Anti-Education-Choice Zealots Are Getting Desperate

Published November 30, 2016

In her latest diatribe against privatizing education, well-known enemy of school choice Diane Ravitch shows herself to be more desperate than ever to stem the inevitable tide of the growing school choice movement.

Postulating in the December issue of The New York Review of Books about what happens “When Public Goes Private, as Trump Wants,” Ravitch ignores facts and common sense to provide a dishonest representation of “the dangers of privatizing public services.”

“Privatization means that a public service is taken over by a for-profit business, whose highest goal is profit,” Ravitch wrote.

While failing to enlighten us with what she believes the “highest goal” of the public sector education system is, Ravitch goes on to lambaste private corporations, which she says wants to “eliminate unions.” Corporations are so evil, Ravitch argues, they raise prices, cut workers’ benefits, expand working hours, and lay off veteran employees, who often earn more than newer, cheaper labor.

With such deplorable conditions as these, how can so many non-unionized businesses attract even a single sane employee, let alone millions? And if unions are so great, why is union membership steadily decreasing?

The answer is, of course, because Ravitch is delusional. I don’t know anyone who is a fan of unions or their tactics—the only exception being some of the union members themselves and their bosses. Unions, simply put, are a pain to deal with. They demand more and more and more and punish the rest of us when they don’t get what they want. Throughout history, there have been times when unions are needed, but in many cases and for most industries, now is not one of them.

Ravitch criticizes corporations because their “highest goal is profit,” which suggests unions aren’t interested in profits. This is a rather bizarre argument, however, because, as a 2015 study found, at least 10 union officials earned more than double the average salary of an American CEO.

“The Center for Union Facts (CUF), a labor watchdog, identified 162 union presidents that receive compensation packages in excess of the $180,700 average take home pay that business chief executives earn,” The Washington Free Beacon reported in 2015. “The report also identifies 10 union presidents—none of whom returned request for comment—who earn more than double that figure.”

For instance, “Randi Weingarten makes $557,875 per year as President of the American Federation of Teachers,” according to The Center for Union Facts‘ website.

Not only are many in union leadership greedy, they often selfishly put their own interests in front of those they allegedly “serve,” especially when it comes to education.

For example, finalizing contract negotiations for the Chicago Public Schools and the unionized teachers it employs “took 22 months and more than $1 million, with Chicago’s taxpayers directly paying at least $880,000 just in legal costs,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. As startling as those figures are, they don’t include the harm caused by leaving 350,000 kids out of the classroom every time the teachers decide to walk off the job, nor the inconvenience and problems created for parents and police officers affected by teacher-union tantrums in Chicago alone.

The demands of spoiled unions wreak havoc all across the United States, and for what? Compensation and benefits. Ravitch should take the proverbial log out of her own eye before accusing private corporations of being greedy. 

To further her case, Ravitch wrote, “The Federal Bureau of Prisons recently concluded that privatized prisons were not as safe as those run by the bureau itself and were less likely to provide effective programs for education and job training to reduce recidivism,” presumably in an attempt to show the public sector is better than the private sector. But are we supposed to be surprised the Federal Bureau of Prisons determined the federal government is better at running prisons than the private sector? What will Ravitch ravish us with next? A study by a public school teacher declaring public school teachers better at teaching? 

“The ‘reform’ movement loudly proclaims the failure of American public education and seeks to turn public dollars over to … almost anyone else who wants to open a school,” Ravitch wrote. “The motives for the privatization movement are various … [and] the privatization movement has a powerful lobby to advance its cause.”

Loudly proclaiming the failure of U.S. public education and lobbying for privatization is not the work of a handful of tycoons looking to make big bucks off education, as Ravitch would have us believe. Parents and students want relief from failing schools, especially those nightmarish hellscapes all-too-common in many big cities, as was evidenced by the results of the November elections.

Reporter Richard Moore pointed out in The Lakeland Times, “In the closing weeks of the election season, President-elect Donald Trump made school choice one of his top issues, and pledged a massive infusion of federal dollars to the states to make it happen.” Moore also notes the American Federation for Children, a school advocacy group, invested in 121 individual races in 12 states in the general election and won a historic 89 percent of them.

Public education is becoming a thing of the past; the teachers unions are losing. Ravitch knows she’s fighting a losing battle—and even admits the privatization movement is not confined to Republicans—but she and other like-minded zealots put on a front of denial, desperately spreading propaganda in praise of public schools in an effort to slow the inevitable.

Unfortunately for Ravitch, parents and students cherish choice and are impatient for more; no long-winded op-ed by a school choice opponent is going to change that.