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Teachers Should Be Striking for More School Choice, Not Less

January 18, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Public school teachers started striking in Los Angeles this
week. Educators in Los Angeles Unified — the second biggest
school district in the United States — demand bigger
paychecks and smaller class sizes. The teachers union claims that
the state’s unregulated charter school growth is to blame.
But basic economic theory — and the scientific evidence
— suggests that public school teachers should instead be
fighting to increase school choice. Here’s why.

Economists would argue that public school employers exercise
strong “monopsony” power because public schools hold
over 90 percent of the K-12 market share. In other words, educators
essentially have to accept the work environment, salary, and
benefits offered by the traditional public school system if they
want a K-12 teaching job. The lack of competition in the education
labor market is bad for teachers. Weak competition among the
employers of educators means lower teacher salaries and bigger
class sizes.

In fact, the most recent estimates suggest that there are at
least 26 students in every class in LA Unified public schools, on
average. Additionally, annual per pupil spending in LA Unified
public schools is over $16,000 per student. In other words,
conservative estimates suggest that well over $400,000 is allocated
to each class each year. But teachers in LA Unified are only paid
$75,000, on average.

Teachers in Los Angeles
have a right to be upset about big classes and low salaries. They
deserve much more than what they are getting. But reducing charter
school growth won’t make their employer — the district
— spend education dollars wisely.

The important question: where does the rest of the money go?

According to Kennesaw State University’s Dr. Benjamin Scafidi,
increases in education expenditures are more likely to go towards
administration and support staff than full-time teachers. Between
1992 and 2014, Scafidi found that average U.S. public school
teacher salaries fell by around 2 percent even though the amount of
support staff increased by 36 percent. As Scafidi noted, if the
increase in support staff instead kept on par with student
enrollment growth over the same time period, every public teacher
in the U.S. could have had a raise of over $11,000. That would be
around a 15 percent raise for teachers in Los Angeles – over twice
as large as the raise demanded by the teachers union. Perhaps
public school teachers in LA should ask their employer — the
district — why they’re only getting less than a fifth of the
$400,000 of educational resources devoted to their classrooms.

But how can school choice help solve this problem?

The expansion of public charter schools gives educators more
employment options and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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