Classroom Teachers Call for School Choice

Published December 1, 1998

Dismayed by how little improvement in the quality of public education has taken place in the 15 years since publication of A Nation at Risk, a group of nationally acclaimed teachers has declared that the time has come for fundamental reform of the nation’s school system. Among the reforms they recommend are school choice, an end to compulsory unionism, independent decision-making authority for teachers, and the restoration of proven traditional curricula.

The educators’ declaration was contained in a 15-point “Letter to the American People” signed by hundreds of classroom teachers, parents, citizens, and policy experts and released to the public at a September 22 news conference in Washington, DC.

“We must insist that all children have the opportunity to attend the best schools available, regardless of who manages them,” declare the teachers in their letter, which was endorsed by school administrators, education reform advocates, parents, concerned citizens, current and former teachers, elected congressional representatives, and governors, including Oklahoma’s Frank Keating and California’s Pete Wilson.

The letter calls for “the end of a monopoly on schooling that stifles innovation, discourages choice, resists change, claims all children as its wards by right, and ignores the cries of parents dismayed by its ineffectiveness and rigidity.”

Endorsing the letter at the press conference were prominent public school educators Tracey Bailey, 1993 National Teacher of the Year, and John Taylor Gatto, twice named New York State Teacher of the Year and three times named New York City Teacher of the Year.

The letter was drafted by Bailey and over 30 other educators from 16 states at the National Summit of Teachers for Education Reform, held earlier this year in Midland, Michigan, at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The summit marked the first time teachers themselves had assembled to develop recommendations to the nation for improving the state of American education.

The educators’ greatest concern is that American is splitting into two classes: educated and not. “We must close this gap at once,” they insist, by “raising the bar” on achievement and empowering children by giving them the advantages of a knowledge-based education.

“We must also ensure that their teachers are equipped to help them get over the bar, not continue to lower it for them out of mistaken compassion,” the educators write. To do this, teachers must be freed not only from restrictive rules and regulations but also from the use of unproven theories and uncalled-for agendas from distant bureaucrats and special interest groups.

“Teachers should not be surrogate parents, social workers, or ‘change agents,'” the teachers declare in the letter. “Teachers should be supported and encouraged in what they do best: teaching.”

The teachers’ reform recommendations include: greater freedom for parents to choose schools for their children, a return to traditional subjects and methods of teaching, phonics-based reading instruction, ongoing teacher training, and an end to government and union interference with the right of individual teachers to manage their classrooms.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.

For more information …

“A Letter to the American People: From the Participants of the National Summit of Teachers for Education Reform” is available from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 140 West Main Street, PO Box 568, Midland, MI 48640, 517/631-0900, or from the Center’s web site at The Letter also is available through PolicyBot. Point your Web browser to, click on the PolicyBot icon, and search for old document #2180305.