Vicki Alger

Let Schools Control Salaries

Posted on February 13, 2003 | Type: Op-Ed | Author: Vicki Alger
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A father once wrote that formal schooling is futile when parents don't provide the right education during their children's earliest years.

That father was Aristotle and the work, dedicated to his son, the Nicomachean Ethics. Yet in its Monday editorial "Wanted: Teachers," The Republic makes this parent-teacher a mouthpiece for state planning.

Unfortunately, The Republic's translation of modern data is no better than its ancient Greek when it uses the Morrison Institute paper "Is there a Teacher Shortage?" to justify centralized regulation of teachers.

Not an actual crisis, but an "ominous cloud," The Republic's editors say. What's really cloudy is the insistence that 20th-century state planning can advance 21st-century teaching.

"Wanted: Teachers" ignores the primary factor affecting teacher supply: the education marketplace. In the private sector, labor markets can adjust to demand over the long term. In Arizona, however, the state caps teacher salaries.

Allowing individual schools to adjust teacher salaries is a first step toward getting teachers where they're needed.

Or we can follow the example of ancient Athens: regulate teacher supply to death - literally in the case of the city's greatest teacher, Socrates - and drive the rest of the state's most promising teachers as far away as possible.

--Vicki E.J. Murray

Phoenix

The writer is education policy analyst at the Goldwater Institute.

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