This week kicks off American Education Week. The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, was one of the prime movers behind this commemoration, first held back in 1921.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel explains the numbers behind what he thinks make “a great reason to celebrate American education.”  Higher graduation rates? Improved student proficiency rates in reading and math? Maybe anything whatsoever to do with students?


The numbers Van Roekel thinks matter most—those he believes warrant a nationwide “celebration” of American education—are 3 million and nearly 3 million–the number of public school teachers and almost as many school support staff. Van Roekel, a former math teacher, explains:

In fact, education support professionals make up 43 percent of the school workforce nationwide. All of those numbers add up to just one thing: a great reason to celebrate American Education Week.

Given the teachers unions’ dwindling membership figures, it seems American Education Week is a more of pep rally for the few remaining faithful. And just last week teachers in three California school districted voted to oust the NEA-affiliated California Teachers Association (CTA), in part because of the costly $1,000 (or more) annual membership dues.

But here are some figures that we should really keep in mind.

Reading, math, and science scores for American 17-year-olds have remained essentially flat since 1970, but over the same period the cost of K-12 schooling for those students has increased 200 percent in real terms, from $55,000 to $165,000 each, according to analyses by the  Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson (see here).

Close to half of all American families today (45 percent), more than 35 million, have school-age children. Those moms and dads, not the 3 million NEA members, should be deciding what education—public, private, virtual, or home schooling—is best for their children.