A Virginia teachers’ union leader argued that competition between public schools and private educational options is bad for students during a recent interview.
David Walrod, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, a local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which is shepherded by Randi Weingarten, told John Stossel that the public school system should monopolize K-12 education in the United States.
“The best outcome for all students is going to be for the public school system to be as strong as possible,” he said while arguing against making charter schools and other private schools viable options for children through voucher programs.
Fairfax County Public Schools spends, on average, $300,000 per classroom, most of which “disappears into the bureaucracy,” according to Stossel.
Stossel submitted that school choice would allow families to escape failing public schools and find a better education for their kids. “Why not trust the parents to decide what’s best for their kids,” he asked Walrod.
“What you’re doing is you’re incentivizing a lack of collaboration,” replied the teacher. “If I’m competing directly against you, then I have a vested interest in doing better than you.”
“But isn’t that good?” asked Stossel.
“Not in education,” answered Walrod.
Public school systems have come under intense scrutiny in recent years for their delayed transitions back to in-person learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. While many private and parochial schools worked feverishly to return to normalcy in the classroom, many public schools, including FCPS, showed no such urgency.
“There are definitely valid arguments to say that some districts played it too cautious, but we were dealing with an ongoing health crisis,” Walrod said.
Stossel noted that 5,000 students left FCPS during the pandemic, many of whom likely suffered learning loss in critical subjects, to be homeschooled or for private school.
“Doesn’t that suggest that Fairfax Schools didn’t do a good job?” he asked.
“No,” Walrod said. “They were just trying to follow CDC guidelines.”