A new study from the Friedman Foundation, “Free to Teach: What America’s Teachers Say About Teaching in Public and Private Schools,” conducted by Dr. Greg Forster and Christian D’Andrea, has found that “public school teachers are currently working in a school system that doesn’t provide the best environment for teaching. Teachers are victims of dysfunctional government schools right alongside their students.”
Ironically, those who claim to speak for the teachers, the unions and policymakers, oppose nearly every reform to improve education — for students and teachers alike. So long as public teachers remain miserable, the union has power.
Using the survey data on teachers conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, Forster and D’Andrea find:
- Private school teachers are much more likely to say they will continue teaching as long as they are able (62 percent v. 44 percent), while public school teachers are much more likely to say they’ll leave teaching as soon as they are eligible for retirement (33 percent v. 12 percent) and that they would immediately leave teaching if a higher paying job were available (20 percent v. 12 percent).
- Private school teachers are much more likely to have a great deal of control over selection of textbooks and instructional materials (53 percent v. 32 percent) and content, topics, and skills to be taught (60 percent v. 36 percent).
- Private school teachers are much more likely to have a great deal of influence on performance standards for students (40 percent v. 18 percent), curriculum (47 percent v. 22 percent), and discipline policy (25 percent v. 13 percent).
- Public school teachers are much more likely to report that student misbehavior (37 percent v. 21 percent) or tardiness and class cutting (33 percent v. 17 percent) disrupt their classes, and are four times more likely to say student violence is a problem on at least a monthly basis (48 percent v. 12 percent).
- Private school teachers are much more likely to strongly agree that they have all the textbooks and supplies they need (67 percent v. 41 percent).
- Private school teachers are more likely to agree that they get all the support they need to teach special needs students (72 percent v. 64 percent).
- Seven out of ten private school teachers report that student racial tension never happens at their schools, compared to fewer than half of public school teachers (72 percent v. 43 percent).
- Although salaries are higher in public schools, private school teachers are more likely to be satisfied with their salaries (51 percent v. 46 percent).
- Measurements of teacher workload (class sizes, hours worked, and hours teaching) are similar in public and private schools.
- Private school teachers are more likely to teach in urban environments (39 percent v. 29 percent) while public school teachers are more likely to teach in rural environments (22 percent versus 11 percent).
- Public school teachers are twice as likely as private school teachers to agree that the stress and disappointments they experience at their schools are so great that teaching there isn’t really worth it (13 percent v. 6 percent).
- Public school teachers are almost twice as likely to agree that they sometimes feel it is a waste of time to try to do their best as a teacher (17 percent v. 9 percent).
- Nearly one in five public school teachers has been physically threatened by a student, compared to only one in twenty private school teachers (18 percent v. 5 percent). Nearly one in ten public school teachers has been physically attacked by a student, three times the rate in private schools (9 percent v. 3 percent).
- One in eight public school teachers reports that physical conflicts among students occur everyday; only one in 50 private school teachers says the same (12 percent v. 2 percent).