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Though I agree that public schools are an important foundation of our system, I think that Senator Tester fails to realize that his perspective has been shaped by his experience as a teacher in Montana public schools which are vastly different from schools attended by children in the inner cities, especially African-American and Hispanic children. Most inner city schools have higher than average funding (e.g. the public schools in the District of Columbia spend per capita among the highest in the Country, but with one of the worst results), but many ask why it is that so many inner city schools aren’t working. The answer is complicated, but the fact is that teachers’ unions in inner school systems have been resistant to almost any change, with administrators being unable to fire incompetent teachers because union contracts make it prohibitively expensive for a school system to go through all the hoops needed to make a change. Administrators are also hamstrung by many rules that the unions have instituted designed to protect their members, but which make it more difficult for schools to be reorganized or changed. As a result, many frustrated, desperate inner city parents favor charter schools and school choice because they are not subject to all those union rules and, as a result, achieve better results. Of course, some argue that because some charter schools fail, they are not a good idea, completely ignoring the fact that most public schools in the inner cities are failing too, and research which shows that, overall, charter schools improve the academic performance of those who have left the public schools. Unfortunately, Democrats receive lots of donations from teachers’ unions and, as a result, are unwilling to do anything which might go against the wishes of those unions — even if it hurts kids. We need innovative ideas in inner city schools and, though Ms. DeVos’ ideas may not work in Montana, and aren’t going to be imposed here, they are needed elsewhere. If Senator Tester cares about inner city children and educational innovation, he will be open to Ms. DeVos and her ideas and not favor a status quo Secretary of Education.

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