Advancing a Free Society

Tenure Reform, not Choice, is the Holy Grail

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Many of us who support school choice do so because of our hope that competition will force recalcitrant districts and unions to reform. The theory of action goes something like this: Offer poor parents and their kids real options outside the (unionized) public schools. Attach public dollars to the kids so that the money leaves the system. Grow enough options so that the outflow of kids and money is large enough to get the attention of the district, and to cause some pain for the union (as the number of teachers–and union members–shrinks). And then sit back and watch the district and union embrace meaningful reforms to win parents back, including getting rid of bad teachers.

And finally, in Washington, D.C., we have some evidence that this theory can work. Here we have a city where a third of the students have decamped for charter schools, creating an environment in which the union is desperate to staunch the loss of teachers. Thus, the  union leadership reluctantly embraced a reform-minded contract that will make it much easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom. Score one for competitive effects!

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