Land of Obama Signs Away Children’s Future to Teachers’ Union

President Obama has declared that “the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.” Yet the State of Hawaii, where Obama himself graduated from a top private high school, has just signed a budget-cutting contract with its teachers’ union paring 17 Fridays from the remainder of school year, but leaving teachers with nine paid holidays and six paid “teacher planning” days. At 163 instructional days, Hawaii’s public school calendar is now the shortest in the nation, and only 90% of the 180 days required by law for private schools in most parts of the country.

The State of Hawaii spends $11,060 per student, with more than a quarter of the State’s entire general budget going to the department of education. Yet the educational system turns out students ranking 47th in the country in eighth-grade reading and math. By comparison, tuition at Hawaii’s private schools averages $10,078.

With a recipe for disaster looming for Hawaii’s public school children—fewer days in schools that already under-perform the rest of the nation—now is a good time for Hawaii’s taxpayers to demand a refund of their tax dollars and for the State to privatize its schools. This can be done through teachers/and or parents owning the schools (as detailed in our book, “Can Teachers Own their Own Schools?”); by selling or turning individual schools over to non-profit or for-profit entities as appropriate; letting the market create alternatives; and letting those that fail, close. The record shows that lower taxes result in an increase in charitable giving among Americans, so Hawaiians left with more of their own money could be expected to contribute to non-profit schools directly and/or to programs such as our Independent Scholarship Fund which provides private tuition vouchers for lower-income families to send their children to private schools. Experience has shown that all schools—public and private—improve where competition exists, and there’s every reason to suppose this would be Hawaii’s experience as well.

It’s time for Hawaii’s parents to demand the same freedom of choice the Obamas have exercised in selecting a private education for their daughters. After all, that’s now the only way they can accede to Obama’s call for “more time in the classroom.”

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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