It's the Teachers Unions, Stupid!

In state after state, all across the county, we hear the same, tired refrain from apologists for the government-run education bureaucracy: "Mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money!"

Indeed in Nevada, where education already eats up more than half of the state’s annual $3 billion budget, the State Board of Education recently asked the Legislature for an extra $1 billion for next year.  At about the same time, a liberal Denver consulting firm, with a history of "discovering" that states aren’t spending enough on education, has also concluded that Nevada taxpayers need to cough up an additional billion to reach their self-determined level of "adequate" spending on education.

Naturally the conservative reaction to such outrageously brazen "mo’ money" demands from education bureaucracies often begins with a bunch of four-letter words normally reserved for public school playgrounds and ends with the words, "When pigs fly."

However, on further reflection maybe the Right shouldn’t respond in such knee-jerk fashion.  Maybe conservatives should be open to significant funding increases for education.  After all, a solid education – not like the ones way too many kids in our government schools get today – is the ticket to a better, more productive life and an improved community.  In return, however, conservatives should demand significant education repairs.

Not band-aids.  Not tinkering around the edges.  Massive overhaul.

For example, system-wide local implementation of teacher proficiency testing and merit pay would be an excellent start.  It’s time to stop paying crappy teachers the same amount of money as excellent teachers – no matter what the teachers unions say.

Then there’s school choice.  And by that I mean voucher programs for EVERY parent and child – not just the poor and those currently condemned to the worst-of-the-worst government schools.  The freedom to choose which school your child attends should be available to every parent.  That means private schools, religious schools, distance-learning schools, Internet schools, co-ops and yes, home-schools.  Public education and public schools are not
mutually exclusive.  Public education does not and should not mean a monopoly of expensive, mediocre, poorly-run government education centers – no matter what the teachers unions say.

More money for education should also mean significant changes in state laws and funding programs which make it easier and less expensive to open innovative charter schools – no matter what the teachers unions say.

Additionally, states should begin opting-out of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program.  Education is and should be a local issue…period. States can and should take care of their own education needs without jumping through Uncle Sam’s hoops.  If state taxpayers are going to cough up significantly more money for education, there should be no need for federal dough and all the strings and red-tape that come attached to it.

And speaking of NCLB, states should seek to exceed those federal standards, not meet them.  State and local school districts should be pursuing superiority and excellence, not just "adequacy" – no matter what the teachers unions say.

Finally, in exchange for significant increases in education spending, the teachers unions should be banned for a minimum of twenty years.  Absent that, there should be a new requirement that all collective bargaining sessions with public employee unions be conducted in public and webcast on the Internet.  In addition, there should be a requirement that all such agreements in the future be ratified by a vote of the people – no matter what the teachers unions say.

Most importantly, though, significant increases in education spending need to be substantially offset by significant spending cuts in less-important areas elsewhere.  Citizens, especially parents, are not a bottomless pit of tax dollars.  It’s time for government to do what every family does: Set spending priorities.  You can’t always get what you want – but if you try
sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.  (Hmm, where have I heard that before?)

Yes, the "mo’ money" mantra from the education bureaucrats and their enablers on the Left has grown old.  But if significantly higher education spending comes with spending offsets in other departments, combined with serious education repairs which break the government-school monopoly on education, it might be worth considering.

The only thing apparently standing in the way is: the teachers unions.  Go figure.