Considering everything that has happened to me over the past three months- losing my teaching job and being smeared in a public hearing by public school administrators, I would guess no one would blame me if I happened to be bitter toward public schools.
I am not. I am as big an advocate of public schools as I have ever been. Public schools are not perfect and they have many flaws, but when I look at the so-called “reforms” that have been proposed by people like Michelle Rhee and her misnamed StudentsFirst organization and in my home state of Missouri- retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield and his bought-and-paid-for think tank, the Show-Me Institute, it is obvious that the preservation of public schools in some recognizable form is vital.
We cannot let the public schools and their hard-working teachers who report to classrooms that are open to everyone, unlike their private school counterparts, be destroyed by those who claim to be reforming them.
Nothing makes me angrier when the proponents of “reform” twist facts beyond recognition to make a point. That happened Monday when a writer for Rex Sinquefield’s Show-Me Institute, James Shuls, tried to make the case for school choice by using my situation.
He began his blog post, titled "Monopsony: Why Teachers Should Support School Choice" on Show Me Daily in this fashion:
On April 9, former journalist-turned-middle school teacher Randy Turner published a blog titled “A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher.” Shortly after, Turner was removed from the classroom and placed on leave. It was initially believed that he was being persecuted for his criticism of the Joplin School District and his political musings (it later come out that there were more serious accusations and he would subsequently lose his job).Perhaps Sills thought he could draw more attention to his post by using me as an example since I have written quite often over the past several years in defense of public schools and just as often against the destructive ideas that Sinquefield, Michelle Rhee, and others have proposed as they turn a system that was working, except in places where there has been extreme poverty or horrendous mismanagement, into a system that does nothing except teach to the test.
Early on, I penned an op-ed. Not in defense of Turner, for I didn’t know the details of his case, but in support of school choice. How, you may ask, does Turner’s story mesh with the topic of school choice?
The Joplin School District has the corner on teaching jobs in Joplin. In economic speak, this is called a Monopsony. Whereas a monopoly means having a single provider of goods or services, a monopsony means having a single buyer of goods or services. Buyers or employers with a monopsony control the market and are able to dictate terms to the supplier — in this case, the teacher. In most cities, public school districts have a monopsony on the teaching jobs.
You see, in a school choice system, it is not just students who have options; teachers have greater options as well.
Public schools are worth preserving- the idea that everyone who walks through the doors of a public school has the opportunity to receive an education, is a peculiarly American idea and one that has long been resented by those with more than ample bank accounts who cannot stand spending their money on people who are less fortunate.
The First Amendment provides Sills, Sinquefield, Ms. Rhee and other opponents with the right to express their views and have them considered in the marketplace of ideas. The billionaires and special interest have the means to make sure those ideas receive far more consideration than they are worth.
All I ask is that you leave me out of any argument against public education. Public education is not perfect and needs improvement in many areas, but it is a system that has served this country well.
The way to destroy that system is by tearing down the teachers who have served as its backbone.
Do not use my situation to push that agenda.
On a separate note, for those who have asked what I will be doing, I announced a new project, working with other veteran journalists, that will begin next month. I will have an Inside Joplin website, plus Inside Missouri Politics, and Inside Missouri Education. These sites will provide not only news, but commentary. The Inside Missouri Education site will feature profiles of teachers and programs that are succeeding, as well as examining education legislation, and offering a voice to people on all sides of educational issues. I have a more detailed explanation of the project at this link and will be adding more in the coming days. Thanks to all of you who have asked. I truly appreciate your concern.