Few Teachers of the Year Support School Vouchers
About 85 percent of renowned teachers disagree that the federal government should provide greater school choice through vouchers, a new survey finds—and almost all of the surveyed teachers believe that charter schools and private schools that receive federal funds should be subject to the same accountability measures as public schools.
The survey, unveiled at the National Network of State Teachers of the Year's annual conference here, focused on four areas: educational equity, teacher leadership, social and emotional learning, and vouchers and school funding.
In all, 274 members completed the survey—only about 10 percent of the number of NNSTOY newsletter subscribers, but about 100 more people than last year took this year's survey, said Justin Minkel, the chairman of the NNSTOY government affairs committee. (Minkel is also a columnist for Education Week Teacher.) This is the second federal policy survey NNSTOY has conducted, and the people who chose to respond to the survey might have strong opinions. The results are not scientific, and should be interpreted with caution.
"Our members believe that public dollars for education should go to public schools," said Jane West, the government policy advisor for NNSTOY, in an interview. "Public education is more than an individual commodity. It's the foundation of our democracy. It's a public good."
An expansion of school choice through vouchers has been the main priority of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who included a $1 billion public school choice program and a $250 million state grant program to expand private school choice in her education budget proposal. The House education spending plan did not include either of those proposals; my colleagues at Politics K-12 reported that the prospects for those plans seem dim this year.
Many teachers of the year at this conference have expressed concern that vouchers would lead to privatization of public schools. (Still, it's worth noting that almost 11 percent of survey respondents were neutral on the issue of vouchers.)
Some other interesting findings from the survey:
- Ninety-eight percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that teachers should be engaged in policymaking. But only 19 percent said teachers in their state have had the opportunity to provide input into how social-emotional learning will be addressed in their state's ESSA plan.
- About 90 percent of respondents said that schools should provide professional development to help teachers become aware of their own biases.
- The teachers largely support social and emotional learning, and they support more training to help meet the social-emotional needs of different groups of students.
- About 90 percent of respondents said there should be federal money for PD that includes time in the school day for collaboration. (That money is on the chopping block in President Donald Trump's education budget—and in the first draft of the House education spending plan.)
The survey results directly informed NNSTOY's 2017 federal policy agenda, West said. The group's priorities include preserving federal funding for Title I and teacher PD, supporting students from undocumented families, and making sure teachers are involved in the implementation of ESSA.
The state teachers of the year will be meeting with dozens of representatives and senators this week, as part of the conference. They plan to share stories about how federal education money helps their schools and districts, and the consequences for them if the funding is cut.
The organization has also endorsed four pieces of federal legislation: a bill that would allocate funding to support teacher leadership; a bill to study teacher stress and burnout; a bill on student absenteeism; and the Teachers and Parents at the Table Act. That last bill is a revamp of legislation that was proposed almost 10 years ago, and would establish an advisory committee of teachers and parents. The committee, which would be selected by Congressional leadership and the Secretary of Education, would give input to federal lawmakers about matters of education policy.
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