Public Schools Lack a Competitive Spirit

35 Year Michigan Teacher Ken Feneley:

Brendan Miniter’s description of “how school choice was defeated in South Carolina” (“Cross Country: A Day Late,” op-ed, March 31) perfectly describes the power created by a combination of teacher unions and politicians they help elect to office. What gets lost is what’s best for the kids. In this case, it seems, the paranoid worries about the impact of losing students to schools of choice has outweighed possible benefits that might, just might, happen for 200,000 kids in South Carolina.
There is no apparent competitive spirit among the public school establishment types that is leading them to say what I would have: “Go ahead with school choice and I’ll prove you wrong. Just tell me what I need to do and watch what happens. I’ll change, if needed, and soon you will wish you had had left your kids in my school.”
I would not worry about some lean times while my public school made adjustments. I’d tighten my belt, suck up my pride, take two deep breaths and get to work. I, while teaching for 35 years, fully recognized that the union, the Michigan Education Association, could not have cared less about whether I was a good teacher or not. Its only concern was that I not have more than one prep period per day, did not exceed more than the contracted student numbers per class, that I did not do anything the contract prohibited, that I was paid the same as the teacher down the hall regardless of merit, that teaching and other positions were guaranteed regardless, that as many grievances be filed as possible, and, oh boy, that dues were such that the upper level union employees could be paid better than any contracted teacher in a local school.
Instead, we have this perpetual paranoid promotion of the idea that public schools will decline because of competition. And unionists and unions really do have something to fear, I guess, because if that paranoia dissipates, the teachers union loses its reason for existence: the endless promotion of teacher jobs at union pay rates that support the South Carolina Education Association and the National Education Association infrastructure through union dues. They can’t get along without them.
Notice that student education concerns through my subject matter delivery skills was not mentioned once. Unions don’t care. Obviously, neither do South Carolina politicians.