The Cartel, a searing education documentary, opens nationwide on Wednesday. The film, by director Bob Bowden, exposes where our multiplying education tax dollars are going. Spoiler alert: In too many instances, they aren’t going toward teaching children.
Bowden focuses on New Jersey, a state that spends over $17,000 per student annually. A few simple calculations show the real picture: Instead of being chronically under-funded, as union advocates claim, each classroom in the state costs the taxpayer between $300,000 and almost $450,000 annually. But the reality is that charter schools, such as the Robert Treat Academy in Newark, are far outperforming district schools on state tests—and doing it for 60 cents on the dollar.
So where does all that money go? According to The Cartel, the remainder of the money goes to “administration,” a term that covers everything from custodians who make six-figure salaries to no-show teachers aides to salaries for fictitious “teacher leaders.” The film shows education unions as being more concerned about “lining their pockets” than about a quality education for every child. One particularly frustrating segment features New Jersey teacher union head Joyce Powell asserting that 99.97 percent of teachers are doing a great job because only 0.03 percent of tenured teachers are removed from the classroom.
The film’s message? Until we bring reform and accountability to the public school system, despite the objections of the unions, too much of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars will go down a rabbit hole of self-interest and corruption, not toward helping struggling students.
Inez Feltscher is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm