The Economist clarifies why Unions hate Charter Schools

The Economist gives us a good insight as to why it is that unions hate Charter Schools.

Just two points suffice:

1. Outcomes for children improve.

Under the new regime, schools have sharply improved. In 2004 just 16.5% of pupils in New Orleans’s schools beat Louisiana’s state performance score; by the end of the most recent school year, 31.1% did, according to the Cowen Institute at Tulane University. High-school graduation rates have risen from 55% before Katrina to 73% now; drop-out rates have fallen by half.

The way the NZ Unions have tried to bluff this out is to repeat ad nauseam that it is a “failed policy overseas” and hope that they public is as stupid as they are.  

2. The teaching workforce is rejuvenated by non-union people.

After Katrina, most of New Orleans’s 7,500 unionised teachers were, in effect, fired. Charter schools have hired some back—but they have also hired plenty of new, young ambitious teachers, often straight out of college, who work the long days and extra hours without complaint.

 A key staring point to genuinely improve education in NZ is for teachers to stop hiding behind unions, stand on their own two feet and do what they probably believed in when they chose the profession.

Finally to rub salt into the raw union wounds, people are voting with their feet on charter schools.



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  • MAWG

    Public Education in the US has failed, not Charter Schools, and it is Teacher Unions that have caused that failure.

    • Dog Breath

      My son enjoyed 2 years at a US high school. By NZ standards it was an amazing school with amazing teachers. The opportunity offered in terms of subjects and opportunity to achieve meant he was working at 1st year university level achieving recognised credits in his last year. The number of school leavers at end was the same number as the beginning I.e. drop out was non existent. At graduation I heard amazing speeches from school leavers and to see leaving students hug the headmaster in expression of thanks was an eye opener. Its a massive country offering huge opportunities that NZ can never offer. Being a massive country also means there are schools at the bottom of the heap as well and being a country of extremes those at the bottom can be shocking. However work hard achieve high grades and you do amazingly well in the US system.To make a generalisation that the US system is a failure is a nonsense statement.

      • Dog Breath

        Should also clarify choice extended to school type private, public, charter all in huge numbers each offering different education options. The advantage off a huge country. Its a mistake to compare NZ education with the US. Its apples and oranges.

  • xennex

    I’m curious as to why you’re pushing US charter schools so heavily. As far as I can tell charter schools in the US marginally out perform non charter schools, but if you look at the change in student learning after the transition from non charter to a charter school there’s not much change. How this applies to NZ I’m not so sure (see below).
    However, my observation of the US school system is that the teachers union is so powerful that the teachers have a guaranteed job for life, obtaining ‘tenure’, which is granted based on service rather than ability. Moves to rank teacher performance have been met with strong resistance from the union, which is pretty sad considering there’s some pretty poor teachers in the school district where I am, and they need weeding out.
    As the linked article points out, New Orleans has about 50% more funding per student than elsewhere in the US thanks to the post Katrina money.
    Furthermore, there’s fairly significant differences between the US school system and NZ. In the US school funding is heavily dependent on the finances of the city the school is in (37% funding) and the state (45% funding) rather than the federal government. The result is a vast discrepancy between funding of the schools between regions – much, much more so than NZ. It’s hard to over emphasis how different this is from the NZ model.
    My personal view is teacher quality is critical, and preventing the teachers union from protecting bad teachers is very important, which requires metrics and ranking of teachers.. This is more important than implementing charter schools.
    Education is one of the two things I think should be tirelessly scrutinized, but all the studies and data should be considered as well as thinking how this applies to NZ schools.

    • MaryLou

      I think the answer to you question is in your own summary. Yes, it’s the need to tirelessly re-check the quality of teachers and the achievement of the students. Every effort in these areas have been blocked relentlessly, even to the point of paid advertising by some teachers unions. Many now see Charter schools as the only way to break the strangle hold of the unions, and start making some of the changes needed to improve results for our under performing “tail”.

      • xennex

        True. The point of my first post was that I see ‘confirmation bias’ in the acceptance of studies & data which show charter schools in a positive way, but not a critical evaluation of all the data.
        Thinking back to my schooling I had some terrible quality teachers that were really only there to serve their time and then collect a pension.

  • Karma

    Funny how some teachers whinge because they have disruptive students in their class, but when someone comes up with a solution to remove those students from their class and their school altogether, they still whinge! For charter school students the ethos seems to be if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. For teachers it’s seemingly if at first you don’t succeed, blame somebody.

    • OneTrack

      And keep doing the same thing they have always done.

  • Yeahright

    What gets me about teachers ( generalisation) is that they all know the conditions of what their job is, yet whinge and complain about these conditions! If you don’t like it don’t do it!
    Full credit to them, the ones that get stuck in, as I couldn’t do their job.