BY: Joy Pullman | Heartland Institute
When the Obama administration began writing its own laws under the guise of No Child Left Behind waivers in 2011, it snuck into the thousands of pages of bureaucratese a requirement for “teacher equity.” Now, the administration has reminded states it wasn’t joking.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education wrote states a letter demanding they submit “teacher equity plans” to the feds by next June.
The problem: Research shows poor and minority children are typically taught by less-experienced and lower-quality teachers. This is in large part one outgrowth of allowing unions to dictate teacher hiring policies. Union contracts give teachers who have remained in a particular school district longer the ability to “bump” new teachers out of preferred teaching spots (of course, teaching in tough schools is not as attractive as the alternatives). Union contracts also bar school districts from paying teachers different salaries for taking on harder work–such as teaching math or science, or working in worse environments.
Don’t expect states to propose right-to-work laws or ending teacher tenure as solutions to the problem of poor kids getting worse teachers. Do expect them to conduct a sort of endless tax- laundering scheme, whereby taxpayers send the federal government money, it sends the money to state departments of education along with mandates such as “teacher equity plans,” and state departments shuffle paperwork back to the feds after paying the salaries of people who are apparently happy to spend their lives writing impotent, thousand-page sketches of La-La Land.
If this were all an exercise in bureaucracy, taxpayers would be a bit poorer but otherwise none the worse. If and when state plans for redistributing teachers include coercion and manipulation, as government schemes tend to be, however, expect the unintended consequences of monopoly education to intensify. Watch for plans where state officials, rather than local school districts, assign teachers to schools; where teachers aim for mediocrity instead of excellence because excellence gets them reassigned to schools where they don’t want to teach; and where poor children are treated like hot potatoes.
This is what happens when central planners keep tightening their ratchets to impede and distort even more personal choices rather than allowing individuals to freely align their choices with others’ within a free-enterprise system. In that environment, teachers who choose harder work would be rewarded, which would draw excellent teachers who love a challenge right where they’re needed without any need for filtering tax dollars through bureaucrats’ hands or pushing teachers around. What a concept.