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Open Letter to the President of a Teachers’ Union

Ms. Clara B. Floyd, President
Maryland State Teachers’ Association

Dear Ms. Floyd:

One of your organization’s spokeswomen (speaking today on WTOP radio) explained that performance-based pay for teachers is “unfair” to teachers.  The proffered reason is that so much of a child’s intellectual development is affected by home environment, neighborhood influences, and other factors outside of teachers’ control that it is impossible to determine each teacher’s success or failure simply by measuring changes over time in the academic abilities of that teachers’ students.

Fair point.  But if it’s true that teachers have so little influence over their students’ learning that it’s “unfair” to tie teacher pay to the measured academic performance of their students, then what’s the use of public schooling?  If what students learn or don’t learn is largely outside of the influence of their schoolteachers, why spend all of these resources, year after year, on government schools?  Why continue to fund schools if children are so impervious to the fruits of formal education that any amount of knowledge that might actually take hold in their minds as a result of their schooling is too small to be measured?

In short, if your spokeswoman is correct, not only should pleas for performance-based pay for teachers be tossed into history’s dustbin, so, too, should government schooling itself be abandoned – for we can have no reliable evidence that it is serving its stated purpose of educating children.

Donald J. Boudreaux