Monday, April 30, 2007

Blackboards Not Billboards

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I read an Op Ed in the New York Times -- yes, the New York Times! -- supporting vouchers and calling out the Newark teachers union for their outrageous, despicable and desperate tactics (running billboards saying "Stop the Killings in Newark Now!" in a futile attempt to pressure Cory Booker -- see my previous emails on this at, and  They obviously don't know Cory at all...

Joseph Del Grosso, president of the union, won’t say how much the signs cost. He has, however, said that the “cost has no bearing on anything.”

But it does. Union leaders are spending substantial amounts of money advancing a political agenda that has nothing to do with education. And this is a growing problem throughout the country. All too often, America’s teachers’ unions claim to be championing education when, in fact, they’re pursuing unrelated political agendas...

Newark spent $17,502 per pupil in the 2005-06 school year, or more than twice the national average. To put this figure in perspective, a full year at Rutgers University — including tuition, fees and room and board — totals $19,000 for New Jersey residents.

So what are Newark taxpayers and schoolchildren getting for all this money?

Well, last year, only 38.8 percent of Newark seniors graduated with a normal high school diploma.

In other words, Newark’s schools are in serious need of repair. But instead of worrying about Newark’s schoolchildren, the union’s leadership has used its resources to lease billboards. Meanwhile, the union has waged a very public battle against Mayor Booker over school vouchers, and many think the billboard campaign is part of this effort.

Why the fight? Because the mayor supports school vouchers. He believes that vouchers would allow students who are trapped in underperforming schools to transfer somewhere better. The union has stood against school vouchers from the very beginning.

In the interest of scaring voters, for example, the union’s parent organization has claimed that there is no evidence that vouchers will improve achievement. But this is false. Study after study has demonstrated that voucher systems improve student achievement, regardless of socioeconomic background. Indeed, the National Research Council issued a report during the Clinton administration recommending that the government finance a large-scale school choice experiment.

Quite simply, union leaders are against vouchers because they fear such efforts will divert money into less unionized, or non-union, schools.

The union claims to have Newark’s best interests at heart. But instead, it has chosen to aggressively oppose the measure most likely to improve Newark’s schools while wasting its resources on billboards that will do little but drive business out of the city.

April 29, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Blackboards Not Billboards

Arlington, Va.

SEVERAL months ago, the Newark Teachers Union put up signs across the city about Newark’s escalating murder rate. “Help Wanted,” the signs implored. “Stop the Killings in Newark Now!”

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