Public school teachers are supposed to teach kids to read, so it would be nice if their unions could master the same skill. In a recent letter to Senators, the National Education Association claims Washington, D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarships aren’t working, ignoring a recent evaluation showing the opposite.
“The DC voucher pilot program, which is set to expire this year, has been a failure,” the NEA’s letter fibs. “Over its five year span, the pilot program has yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement.”
That must be news to the voucher students who are reading almost a half-grade level ahead of their peers. Or to the study’s earliest participants, who are 19 months ahead after three years. Parents were also more satisfied with their children’s schools and more confident about their safety. Those were among the findings of the Department of Education’s own Institute of Education Sciences, which used rigorous standards to measure statistically significant improvement.
It should be no news that the NEA lies. They do not have a commitment to the truth; their only commitment is to the interests of their members and leadership. If that requires lying, they show no restraint.
The only news is that people, including the news media, public intellectuals, and policymakers, continue to treat the teacher unions as if they were credible actors in education policy discussions. It is a mystery to me why they are ever contacted for comment by reporters or invited to serve on panels. People who feel obliged to lie should be shunned and their opinions should never be solicited because their opinion can never be trusted as serving the truth.
I understand that the teacher unions have a right to exist, to represent their members in negotiations, and to attempt to influence policy. But I don’t know why anyone should help them influence policy since they have shown such a callous disregard for truth and obsessive concern with self-interest.
Now I know that Leo Casey or one of his sock puppets might accuse me of being untrustworthy. Here’s the difference: While I might be mistaken, I am unlike the union folks in that my continued employment is not dependent on my holding particular opinions. If I woke up tomorrow and decided that vouchers made no sense, I would be perfectly free to do so without penalty. My position as a tenured professor does not depend at all on my believing that something is true.
The same cannot be said for Leo Casey or other unions flacks. If they woke up one morning and decided that vouchers were the key to improving the education system, they could not say so and expect to continue to be employed. If they cannot change their mind without severe penalty, why would we believe that they are telling us their honest opinion now? And if we can’t be sure that they are telling us their honest opinions, why would we ever ask them for their opinions?
I also know that some might accuse Matt or Greg of lacking the freedom to change their minds since they don’t have tenure like I do. Actually, there is a remarkable amount of latitude at think tanks for people to say what they really think. If you don’t believe that, think about Sol Stern or Diane Ravtich. Besides, if Matt or Greg suddenly changed their minds they could pretty easily find work at another think tank that held a different view. Where would all of the union people work if they changed their minds?
I say what I say because I believe it is the truth. The teacher unions say what they say because they want something.