Waiting for “Superman”

The movie Waiting for “Superman” is this year’s An Inconvenient Truth. Produced by the same man, it lets Americans come face-to-face with students condemned to a terrible public education unless they are lucky enough to literally win a charter school seat in a public lottery.

On its own, the movie will create devastatingly negative publicity for failing public schools. However, it is accompanied by the recent announcement that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will donate $100 million to help improve the notoriously bad Newark, New Jersey public school system. Zuckerberg says he’s giving the money because he believes in Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

This Democrat-Republican pair are not afraid to take on the once all-powerful teachers unions. They support school choice and merit pay for teachers.

Newark schools cost an astonishing $22,000 per student. Eight years ago, Cory Booker came to Portland at the invitation of Cascade Policy Institute. He said Newark schools then cost $17,000 per student. He asked if Portlanders would wait until our costs were that high before we realized money isn’t the answer to improving schools.

Zuckerberg may not be the Superman that public school students are waiting for. His money won’t make the difference by itself. But, coupled with the ideas of Cory Booker and Chris Christie, Newark may be the straw that finally breaks the teachers union camel’s back. It can’t come too soon.


Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and Founder at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 4 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Ron Marquez

    …..”Newark may be the straw that finally breaks the teachers union camel’s back. It can’t come too soon.”…..

    Amen to that. Oregon needs a pair like that but it’s likely to be a long wait, especially on the mayor side.

  • Veritas

    Our schools are not as bad as Newark and do not need rescuing in the same way.

  • Beaverton Working Guy

    Oregonians have been given the opportunity to enact several reforms to our public education system and have turned them all down. Well, not exactly “Oregonians” as much as Multnomah County voters. Portland area apparently deserve the mess our schools in, because they are the ones who protect the teachers unions from the collective wisdom of voters outside Multnomah County.

    The power of the teachers unions would have been mitigated long ago, except for Multnomah County voters. Performance based pay for teachers would have been enacted, at least in many parts of the state, were it not for Multnomah County voters and the slavish Democrat legislators they consistently send to Salem to do the teachers unions’ bidding.

    Okay, we get it. Democrats think unions are good. No matter how the mountain of damning evidence grows, evidence of the harm teachers unions inflict on public education and our kids, Multnomah County voters continue to protect them.

    The answer to the question above seems obvious. Portland voters could indeed see spending per student rise to $20,000 and yet still buy into the union argument that they need more money and fatter pensions to make the system succeed. They really are that hopeless and unfortunately they are dragging the rest of the state down with them.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    So we have a school system that is failing, $22k per student and Zuckerberg is going to throw $100M at the problem.

    Well, its real nice of Zuckerberg but I think we can safely rule him out as “the Superman”. Once you are spending $22k in a place like Newark you can safely rule out not enough money as the source of the problem.

    You could put the kid on the PATH train and twenty minutes later they would be in Manhattan and could go to private school there for that kind of money.

    This is absurd. We pay more per student for public schools than every industrialized country but one (Switzerland last time I checked). We pay more now in constant dollars than we ever did and our schools are falling more and more by comparison to other countries.

    At some point we need to stop, stand back and realize money isn’t going to solve this and in fact might be the problem.

    Zuckerberg should have taken his money and given it directly to the students in the form of scholarship to any school they chose.

    If all chose to send their kids to where Obamas kids go, Zuckerberg could have sent 3,300 kids to Friends for a year or close to three hundred for 12 years.

    Instead the money will go down the same damn rat hole – fat pensions for teachers and a bloated administrative staff – the jobs program for the marginally competent that our schools have become.

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