Focus Point - Teachers in a Market-Based System

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Normally, I'm a tub thumper when it comes to privatizing education: tuition tax credits, vouchers, charters, whatever works. Today, I'll just report the facts, and you decide where you stand.

Recently, USA Today did a story about why teachers leave the profession. The answer? Teachers aren't well paid.

But the real eye-opener was almost a throwaway note in the story: while 39 states require teachers to pass basic literary and math tests, 36 of them allow some people to teach who fail the tests. Fewer than half the states expect educators to earn secondary licenses in the subjects they plan to teach. Only nine require middle-school teachers to pass tests in those subjects.

In other words, a lot of public school teachers with below-par math and literary skills can teach subjects they barely understand.

Now, what's better? That system, or one in which the best teachers are recognized and paid accordingly? Quality and compensation go hand in hand everywhere else. Why not in market-based school system?

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time: a modest proposal for political ads on television.