Why Teachers Should Love Charter Schools
As Milton Friedman pointed out in Capitalism and Freedom, teachers have a lot to gain from a competitive education market. First of all, they can earn more money when schools compete. Talented teachers, teachers who are knowledgeable about subjects like math and science, and teachers who are willing to work extra hours or teach disadvantaged students will earn more in a competitive system.
This New York Times article provides a good example. It reports on a a new charter school set to open this year in New York that will pay teachers $125,000, plus bonuses based on performance. This doesn’t look like the typical teachers’ union contract:
To make ends meet, teachers will hold responsibilities usually shouldered by other staff members, like assistant principals (there will be none). There will be no deans, substitute teachers (except for extended leaves) or teacher coaches. Teachers will work longer hours and more days, and have 30 pupils, about 6 more than the typical New York City fifth-grade class. […]
Teachers will not have the same retirement benefits as members of the city’s teachers’ union. And they can be fired at will.
These teachers won’t have the same free time or job security as their counterparts in the traditional district, but they also won’t have to wait decades for a good salary.
And the benefits of competition aren’t just about money. It’s important to match teachers with the right schools. For instance, someone who’s enthusiastic about elementary language immersion probably shouldn’t be teaching at the environmental sciences high school. Precise matching is possible when specialized schools compete; it’s harder within a district that assigns teachers by seniority and students by street address.
In addition, teachers should feel respected and supported by the administration they work with. Too often, teachers in district schools are told that they can’t expand successful initiatives or try anything new. (That was the response to the first KIPP classroom.) We’ll see that less often in a more competitive system, because teachers will be free to take their good ideas and leave for competing schools.