Teacher unions make solid case for school choice

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Appeared in the Toronto Sun, October 20, 2021
Teacher unions make solid case for school choice

The case for expanding school choice is most often made by parents dissatisfied with the government-run school system, think-tank researchers, and conservative and libertarian columnists. Yet advocacy for government policies, which improve family access to alternatives to government-run schools, sometimes comes from unexpected quarters—of late, from public education bureaucrats and teacher unions.

Earlier this fall, the Peel District School Board published an “Empowering Modern Learners” booklet, which speaks ill of the current system. It posits that “in Peel, we must acknowledge that society operates in white supremacist structures” and that “our system has been built upon colonial structures meant to uphold white supremacy. This power structure has created barriers for marginalized learners.”

The booklet’s authors perhaps meant to increase support for public schools becoming more “woke” by infusing classrooms with more “social justice” ideologies. But most people, upon learning that the public school system in Peel Region is apparently built on white supremacy, might conclude that families need better access to alternative educational systems. They need, in other words, more school choice.

Meanwhile in Alberta, the teacher union is also unintentionally making the case for expanding school choice. The provincial government’s new draft K-6 curriculum, according to the Alberta Teachers’ Association, has “a variety of shortcomings,” is “not appropriately designed for teacher use” and includes “narrowly defined content that does not reflect the development of knowledge, understanding and skills for the 21st century.”

The curriculum, the union claimed, has “developmentally inappropriate learning outcomes that lack high academic standards.” The union president said the curriculum “is based on ideological, antiquated ideas of what children should learn, by those who seem to have no experience with teaching” in Canadian classrooms and would thus set children up for failure.

So there you have it. The government-run school system in the Peel Region in Ontario is built on white supremacy and the government-run school system in Alberta will prepare children to fail by using a shoddy curriculum. Of course, while government monopolistic policies condemn many children in those jurisdictions to attend such schools, the same cannot be said about other facilities—grocery stores, for example.

Because a white supremacist grocery store would be an unpleasant place to shop and face competition from other non-racist grocery stores, it would fail to attract customers and eventually go out of business. Similarly, a poorly run grocery store that fails to provide good food at prices satisfactory to consumers would be unable to survive for long. The difference between schools and grocery stores is that families often lack school choice yet have grocery store choice.

Currently in Alberta, private schools must teach the government curriculum to be eligible for provincial funding. Surely if the government’s curriculum is as shoddy as the Alberta Teachers’ Association describes, it’s time to end that rule so families can afford private schools using alternative curricula. In Ontario, monopolistic policies prevent families from using their tax dollars to support private education. Surely it’s time to change that policy, too, so children aren’t marched into a racist school system.

It is, after all, taxpayer money being used to educate children. Better to send it to schools that are not setting children up for failure.