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This is the memo from the teacher's union outlining plans to call a job action vote if Jim Doyle is not elected. WEAC is threatening an illegal strike if voters do not give them their way next Tuesday. Experiment: Try to imagine the reaction if anyone else issued a threat to break the law in order to influence an election.

Would that be



WHY IS THIS VOTE BEING TAKEN? At the 2002 WEAC Representative Assembly, the delegates voted to mandate every WEAC Local to conduct a vote on whether or not each local will participate "in the adopted job action designed to end the QEO and revenue caps, up to and including a strike." The nature of the "job action" has not been determined at this time. IF a majority of WEAC locals vote in favor of the motion, a special joint meeting of all local Presidents and the WEAC Board of Directors will be held on Saturday, Nov 9th to determine possible job actions. Thus the statewide action vote is actually a vote to send each Local president to the meeting where they will determine what actions up to and including a strike that WEAC locals will take to end the QEO and revenue caps.

WHAT ARE THE VOTING CONSIDERATIONS? If you are unwilling to participate in any job actions, up to and including a strike, you should vote NO on the ballot. If you are willing to participate in job actions, up to and including a strike, you should vote YES. A simple majority of each local's membership that casts a vote will determine our position on the question if only 50 members of the Faculty Association or ESPA members vote, than 26 members become the majority. It will then take a simple majority of all the WEAC locals throughout the state to determine whether or not the November 9th meeting will be held.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE LOCAL VOTING TAKES PLACE? If the vote is determined as YES and the WEAC endorsed gubernatorial candidate (Doyle) is elected the WEAC Board and local Presidents will not meet. Instead it will be postponed until the new Governor's budget is introduced in 2003. If that budget includes the elimination of the QEO & the revenue caps the meeting will be postponed pending passage by the legislature. If the Governor's budget fails to eliminate the QEO and revenue caps, or the legislature fails to pass their removal of the QEO and revenue caps, then the meeting will be held immediately. And, if Doyle is not elected on Nov 5th the joint meeting of the local Presidents and the WEAC Board of Directors will be held on November 9th.


Every WEAC Faculty & ESP bargaining unit is being given the opportunity to participate in this statewide vote. The vote will be held Wednesday, Oct 23, in the Faculty Lounge for staff at the main campus, regional sites will be notified during the week when there will be someone at their site. * If a vote to strike is chosen at the joint meeting, they will be looking for SOLIDARITY from the entire state WEAC community. It is against the law for teachers to strike in Wisconsin, and technically each striking teacher can be fined for each day they remain on strike. They are not likely to attempt to fine each person if we are ALL on strike but they can!

Teachers to Consider Statewide Job Action

Teachers from around the state have decided to ask their colleagues whether they are willing to participate in statewide job actions--including the possibility of strike--unless the Qualified Economic Offer law which has curtailed union bargaining power since 1993 is taken off the books.

Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) delegates voted April 27 to begin a multi-step process that begins with a statewide ballot of all 92,000 members to gage their support. If a majority of WEAC's affiliated locals support the concept in an October ballot, WEAC would involve local leaders in developing a plan for statewide action at the start of the 2003-04 school year.

"After suffering under state-imposed revenue controls and the Qualified Economic Offer law, WEAC members are frustrated enough to initiate coordinated statewide protests," said WEAC President Stan Johnson. "The QEO and

revenue controls have inflicted so much damage on public schools and the teaching profession that our members are ready to move forward."

The union reports that members of almost half of WEAC's 600 affiliated locals are working under expired contracts at this time.

Under the plan, a number of trigger points, including the outcome of November's Gubernatorial election and the formation of the next biennial state budget, will move the union forward in determining a course of action. Should the next governor's budget not include elimination of the QEO and revenue caps, then WEAC's local union presidents along with its Board of Directors will determine the next action.

The motion was passed after nearly two hours of intense debate in which delegates repeatedly cited the injustice of the QEO law--which prevents teachers from fair representation at the bargaining table and has led to nine years of teacher salary stagnation--and the harm caused by revenue caps on school districts.

The delegates to WEAC's annual meeting rejected a more aggressive motion that would have set a specific strike date in the fall of 2003. Many members said they did not know whether their colleagues back home were ready to strike.

"Members are seeing the quality of education in our great schools decline because of these onerous laws," WEAC President Stan Johnson said. "More than 1,200 delegates from every corner of the state spoke loudly and clearly:

the QEO and revenue controls must be eliminated."

Qualified Economic Injustice State law allows school districts to avoid arbitration if they propose contracts providing a Qualified Economic Offer of 3.8 percent. However, in calculating the QEO, all costs to the employer are totaled. In addition to wage increases, the QEO calculation also includes costs for extra-duty pay; retirement; Social Security; health, dental and disability insurance; tuition reimbursement; and any other form of payment or benefit.

As a result of soaring increases in health care costs, teachers in other parts of the state have been forced to take pay cuts in order to maintain their health coverage. Members of Madison Teachers Inc. recently agreed to pay more out-of-pocket to cover their skyrocketing health care premiums.

Losing Ground While increases in the Consumer Price Index has been hovering around 3 percent per year, teacher raises throughout Wisconsin have averaged only 1.5 percent. In the time since the QEO law has been in place, Wisconsin teachers' salaries have gone from thirteenth in the nation to nineteenth, and have now slipped below the national average for the first time in about 20 years, according to the union.

At the same time the Wisconsin Legislature passed the QEO law, it also limited revenue increases for local school districts. Under the revenue controls, if a local school board concludes that it is necessary to spend in excess of the amount allowed, it is required to submit the proposed increase to a voter referendum. No other form of municipal government is forced to operate under such restrictions, notes the union.

In the Madison School District, operating costs are continuing to out pacing the revenue limits and the district cannot maintain funding for the same services as the year before. Each year the gap continues to widen. Aside from cutting programs or passing a school funding referendum, the only remaining alternative is deficit spending which would be harmful to the district's bond rating.

The Madison Board of Education is likely to consider a local referendum to surpass the revenue caps or to fund specific needs, although the timing for such a vote remains uncertain.

-Thanks to WEAC for contributing to this article.

Wisconsin teachers in possible statewide job actions aimed at eliminating the QEO and revenue caps.

MTI's outgoing president Jim Skaggs said he and other Madison teachers supported stronger action authorizing a job action or strike on a specific date, but added that the statewide union is now on the right track.

"They've finally realized that we need to give the legislators a real excuse for changing the law," said Skaggs. "People need to realize what's possible if things keep getting worse. If they think twice, they will want to avoid the high emotions and pain that would be felt across the board, all over the state."

Madison took $7.25 million in cuts this year, says Skaggs, and next year it will likely be $10 million. "There isn't any fat left and it's beginning to cut into basic curriculum. I think members feel that something has to happen. It's not just a matter of our contract, but the programs."

In addition to deep cuts in administration and long-delayed maintenance, valuable programs are being considered for cuts, for example, minority achievement, technology, special ed and music programs.

"We're at the point where nothing can be cut without arousing a lot of opposition," says Skaggs. "All of this is outside of the school district's control."

The problem is finding a solution, not agreeing on what the problem is, says Skaggs. "The difficulty is getting people to come up with a new method of school funding or new sources of revenue."

Marquette Middle School's Pat Mooney, who chairs MTI Voters, the union's political action arm, is less than optimistic about the WEAC strategy and said he would be pleasantly surprised if it were to succeed.

"People are aware of the QEO and its impact," says Mooney, "but we know that to undertake any type of job action we have to organize, organize, organize! In some parts of the state they don't have staff to do that traditional day-to-day organizing, it simply is not happening."

While all the candidates have spoken out against the QEO, including the current Governor, none have put forward any specific alternatives for education funding, Mooney concluded.

Landmark Legal Foundation: Files IRS Complaint Against Wisconsin NEA Affiliate (WEAC)


Foundation Calls for Investigation of Unreported WEAC Contributions to Democratic Party Campaign Committee

LEESBURG, Va. -- Landmark Legal Foundation today asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate numerous activities by the National Education Association's Wisconsin affiliate, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) that may have violated federal tax law.

WEAC made a total of $430,000 in contributions to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) that weren't reported on WEAC's tax returns. The DLCC is a political organization formed by the Democratic National Committee to provide funding and logistical assistance to state legislative campaigns around the country. The WEAC contributions, which were reported by the DLCC on its tax filings, were made in 2000 and 2002, and were apparently used by the DLCC to underwrite state legislative campaigns in California and elsewhere.

WEAC is a 501(c)(5) tax-exempt union under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). As a 501(c)(5), WEAC is required to report and pay federal income tax on almost any general revenue funds used for political purposes, including contributions made by the union to political organizations like the DLCC (called 527s, for the section of the IRC under which they are formed.) WEAC's own 527, the Wisconsin Education Association Council -- Political Action Committee WEAC-PAC), also did not report the DLCC contributions in question on their tax filings.

In addition to both the WEAC and DLCC tax filings, and the tax returns of WEAC-PAC, Landmark's complaint includes media reports and other information detailing the use of apparently tax-exempt revenues by the union to fund overtly political contributions.

"Wisconsin's teachers should be outraged that their union is apparently using their dues money to fund political contributions to California state legislative campaigns," explained Landmark President Mark R. Levin. "And they should be furious that their leaders appear to be thumbing their noses at legal reporting requirements to advance their own political agendas without their members' knowledge or consent."

Landmark's complaint today is the latest in the Foundation's NEA Accountability Project, a nine year initiative that has resulted in an ongoing full-field audit by the IRS of the NEA's political expenditures and activities. Landmark's 2002 complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor also resulted in an ongoing Labor Department investigation into possible violations of federal labor reporting laws by the NEA, and a top to bottom revision of the Department's reporting requirements for income and disbursements by large national unions.

Founded in 1976, Landmark Legal Foundation was the first public interest law firm to become involved in the school choice movement. The Foundation successfully represented low income families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in two Wisconsin Supreme Court cases on behalf of the Milwaukee parental choice program. Landmark has offices in Kansas City, Missouri and Leesburg, Virginia.


The Speakers Report, April 2, 2004

This week, the state’s biggest special interest group, the Madison-based teacher’s union (WEAC), spent thousands of dollars to send fancy mailings to many residents throughout the state. These mailers attacked various Republican legislators - including me - claiming that our support for school choice in Milwaukee has resulted in school aid cuts in our home districts.

Their charges are absolutely false.

First of all, as non-partisan analysts both inside and outside of the legislature have repeatedly pointed out, the school choice program actually results in more money coming to school districts outside Milwaukee, not less. That is because the state pays more than $4000 less per pupil in schools aids for children in choice schools than they would for those same students if they attended Milwaukee Public Schools. As a result, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has estimated that if the choice program were eliminated school districts around the state would lose more than $15 million in state aid and that money would go directly to MPS.

More than the lies about the impact of the Milwaukee choice program, however, is the mailer’s accusation that school aids have been cut at all. In fact, the budget we passed last summer increased general school aids by $72.2 million. That additional funding resulted in school aid increases to school districts all over Wisconsin. In my own legislative district, these increases ranged from $31,385 in Peshtigo to over $1 million in Pulaski.

It turns out that the figures WEAC lists as “funding cuts” in their mailing are not school aid figures at all. What they are is the difference between the actual property tax increase families received last December and what that increase would have been had Governor Doyle not vetoed our property tax freeze. Ironically, WEAC is doing taxpayers a service by showing them exactly how much more they are paying in additional school property taxes because our property tax freeze was not allowed to be put in place.

Our property tax freeze would not have forced any spending cuts for school or local governments. It would have merely limited how much these local governments could increase their spending. The difference between the modest increase in spending allowed under the freeze and the additional spending that was actually done is the dollar figure cited in WEAC’s mailer.

The state budget that passed the legislature last summer increased state aid for public schools and froze property taxes. WEAC fought hard to increase school spending and to increase property taxes as well. Unfortunately, with the governor’s veto of the freeze, they got their way and your property taxes went up more than twice the rate of inflation as a result.

Despite the misleading nature of WEAC’s “Made in Madison” attack piece you may not want to totally disregard it. In fact, you might want to clip out their chart and put it on your refrigerator as a visual reminder of just how much higher your property taxes are thanks to the folks at WEAC and their ability to convince Governor Jim Doyle to veto our property tax freeze.

Teacher union puts members’ needs ahead of students’

By Ruben Navarrette Jr. - July 23, 2006

SAN DIEGO — After five years of trying to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act, the nation’s largest teachers union has decided that it can live with the education reform law after all — as long as the legislation is gutted, its standards lowered and its accountability measures watered down.

Great. So we’re making progress.

This month at its annual conference, the National Education Association voted to launch a nationwide campaign to lobby Congress to radically change NCLB when the law comes up for reauthorization next year. The goal behind the changes seems to be to wrest power away from government and put it back where the union thinks it belongs — with educators and those who represent them.

Call me cynical, but I never thought for a minute that the NEA was really concerned about, well, education. I never believed the organization was eager to find new ways to empower students or to hold schools accountable for the educational products they turn out.

I always assumed that the NEA was focused primarily on what any union tends to focus on: the interests of its members. And since the education establishment has been trained to believe that it is not in the interests of teachers to demand more from them or tie them to the performance of their students, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that groups such as the NEA have reacted with hostility to No Child Left Behind.

That’s exactly what’s been happening since 2001, when the law — perhaps the most significant domestic policy achievements of the Bush administration — took effect. According to a recent report by Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank, the NEA has given more than $8 million to various education, civil rights and public policy groups that opposed or criticized No Child Left Behind.

Lead researcher Joe Williams says that what the union did wasn’t illegal, but it is clear that it “actively pursued partnerships” with groups intent on fighting NCLB. And questions remain about whether the funding that was given to some of these groups influenced the research some of these groups produced — research that was, to no one’s surprise, critical of the education reform law.

Not that the law doesn’t have its critics. When I hear from teachers, or even school board members — some of whom have accepted campaign contributions from the NEA and other teachers unions — I get an earful about how NCLB is single-handedly destroying the public education system due to its emphasis on testing, its punishing of underperforming schools and its one-size-fits-all approach.

Yet, knowing all that, it’s still frightening to get a peek behind the curtain at the specifics of what the NEA, if it had its druthers, would do to make NCLB more palatable to its members — or at least, some of them, as the more hard-line members won’t be satisfied unless the law is repealed.

Convinced that there is too much emphasis on regular testing, and that low-performing schools are being unfairly punished when students come up short, the union would prefer a broader-based accountability system that relies on “multiple measures of success.” Whatever that means.

The union is also queasy about the requirement in No Child Left Behind that schools test students in math and reading and then report scores according to race, disability, English proficiency and economic background. The NEA instead wants benchmarks that take into account students’ differing abilities and demographics.

It seems that many educators are less than confident in the job they’ve done when it comes to teaching minorities, those with limited English proficiency and the economically disadvantaged, and they’re not eager to broadcast their failures.

It’s outrageous. If these people get their way, the practical effect would be a lower bar for students of different racial, ethnic or economic backgrounds — and by extension, those who teach them. And they would do all this not for the good of students but for the professional welfare of those who are supposed to be teaching them and who have, for too long, been coming up short.

And why does the nation’s largest teachers union want to make all these changes in No Child Left Behind? It’s so the truth does not come out about whom the public schools serve and whom they sacrifice.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191. Send e-mail to

For once, blame the student

By Patrick Welsh USA Today 3/7/2006

Failure in the classroom is often tied to lack offunding, poor teachersor other ills. Here's a thought: Maybe it's thefailed work ethic of todays kids. That's what I'm seeing in my school. Until reformers see this reality, little will change.

Last month, as I averaged the second-quarter grades for my senior English classes at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., the same familiar pattern leapt out at me.

Kids who had emigrated from foreign countries — such as Shewit Giovanni from Ethiopia, Farah Ali from Guyana and Edgar Awumey from Ghana — often aced every test, while many of their U.S.-born classmates from upper-class homes with highly educated parents had a string of C's and D's.

As one would expect, the middle-class American kids usually had higher SAT verbal scores than did their immigrant classmates, many of whom had only been speaking English for a few years.

What many of the American kids I taught did not have was the motivation, self-discipline or work ethic of the foreign-born kids.

Politicians and education bureaucrats can talk all they want about reform, but until the work ethic of U.S. students changes, until they are willing to put in the time and effort to master their subjects, little will change.

A study released in December by University of Pennsylvania researchers Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman suggests that the reason so many U.S. students are "falling short of their intellectual potential" is not "inadequate teachers, boring textbooks and large class sizes" and the rest of the usual litany cited by the so-called reformers — but "their failure to exercise self-discipline."

The sad fact is that in the USA, hard work on the part of students is no longer seen as a key factor in academic success. The groundbreaking work of Harold Stevenson and a multinational team at the University of Michigan comparing attitudes of Asian and American students sounded the alarm more than a decade ago.

Asian vs. U.S. students

When asked to identify the most important factors in their performance in math, the percentage of Japanese and Taiwanese students who answered "studying hard" was twice that of American students.

American students named native intelligence, and some said the home environment. But a clear majority of U.S. students put the responsibility on their teachers. A good teacher, they said, was the determining factor in how well they did in math.

"Kids have convinced parents that it is the teacher or the system that is the problem, not their own lack of effort," says Dave Roscher, a chemistry teacher at T.C. Williams in this Washington suburb. "In my day, parents didn't listen when kids complained about teachers. We are supposed to miraculously make kids learn even though they are not working."

As my colleague Ed Cannon puts it: "Today, the teacher is supposed to be responsible for motivating the kid. If they don't learn it is supposed to be our problem, not theirs."

And, of course, busy parents guilt-ridden over the little time they spend with their kids are big subscribers to this theory.

Maybe every generation of kids has wanted to take it easy, but until the past few decades students were not allowed to get away with it. "Nowadays, it's the kids who have the power. When they don't do the work and get lower grades, they scream and yell. Parents side with the kids who pressure teachers to lower standards," says Joel Kaplan, another chemistry teacher at

T.C. Williams.

Every year, I have had parents come in to argue about the grades I have given in my AP English classes. To me, my grades are far too generous; to middle-class parents, they are often an affront to their sense of entitlement. If their kids do a modicum of work, many parents expect them to get at least a B. When I have given C's or D's to bright middle-class kids who have done poor or mediocre work, some parents have accused me of destroying their children's futures.

It is not only parents, however, who are siding with students in their attempts to get out of hard work.

Blame schools, too

"Schools play into it," says psychiatrist Lawrence Brain, who counsels affluent teenagers throughout the Washington metropolitan area. "I've been amazed to see how easy it is for kids in public schools to manipulate guidance counselors to get them out of classes they don't like. They have been sent a message that they don't have to struggle to achieve if things are not perfect."

Neither the high-stakes state exams, such as Virginia's Standards of Learning, nor the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act have succeeded in changing that message; both have turned into minimum-competency requirements aimed at the lowest in our school.

Colleges keep complaining that students are coming to them unprepared. Instead of raising admissions standards, however, they keep accepting mediocre students lest cuts have to be made in faculty and administration.

As a teacher, I don't object to the heightened standards required of educators in the No Child Left Behind law. Who among us would say we couldn't do a little better? Nonetheless, teachers have no control over student motivation and ambition, which have to come from the home — and from within each student.

Perhaps the best lesson I can pass along to my upper- and middle-class students is to merely point them in the direction of their foreign-born classmates, who can remind us all that education in America is still more a privilege than a right.

Patrick Welsh is an English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

Stupid in America - How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education

By John Stossel ABC News - Jan. 13, 2006

"Stupid in America" is a nasty title for a program about public education, but some nasty things are going on in America's public schools and it's about time we face up to it.

Kids at New York's Abraham Lincoln High School told me their teachers are so dull students fall asleep in class. One student said, "You see kids all the time walking in the school smoking weed, you know. It's a normal thing here."

We tried to bring "20/20" cameras into New York City schools to see for ourselves and show you what's going on in the schools, but officials wouldn't allow it.

Washington, D.C., officials steered us to the best classrooms in their district.

We wanted to tape typical classrooms but were turned down in state after state.

Finally, school officials in Washington, D.C., allowed "20/20" to give cameras to a few students who were handpicked at two schools they'd handpicked. One was Woodrow Wilson High. Newsweek says it's one of the best schools in America. Yet what the students taped didn't inspire confidence.

One teacher didn't have control over the kids. Another "20/20" student cameraman videotaped a boy dancing wildly with his shirt off, in front of his teacher.

If you're like most American parents, you might think "These things don't happen at my kid's school." A Gallup Poll survey showed 76 percent of Americans were completely or somewhat satisfied with their kids' public school.

Education reformers like Kevin Chavous have a message for these parents: If you only knew.

Even though people in the suburbs might think their schools are great, Chavous says, "They're not. That's the thing and the test scores show that."

Chavous and many other education professionals say Americans don't know that their public schools, on the whole, just aren't that good. Because without competition, parents don't know what their kids might have had.

And while many people say, "We need to spend more money on our schools," there actually isn't a link between spending and student achievement.

Jay Greene, author of "Education Myths," points out that "If money were the solution, the problem would already be solved We've doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30 years, and yet schools aren't better."

He's absolutely right. National graduation rates and achievement scores are flat, while spending on education has increased more than 100 percent since 1971. More money hasn't helped American kids.

Ben Chavis is a former public school principal who now runs an alternative charter school in Oakland, Calif., that spends thousands of dollars less per student than the surrounding public schools. He laughs at the public schools' complaints about money.

"That is the biggest lie in America. They waste money," he said.

To save money, Chavis asks the students to do things like keep the grounds picked up and set up for their own lunch. For gym class, his students often just run laps around the block. All of this means there's more money left over for teaching.

Even though he spends less money per student than the public schools do, Chavis pays his teachers more than what public school teachers earn. His school also thrives because the principal gets involved. Chavis shows up at every classroom and uses gimmicks like small cash payments for perfect attendance.

Since he took over four years ago, his school has gone from being among the worst in Oakland to being the best. His middle school has the highest test scores in the city.

"It's not about the money," he said.

He's confident that even kids who come from broken families and poor families will do well in his school.

"Give me the poor kids, and I will outperform the wealthy kids who live in the hills. And we do it," he said.

Monopoly Kills Innovation and Cheats Kids

Chavis's charter school is an example of how a little innovation can create a school that can change kids' lives. You don't get innovation without competition.

To give you an idea of how competitive American schools are and how U.S. students performed compared with their European counterparts, we gave parts of an international test to some high school students in Belgium and in New Jersey.

Belgian kids cleaned the American kids' clocks, and called them "stupid."

We didn't pick smart kids to test in Europe and dumb kids in the United States. The American students attend an above-average school in New Jersey, and New Jersey's kids have test scores that are above average for America.

Lov Patel, the boy who got the highest score among the American students, told me, "I'm shocked, because it just shows how advanced they are compared to us."

The Belgian students didn't perform better because they're smarter than American students. They performed better because their schools are better. At age 10, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age 15, when students from 40 countries are tested, the Americans place 25th.

American schools don't teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don't have much incentive to compete. In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids -- it's a kind of voucher

system. Government funds education -- at many different kinds of schools -- but if a school can't attract students, it goes out of business.

Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents.

She told us, "If we don't offer them what they want for their child, they won't come to our school." She constantly improves the teaching, saying, "You can't afford 10 teachers out of 160 that don't do their work, because the clients will know, and won't come to you again."

"That's normal in Western Europe," Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. "If schools don't perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S."

Last week Florida's Supreme Court shut down "opportunity scholarships," Florida's small attempt at competition. Public money can't be spent on private schools, said the court, because the state constitution commands the funding only of "uniform high-quality" schools. Government schools are neither uniform nor high-quality, and without competition, no new teaching plan or No Child Left Behind law will get the monopoly to serve its customers well.

The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from poorer countries that spend much less money on education, ranking behind not only Belgium but also Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

This should come as no surprise if you remember that public education in the United States is a government monopoly. Don't like your public school? Tough. The school is terrible? Tough. Your taxes fund that school regardless of whether it's good or bad. That's why government monopolies routinely fail their customers.

Union-dominated monopolies are even worse.

In New York City, it's "just about impossible" to fire a bad teacher, says Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The new union contract offers some relief, but it's still about 200 pages of bureaucracy. "We tolerate mediocrity," said Klein, because "people get paid the same, whether they're outstanding, average or way below average."

Here's just one example from New York City: It took years to fire a teacher who sent sexually oriented e-mails to "Cutie 101," a 16-year-old student. Klein said, "He hasn't taught, but we have had to pay him, because that's what's required under the contract."

Only after six years of litigation were they able to fire him. In the meantime, they paid the teacher more than $300,000. Klein said he employs dozens of teachers who he's afraid to let near the kids, so he has them sit in what are called rubber rooms. This year he will spend $20 million dollars to warehouse teachers in five rubber rooms. It's an alternative to firing them. In the last four years, only two teachers out of 80,000 were fired for incompetence. Klein's office says the new contract will make it easier to get rid of sex offenders, but it will still be difficult to fire incompetent teachers.

When I confronted Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, she said, "They [the NYC school board] just don't want to do the work that's entailed." But the "work that's entailed" is so onerous that most principals just have just given up, or gotten bad teachers to transfer to another school. They even have a name for it: "the dance of the lemons."

Zoned Out of a Good Education

I talked with 18-year-old Dorian Cain in South Carolina, who was still struggling to read a single sentence in a first-grade level book when I met him. Although his public schools had spent nearly $100,000 on him over 12 years, he still couldn't read.

So "20/20" sent Dorian to a private learning center, Sylvan, to see if teachers there could teach Dorian to read when the South Carolina public schools failed to. Using computers and workbooks, Dorian's reading went up two grade levels -- after just 72 hours of instruction.

His mother, Gena Cain, is thrilled with Dorian's progress but disappointed with his public schools. "With Sylvan, it's a huge improvement. And they're doing what they're supposed to do. They're on point. But I can't say the same for the public schools," she said.

Lying to Beat the System

Gena Cain, like most parents, doesn't have a choice which public school her kids attend. She followed the rules, and her son paid the price.

In San Jose, Calif., some parents break the rules to get their kids into Fremont Union schools. They're so much better than neighboring schools that parents sometimes cheat to get their kids in by pretending to live in the school district.

"We have maybe hundreds of kids who are here illegally, under false pretenses," said District Superintendent Steve Rowley.

Inspector John Lozano works for the district going door-to-door to check if kids really live where they say they live. And even seeing that a child is present at a particular address isn't enough. Lozano says he needs to look inside the house to make sure the student really lives there.

Think about what he's doing. The school district police send him into your daughter's bedroom. He even goes through drawers and closets if he has to. At one house he found a computer and some teen magazines and pictures of a student with her friends. He decided that student passed the residency test.

But a grandmother who listed an address in his district is caught. The people who answered the door when Lozano visited told him she didn't live there.

Two days later, I talked with the grandmother who tried to get her grandson into the Fremont schools.

"I was actually crying. I was crying in front of this 14-year-old. Why can't they just let parents to get in the school of their choice?" she asked.

Why can't she make a choice? It's sad that school officials force her to go to the black market to get her grandson a better education. After we started calling the school, the school did decide to let him stay in the district.

School-Choice Proponents Meet Resistance

When the Sanford family moved from Charleston to Columbia, S.C., the family had a big concern: Where would the kids go to school? In most places, you must attend the public school in the zone where you live, but the middle school near the Sanford's new home was rated below average.

It turned out, however, that this didn't pose a problem for this family, because the reason the Sanfords moved to Columbia was

that Mark Sanford had been elected governor. He and his wife were invited to send their kids to schools in better districts.

Sanford realized how unfair the system was. "If you can buy a $250,000 or $300,000 house, you're gonna get some great public education," Gov. Sanford said. Or if you have political connections.

The Sanfords decided it was unfair to take advantage of their position as "first family" and ended up sending their kids to private school. "It's too important to me to sacrifice their education. I get one shot at it. If I don't pay very close attention to how my boys get educated then I've lost an opportunity to make them the best they can be in this world," Jenny Sanford said.

The governor then proposed giving every parent in South Carolina that kind of choice, regardless of where they lived or

whether they made a lot of money. He said state tax credits should help parents pay for private schools. Then they would have

a choice.

"The public has to know that there's an alternative there. It's just like, do you get a Sprint phone or an AT&T phone," Chavous said.

He's right. When monopolies rule, there is little choice, and little gets done. In America the phone company was once a government-supported monopoly. All the phones were black, and all the calls expensive. With competition, things have changed -- for the better. We pay less for phone calls. If we're unhappy with our phone service, we switch companies.

Why can't kids benefit from similar competition in education?

"People expect and demand choice in every other area of their life," Sanford said.

The governor announced his plan last year and many parents cheered the idea, but school boards, teachers unions and

politicians objected. PTAs even sent kids home with a letter saying, "Contact your legislator.

How can we spend state money on something that hasn't been proven?"


lot of people say education tax credits and vouchers are a terrible idea, that they'll drain money from public schools and give


to private ones.

Last week's Florida court ruling against vouchers came after teacher Ruth Holmes Cameron and advocacy groups brought a suit to block the program.

"To say that competition is going to improve education? It's just not gonna work. You know competition is not for children. It's not for human beings. It's not for public education. It never has been, it never will be," Holmes said.

Why not? Would you keep going back to a restaurant that served you a bad meal? Or a barber that gave you a bad haircut? What if the government assigned you to "your" grocery store. The store wouldn't have to compete for your business, and it would soon sell spoiled milk or stock only high profit items. Real estate agencies would sell houses advertising "neighborhood with a good grocery store." That's insane, and yet that's what America does with public schools.

Chavous, who has worked to get more school choice in Washington, D.C., said, "Choice to me is the only way. I believe that

we can force the system from an external vantage point to change itself. It will never change itself from

is some competition infused in the equation, unless that occurs, then they know they have a captive monopoly that they can

continue to dominate."

Unless there

Competition inspires people to do what we didn't think we could do. If people got to choose their kids' school, education options would be endless. There could soon be technology schools, science schools, virtual schools where you learn at home on your computer, sports schools, music schools, schools that go all year, schools with uniforms, schools that open early and keep kids later, and, who knows what else. If there were competition, all kinds of new ideas would bloom.