Commentary: Public Education Bureaucracy Fails Students Again

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A disturbing report in the Washington Examiner disclosed that, since August 2007, a dozen Washington, D.C. public school teachers have been fired for a litany of nausea-inducing incidents including corporal punishment, physical abuse, threats of bodily harm, and even sexual abuse.

As if this behavior is not sickening enough, even more distressing is that there were 67 substantiated offenses over this time period, and “half of the incidents did not result in a resignation or the loss of a job, either immediately or by the end of the school year.” Instead, the culprits were briefly punished under the pretense of some inane “progressive discipline” program.

This unnerving revelation reiterates one of the intrinsic flaws plaguing public education, and that is the lack of accountability for bad, and even criminal, teachers and administrators.

Sure, one could say “well stuff like this happens all the time in private schools.” But when it does, the guilty parties in question are more likely to be fired or prosecuted. Unlike in public schools, they aren’t reinstated after an investigation or ten day suspension. Further, private schools understand that they will go out of business if they lose the confidence of their customers. Public schools face no such market discipline.

One of the solutions to this problem will be continuing the movement away from a centralized bureaucracy towards a more decentralized model where teachers and schools are accountable for their performances. Charter schools are enabling private interests to operate public schools with relative independence from state control. Meanwhile, programs such as Teach for America and Teach Nola invigorate some of our roughest public schools with fresh, educated young minds who are eager to teach. This puts pressure on the education establishment to deal with the abusive and unqualified teachers who have not been held accountable for their performance.

The future of our public schools needs to be out of the hands of unionized and bureaucratic special interests and in the hands of those who demonstrate the ability and dedication to educate the young.

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