The focus of parental choice has, rightly, been on parents and students. Students and parents—especially those without the means to move to better school districts, the luck to get into a charter school, or the ability to cut a check to a private school—are the ones who stand benefit the most from education savings accounts.
Decades of data on choice programs from across the nation also show us that those programs improve results for all students—whether they move to a private school, get into a charter school, or stay in their local public school.
All in all, parental choice is a massive win for parents, students, and, ultimately, the taxpayer, since an improved education system is indicative of an increased return in tax dollars spent.
But there’s one group we consistently forget to mention that also benefits from parental choice; that group is the teachers themselves.
How can that be? Have not the public education advocates assured us that parental choice decreases school funding, forces cuts, and simultaneously worsens the teacher shortage?
They’re wrong. Sure, parental choice forces school systems to improve—often through becoming more efficient—but the only things that are truly threatened are the cushy paychecks of overpaid administrators, some of whom make triple what the president of the United States makes.
In fact, parental choice—and the increase in education options it drives—actually benefits teachers.
It’s actually very simple economics. Often private schools and charter schools seek to have smaller class sizes, with a lower teacher-to-student ratio. Public schools that deliver good results also tend to do the same. Thus, as public schools improve, new charters open up, and private schools expand, parental choice encourages overall lower class sizes, which increases the amount of teachers needed without changing the amount of students taught.
This means that there’s an increased demand for teachers. And when there’s increased demand for a product or service, the price people are willing to pay for it goes up.
Simply put, parental choice shakes up the market of teachers and drives a natural increase in their pay.
Of course, this is all good in theory, but do we see it work in practice?
The short answer is yes.
Longer answer: yes, and let me share a story from my own experience—or more accurately, that of my wife.
Before I came to TPPF, my wife and I were both teachers—I was a history teacher, she was a music teacher. When we were engaged, I was finishing my graduate degree and she was leaving a job playing the organ for the church we had met at.
We both wanted to teach at the same school, so we looked at local classical charter schools. We applied to two different schools and had two very different processes.
As a generalist history teacher, simply put, my skills were a dime a dozen—plenty of history degrees to go around for teachers interested in classical education. I got very similar job offers from both schools, who both took my pending graduate degree into account.
However, these classical charter schools had small music programs, so, surprisingly, both had a dearth of music teachers applying to them—it is harder to teach music without dedicated music space, I’ve learned. As such, my wife’s skillset was in high demand. These schools both wanted her, and so they made competing offers, driving each other upwards over the course of a week.
This small competition between the schools resulted in my wife bringing in a paycheck higher than mine by a not-insignificant amount—despite the fact I (almost) had an extra degree.
Parental choice—and the increased demand for teachers—will bring what happened to my wife to many more teachers. Teachers should be clamoring for parental choice too. They’ve been fed the party line by their administrators and union reps that parental choice will cost them their jobs—the reality is quite the opposite. If more teachers knew the benefits that parental choice would bring to them, they’d join in with the millions of parents across the state demanding choice.