Parsing (and responding to) New Mexico’s “education exodus”

Recently, the Santa Fe Reporter did a cover-story on the “education exodus” in New Mexico. While not specifically blaming Gov. Martinez’s reforms for the rate of attrition, that would certainly appear to be an underlying aspect of the article. Nonetheless, I responded to the article with the following published letter:

I sympathize with many of the teachers who are frustrated with the conditions in New Mexico’s public schools. Unfortunately, what is lost in this discussion is that teachers are ultimately working for local government monopolies that have long track records of frustrating and failing their supposed “customers” (students and their parents).

The reforms introduced under No Child Left Behind and by both the Obama and Martinez administrations are, in many ways, top-down efforts to increase accountability within those systems. This is definitely second best relative to school choice and free competition in education, but when paired with additional funding, they have mustered enough political support to pass.

Education, as any teacher will tell you, is not a “one-size-fits-all” enterprise. Teaching styles and techniques that work for some students don’t work for others. This freedom and the incentive to fulfill the demands of the marketplace form the basis of a free market.

Unfortunately, when it comes to school choice, the unions that supposedly represent teachers are the leading opponents. Ironically, the most effective teachers would benefit from a more market-based education system. Schools, were they given the freedom (and economic incentive) to pay excellent teachers higher wages would pay those wages. And isn’t excellence what we’re looking for in education?

The important point here is that choice and competition are inherently pro-teacher. After all, teachers are professionals with commensurate freedom and pay tied to success and should be treated as such, not as unionized factory workers circa 1920.