Cartel Film Exposes Corruption in Public Schools

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

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.

Status Quo Affects Hispanic Students Too

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.

 

Voucher Schools May Be the Answer to Your Child's Future Prosperity

After Tony Evers - our State Superintendent of Education - said he would consider expanding the enrollment of the virtual and voucher schools programs, it started a panic among some local liberal journalists and bloggers.  Lisa Kaiser over at the Express Milwaukee called privatizing public education "the erosion of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)."  And Terrence Falk, over at Larry Miller's Blog, accused Republicans of trying to cut the Teacher's Union off at the knees.

Neither accusation focuses on the major gains that voucher programs have made in the past 10 years, especially in areas of test scores and graduation rates.  And after all, isn't quality education keeping the most important thing the most important thing?

Public Schools Are Failing

An interesting poll by Gallop shows that 79% of Americans grade national public education at a C or lower and have done so for the past 25 years.  Yet on a local level, 77% of parents give the schools that their children attend an A or a B.  This means that although public education is considered a national failure, parents are less likely to view it as a local problem and more likely to think their own kids are unaffected by under-performing schools.  Unfortunately, this is a serious problem for education reform.

In Terrence Falk's diatribe against the GOP, he stated that the problem with MPS is not district size, but a "high percentage of minority schools living in poverty."  Yet the household income levels of children that participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) are 15% lower than those at MPS.  Shouldn't the performance of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, by Falk's logic, be far worse than MPS?  And yet "Public schools in Milwaukee would have graduated nearly 20 percent more students between 2003 and 2007."  Correspondingly, data from the University of Minnesota showed that 18% of students in voucher schools are more likely to graduate than students that attend MPS.

Why is this significant?  Data shows that workers with a high-school diploma, on average, earn $7,000 more per year than those who never graduated from high school.  More startling is that those who graduate from college with 4 year degree make nearly twice as graduates from high school.  And finally, those with Doctoral degrees make nearly twice as much as those with B.A.s from college.  The pattern shows that the greater the education, the greater the income.

The Politics of Resistance

Historically, Democrats have carried the torch of being the party for the little guy; but this is not the same as being the party of the little guy.  Democrat leaders are known for promoting public education while sending their own children to private schools.  They do this because private schools perform better and graduate a higher percentage of students than public schools.  In fact, public schools in our nation's largest cities have averaged a graduation rate of merely 50%.  And in Milwaukee just a few years back, MPS graduated a paltry 46% of its students.  So why are Democrats still resisting the expansion of voucher schools?

The voucher program gives a solution to low income families forced to attend under-performing schools because of where they live.  It offers parents the right to access the best private and public schools that participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

For nearly a century, public schools have been failing due to centralized planning.  It's simple: the bigger the school bureaucracy, the smaller the voice of the parent.  However, according to Milton Friedman - a Nobel Prize winning economist - introducing education to the free market makes the bureaucracy more responsive to consumer demands.  This means parents, who generally have a greater concern for the education of their children, would have the power to improve education for their children. 

Conclusion

Public school education is not only an educational problem; it's a fiscal problem too.  Since 1970, spending on education has increased by 190% while performance rates have stagnated.  Furthermore, those who are sending their children to private schools are paying twice for their child's education through taxes.

Centralized planning bucks up against the free market, which incentivizes improvement through competition and consumer demand.  In a free market enterprise, consumers ultimately decide what products they want.  By way of their pocketbook, consumers choose how much company produces, what they produce, and the quality in which they produce it.

Similarly, voucher schools make parents the consumer.  They can choose where to send their kids based on what a school teaches and how they teach it.  And the best part is that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program saves taxpayers $30 million per year.  Who could reject more parental control and better graduation rates for nearly half the cost?

To ensure educational reform, it's absolutely essential for voters to understand where their local legislators stand.  One of the biggest problems we have as a Hispanic community is supporting voucher schools while voting for candidates that don't - one name that comes to mind is freshman legislator Jocasta Zamarripa.  Unless we vote for more parental control and a market-driven school system, my fear is that real educational reform will never happen.

 


Hispanics for School Choice

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