Saturday, June 5, 2010

Teachers' union endorsements

The Howard County Education Association (aka the teachers' union) has made public its list of candidates it is endorsing in the 2010 election. All of the candidates endorsed by the teachers' union are, surprise, Democrats.

Begin voucher rant:

I am not a Democrat nor a Republican, but I despise unions. The teachers' union is particularly bad. You can be in support of teachers or you can support education, but it's not very often you can support both at the same time. The teachers' union is very much opposed to school vouchers. Why? Certainly not because it would be a bad thing to give parents a choice in which school their children attend. The teachers' union opposes vouchers for the simple reason it would make their privileged members compete with the private sector. This is a benefit for public school teachers that comes at the expense of a higher quality education for students.

Public financing of education is (generally) supported by taxpayers because of the positive externalities associated with an educated populace. However, these exact same positive externalities occur regardless of whether or not the populace was educated in public schools or private schools. Therefore, the people who say "I don't want my tax dollars going to support private schools" make so sense whatsoever. I can at least understand their point if they are also opposed to their tax dollars going to public schools, but if you truly support education you shouldn't be concerned with whether the education is provided by public or private schools.

If anything, private schools create more positive externalities because they do a better job. Why else do you think that some Howard County parents shell out $15,000+ a year in private school tuition to send their children to private schools when they could send their kids to the best public schools in the country for free?


Jen said...

If I understand the original intent of the voucher program correctly, it was to provide access to an adequate (some may say equal access) education to children residing in the "inner-city". That is not to say that all inner-city school systems are defunct, but the immediate argument follows: why not invest same funds into the public school system? You could argue that vouchers align with the 14th Amendment in that they assist students in attaining the constitutionally-mandated right to an education, however how do you reconcile that with the trend that the majority of vouchers are being used to fund religious education that spans the spectrum of religious beliefs?

Also, the average voucher is b/w 2500-5000. If Howard County parents are able to afford 15k to pluck their kids from the public school system, then how does that support the original intent of the voucher system? It was not intended to provide the affluent a subsidy to send their kids to "X Country Day School".

If private school systems exist to offer an alternative, then perhaps the axis of spending 15-20k/year on a child's k-12 education could benefit from a shift so that it aligns with the cost of a public education already being supported by taxpayers?

I am not a teacher, but I believe in the benefits of an educated society. I have made it pretty far (knock on wood) in life using my public education as a stepping stone. My parents were invested in me and I used the education system for all it was worth. There is a tangential issue here that is being ignored: parents play a huge role in the success of any child's educational success. "Throwing money at the problem" and sending a child to a private school should not obviate the obligation of parents to socially/emotionally/functionally invest in their child.

I realize I threw out a plethora of thoughts. I am passionate about this issue as it chaps my a$$ that public school systems suffer at the same hand that support taxpayer-funded voucher to send a child elsewhere.

Hope everyone in Howard has a great wknd.

Freemarket said...

Jen, you are absolutely correct that parents play a huge role in the education of their children. I'd like to see the Howard County teachers and Board of Ed members go the inner city and see if they make a difference (they won't). The Howard County Public School System is fortunate to have a base of smart rich people that send their smart kids to their well funded public schools. That is why HoCo public schools are good.

But given the influence of parents on education, doesn't it make sense to give parents a choice in which schools their kids attend? Vouchers would do this. Furthermore, the competition would make both public and private schools better.

As far a religious education goes, we have freedom of religion in this country. I am an atheist, so I get the absurdity of religion. But even Gov. Martin O'Malley sends his kids to private catholic schools. Are you suggesting O'Malley's kids won't receive a good education at Notre Dame Academy?

Jen said...

No, I'm not suggesting that his kids will not receive a great education at their school of choice. I appreciate the right to have a choice. It is the idea of my tax dollars (my husband is an atheist, I am of the "believe in something" ilk) being allocated toward a voucher that another chooses to spend on a religious education, that bothers me. My husband and I choose the organizations to which we donate with an eye toward providing service to ALL regardless of religious preferences. If you were to tell me that Gov. O'Malley sends his kids to Catholic school using a voucher to subsidize the pricey tuition, I do not think I am too far off in exclaiming that it is an affront to MY constitutional right to choose NOT to associate with any given religion.

Obviously, my issues are with the voucher system and not with the education association. I am not familiar enough with their politics. I recognize that unions have an embattled history and the grasp for power in this country can easily corrupt any organization driven by money. I'd love to hear others weigh in on this. It is a "luxurious" debate for us to have given the quality of education in Howard County.

Anonymous said...

Didn't they only endorse on Dems because the the Republicans didn't even go through the process? Got to play to win!

In fact hasn't Fox voted against the HCPSS budget 4 years in a row?

Why would they support folks who are afraid to even go through the process or who have never supported them?

Anonymous said...

^^This is right.

FreeMarket said...

Anon, I think it's misleading to say that Fox voted against the HCPSS budget. He voted against the entire budget. Much of that was due to the fact that $800 million dollar liability of future benefits to current employees was unfunded, Healthy Howard, etc. I am not a defender of Greg Fox, I am just suggesting that the world is not a simple nor as education centric as you see it.

PZGURU said...

A public school system, on average, spends about $12,000 - $15,000 per student, per year. Many public school systems are very successful and the parents are satisfied with the results. However, in poor areas (mostly inner city areas) the public school systems stink. And throwing more money into the budgets won't help it. So, parents feel frustrated and would rather pull their kids from public school and put them into private school, but they can't necessarily afford it. Enter the voucher program.

Before everyone gets all in a tizzy about separation of church and state, the voucher system is not about religion. It's about education. Also, vouchers are basically budget neutral. What I mean is that if the state gives a family a voucher for $10,000-15,000 for their child to go to private school, the state is also saving the amount of money that the state would have spent on that same child to go to the public school. However, I would point out that the parents that send their kids to private schools, whether on voucher or not, still pay all the same taxes that everyone else does. So just think about how much tax money the state takes in from non-voucher families when in all fairness, those families should get a HUGE tax rebate for not utilizing public schools.

The other thing I'd like to point out is that private schools don't necessarily mean a better education. The one HUGE factor that parents like in private schools is the ability of the school faculty and administrators to DISCIPLINE students. You'll NEVER catch a private school student cursing or shoving a teacher and not have consequences. IN public schools, not only does that behavior go on, but the parents would raise a ruckus if their kid were to be disciplined. That's why public schools, even in good counties like Howard County, are not as good as private schools (in my opinion).

Anonymous said...

Back to the endorsements and the process, if theepublicans refuse to participate or have not shown support for the school system, how can they be endorsed?

Jen said...

RE: Echo.

Yes vouchers were intended for inner-city school chidren/parents desperate for a better education. Enter vouchers.

Enter: original post re: Howard County Ed Association's opposition to school vouchers.

Enter: one of the best public school systems in the country.


Freemarket said...

How is the "original intent" of vouchers in any way relevant? The important thing is what can they be used for now.

Howard County is full of smart rich people, so of course the public schools here are good. If the Board of Ed, HoCo teachers, etc. think they are so great, I'd like to see them go to the inner city and clean public schools up there. That would be good for a laugh.

Jen said...

It is relevant because when a program like this is challenged in a court as unconstitutional (14th amendment, maybe even first amendment- i am an atty, so i gravitate toward a legal analysis when thinking about something like this) judicial conservatives expect that a judge will look to the original intent of a statute and not "legislate from the bench". A qualm of most conservatives nationwide.

I don't want to beat a dead horse, I just wanted to respond to you.

Freemarket said...

Then they should look at the intent of a voucher program specific to HoCo should one ever exist, not vouchers in general. I'd be curious to know what the "origninal intent" of public schools is, because I doubt it is to subsidize wealthy Howard County residents who drive BMWs.

Anonymous said...

Jen, because the public schools cost about 30% more per pupil and do a worse job than private schools, that's why not "invest" additionally in public ed.

If you're going to quote amendments now is a good time to realize that we had ONLY religious schools when public schools were first formed.

Lastly, we would SAVE money with $2,000 vouchers because of the disparity between the public school per pupil cost and private school per pupil cost.

Allan Kittleman, State Senate, District 9 said...

I wanted to respond to the people who criticized the Republican candidates for not returning the Howard County Teachers Union questionnaire.

If you read the Howard County Times article in yesterday's paper (June 10th), you will see that the Howard County Teachers Union intentionally did not send their candidate questionnaire to me or Delegates Bates and Miller. As I commented to the reporter, it is hard to respond to a questionnaire if you don't receive it.

Further, I have learned that the Teachers Union also did not send their questionnaire to other non-incumbent GOP candidates such as Kyle Lorton (Senate, District 13), Jeff Robinson (House, District 13) and Ed Priola (House, District 13). Mr. Robinson told me that he was looking forward to speaking with the Howard County Teachers Union because he had served as the student representative to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education when he was in high school.

How would the Teachers Union know the position of these challengers if they did not take the time to send them the questionnaire and arrange an interview?

Unfortunately, it is clear that the Teachers Union decided early on that they were only going to support Democrat candidates in the November election. The failure by the Teachers Union to solicit opinions from all the candidates does a disservice to all the teachers (and parents) in Howard County.