Dismantle the teacher accreditation cartel


Twenty years ago, when I was hiring teachers for the private K-12 school I founded, I knew better than to recruit certified teachers. Why?

Because from my previous work as a college history professor, I knew that the people least prepared to teach a subject were education majors. Requiring an embarrassingly low minimum of credit hours to be certified to teach a subject, education majors encounter the least substance and rigor, but the maximum of racialist theory and left-wing ideology in their program.


If my new school was going to succeed in teaching at the highest levels, then I would have to find subject-matter experts with a heart for teaching. That’s what we did, because of the humiliating, yet expensive, reality of teacher licensure. Put simply, it’s a cabal.

But don’t just take my word for it; the evidence is unequivocal: Traditional public schools have an abysmal education record. Not only are scores as low as ever on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but internationally, our math scores remain poor and uncompetitive. Much of the blame lies with teacher education programs and state certification mandates that bolster education schools’ enrollment and subject teachers to radical activist ideology.

Education schools are besieged by Critical Race Theory and identity politics, stereotyping everyone as part of oppressor groups or oppressed groups. They insist on the most fashionable gender ideology. They prefer ethnic studies and historical studies that denigrate America or anything patriotic.

States tolerate this situation and welcome teachers trained with such “liberationist” pedagogy into the classroom. The vast majority of teachers are educated and certified through university-based colleges of education. This ought to stop.

States should end requirements for prospective teachers to be certified, and instead empower schools to hire based on subject-matter expertise. At the same time, on the national level, we can take the Trump administration’s reform of college accreditation as a model.

In higher education, accreditation is a de facto federal system of regulating the quality of colleges. It has a poor track record of quality assurance, a problem exacerbated by a cartel of so-called regional accreditors that split the country into regions and conspired not to encroach on each other’s territory. There was no competition, so accreditors began abusing their power, which included requiring leftist ideology in their standards.

The Trump administration changed all that. Suddenly, any college could choose any accreditor, and states began introducing market competition into accreditation.

The next administration could follow this model for teacher certification.

Like the accreditors, teachers unions have also operated like a cartel. Congress should rescind the federal charter of the National Education Association, no longer putting the federal imprimatur of support on the special interest group.

The National Education Association charter should be reviewed and revoked. This organization has deeply damaged America. In its place, Congress could shift that charter to one of the many private, parent-focused groups fighting to right the ship in K-12 education.

Meanwhile, in states that lack the political support to eliminate teacher certification altogether, states should recognize or charter additional private organizations to certify which teachers are ready to teach.

Introducing market competition in the validation of teachers will have untold benefits. Furthermore, private entities cannot be taken over or dissolved by future governments.

American teachers are almost as vital as parents in educating the next generation. Let’s stop facilitating anti-American activism and instead ensure we recognize those teachers who are best for America.

Kevin Roberts is president of The Heritage Foundation.