitude of ACORN and will also implicate President Obama
The Cartel does an excellent job reporting on the role of teachers' unions in obstructing real educational reform. To be clear, the purpose of unions is to protect its due-paying members. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that sometimes the interests of teachers don't always coincide with the interests of our children. And when the two paths conflict, the unions side with their teachers 100% of the time and twice on Tuesdays.
One good example of protecting their own is the notion of merit pay - an idea that good teachers should be rewarded and bad teachers should be disciplined or removed. Teachers' unions will reject merit pay every-time because it reduces their ability to protect bad teachers. Losing teachers means losing potential due-paying members, and that is something they cannot afford to tolerate. Currently, New Jersey fires only 1 in 3,000 teachers for incompetence - that is only .03%.
The Cartel also noted that state of New Jersey spends more per student than any other state in the nation. In some school districts, the annual cost per pupil is $60,000. In other school districts such as Sea Isle City and Avalon, the per pupil costs average above $30,000 per year. To put it into perspective, the average per pupil cost in the U.S. is $8,700.
What does New Jersey have to show for student spending four to eight times the national average? The answer is, "not eight times the results." According to the Cartel, the city of Newark - which represents the largest district in New Jersey - spends around $22,000 per-pupil in a single year. Yet 8th grade reading and math proficiencies are 39% and 40% respectively. Less than half of Newark students are proficient in math and reading, and 7 of 10 Newark students do not receive high-school diplomas.
Where does the money go if 90% of the money doesn't make it into the classrooms? That's a good question. In Pleasantville, New Jersey, the city went through 13 superintendents in 10 years, most of which were lining their own pockets. Five of Pleasantville's school board members were indicted on corruption charges.
The Cartel is a film certainly worth watching and illustrates what happens when money corrupts the very institutions that are supposed to help our children.
How does this impact our Hispanic communities? Although MPS is not comparable to New Jersey in terms of corruption, the teachers unions in both states are similar in that they resist School Choice.
Just recently, MPS Superintended Gregory Thornton wrote an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel denying the fact that MPCP schools have yielded positive results and that they adequately serve disabled children. Thornton’s claims are false on both counts.
Thornton used a study commissioned by the University of Arkansas showing that MPCP schools observed limited gains on MPS schools. But Thornton ignored a study commissioned by the University of Minnesota showing that students in MPCP graduated at a rate 18% higher than students at MPS. Thornton was also incorrect that MPCP schools are not meeting the needs of disabled students. Currently, 67.7% of MPCP schools provide services to students with special needs providing care in remarkably similar ways as MPS.
Thornton’s view of the School Choice program is part of an overarching problem. Although I admit that School Choice isn’t a one-stop-shop solution, it would institute competition among our schools while narrowing our racial achievement gaps in Milwaukee - which is among the worst in the nation.