Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do more teachers improve education or is it just a make work program?

According to the Cato Institute it’s a make work program. You might think that increasing the number of teachers per 100 students would have a positive impact on math and reading scores. Not according to this graph which shows data going back over 30 years. Cato concludes that keeping teaching jobs and adding teaching jobs is not about the kids at all, but rather the adults employed in education that also are able to vote for their own jobs.

In Canada the statistics aren’t as clear as the US graph shows, but the Fraser Institute does a pretty good job examining and comparing Canadian Education policies. Their conclusions are not substantially different from the Cato conclusions.

An excerpt from a September 2006 policy study titled Why Canadian Education Isn’t Improving (by Merrifield, Dare and Hepburn) shows how the unions and government are partners for the benefit of teachers rather than students.

Now that some provincial governments negotiate teacher contracts, their teacher unions have even greater political power.

The special interest groups, especially the teachers’ unions, have a great deal of money at their disposal. Each year, every public school teacher has hundreds of dollars deducted from his paycheck at the source, money that the school boards send directly to the unions, providing them with a guaranteed revenue stream of millions of dollars every year. The unions’ financial power, combined with their ability to mobilize thousands of teachers, makes them very influential in the political arena.

Teachers’ unions participate in school board elections, often providing financial and logistical support, as well as urging their members to vote for certain candidates. Since voter turnout is low for school board elections and a disproportionate number of educators vote, the unions are frequently successful in electing a number of union sympathizers to the school boards (Moe, 2006). When contract negotiation time comes around, pro-union trustees sometimes represent management at the bargaining table, thus allowing the teachers’ unions to have representatives on both sides of the table (Moe, 2006).
Democracy in action!


  1. Something that we agree on!

    I am an under-employed teacher doing part-Occasional Teaching. I am frustrated at how poorly students are educated - behaviour problems significantly hold back the other capable students and the solution to improving the worst students is to keep lowering the bar. It is this useless system (and the lack of jobs) that has kept me out of the schools.

    I am greatly concerned with private education, though. Disadvantaged students should not be denied a decent education. The solution, I think, is to have "advanced" schools that students must earn their way in - paid for by the taxpayer. These could be private or public institution but not discriminate on a parent's ability to pay.

  2. I worked for the largest public Ontario school board for 30 years and I have stories that would keep me busy in civil/liable courts for the rest of my life, so I won't share them here. When I "retired" I went to work for a private religious board which sounds at odds with my religious views. Politics makes strange bedfellows :-). That was a wonderful experience (5yrs). They call themselves a community school and there were many disadvantaged kids, subsidized by a large charity. You should look into it, they are always looking for good teachers and the salary/benefits are very close to the public system.
    In the next provincial election the Ont. Libertarians will advocate for parent's ability to choose where their Edu. tax dollars are spent.


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