Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Teacher Bailouts

George Will had a great editorial yesterday.
It's about a $23 Billion dollar bailout to the teachers unions.
This is on top of the $100 Billion given to education 16 months ago.
Of course if we don't save all those jobs ... it'll be catastrophic!
and the kids won't be "edumacated".

Will says this...
This week, when Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, many Democrats, having gone an eternity - more than a week - without spending billions of their constituents' money, will try to make up for lost time by sending another $23 billion to states to prevent teachers from being laid off. The alternative to this "desperately" needed bailout, says Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is "catastrophe."

Amazing. Just 16 months ago, in the stimulus legislation, Congress shoveled about $100 billion to education, including $48 billion in direct aid to states. According to a University of Washington study, this saved more than 342,000 teaching and school staff positions - about 5.5 percent of all the positions in America's 15,000 school systems.

The federal component of education spending on grades K through 12, the quintessential state and local responsibility, has doubled since 2000, to 15 percent. Now the supposed emergency, and states' dependency, may be becoming routine and perpetual.

Duncan says that without the $23 billion, 100,000 to 300,000 public school teachers and staff will lose their jobs. But Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute says 300,000 would mean a cut of just 4.8 percent of the teachers and staff nationwide; 100,000 would mean cuts of 1.6 percent.

... read "The Phony Funding Crisis" in the journal Education Next by James W. Guthrie, a professor at Southern Methodist University, and Arthur Peng, a research associate. They say:

"For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year." Indeed, public schools have been so insulated from economic downturns that "there have been 11 periods during which GDP declined but mean total real per-pupil revenues still increased."

Primary and secondary education is given privileged status in most state constitutions, some of which declare it the "paramount duty" of the legislature. Between 2001 and 2007, in 12 states the number of teachers rose while the number of students fell. In another six states, teachers were hired much faster than enrollment increased: In Virginia, enrollment grew 5 percent, the number of teachers grew 21 percent. In Florida, the numbers were 6 percent and 20 percent; in North Carolina, 9 percent and 22 percent.

In New York state between 2000 and 2009, public schools added 15,000 teachers while enrollment was declining by 121,000 pupils. By 2008, New York's pupil-teacher ratio (13:1) was eighth lowest among the states, and its per-pupil spending ($16,000) was the nation's highest.

While the private sector has shed 8.5 million jobs - 7.4 percent of workers - during the recession, local governments have lost only 141,000, less than 1 percent. Duncan says the $23 billion is for an "emergency." But, then, what isn't an emergency nowadays? The Senate just passed a $60 billion "emergency" supplemental appropriation for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are "emergencies" as Washington understands that term: They are regularly recurring surprises. Watch for an attempt to attach the $23 billion for teachers to the war-funding bill.

We are witnessing a familiar government dance, the Prosperity-to-Hysteria Two-Step: When revenues grow, governments put in place permanent spending streams; when revenues fall, governments exclaim that any retrenchment, even back to spending levels of a few years ago, is a "catastrophe."
The bigger question is this: When education budgets cease to obtain "emergency" and bailout type funding, then how will these unsustainable budgets be supported? Sure, we need to educate our students, but just as the unions have crippled the private sector and sent jobs overseas, we are also seeing teachers union demands crippling state and local municipalities as their ability to pay becomes diminished. The taxpayers are fast becoming quite broke. Something has got to give.

But for now it looks like Congress is prepared to spend even more money that we do not have in order to "save" education jobs that in some cases should be eliminated, or at least scrutinized for streamlining. Just like in the private sector, there IS room for cost reductions, and there are cost redundancies and inefficiencies. Study after study show that more money thrown at education does not necessarily improve learning or scores.

The "perpetual bailout" strategy is not realistic and certainly not a sustainable or sane way to fund education.


Jan said...

You don't seem to be giving teachers much credit for the wonderful work they do. My town's schools are great because of the committed, hard-working, highly-skilled teachers who educate our kids. People (and not just parents!) gladly pay the necessary taxes for a fine school system.

And, of course, it's not just the families with kids that benefit from great schools. For example, many of the talented people working in the town are products of our schools, and they provide great service to residents of all ages.

When times are tough, we all have to gather around the kitchen table and see where we can save money. In my family, and in our town, sitting at that table, we spare the children.

Thank you.

Judy Aron said...

Jan - I said NOTHING about teachers. I didn't say they were bad - I didn't say they were good. I didn't say they were worthy or unworthy. So what on earth are you talking about?

Taxes do not have to be high, or continually increases, so that we have decent education. We do not have to bankrupt our communities to support good education. You seem to equate more money with what you call "necessary" taxes. I disagree.

The fact is that teachers unions have made fiscal demands that are unsustainable across this country.

Yes, when times are tough we sit around the proverbial kitchen table to see where we can save money - however the teachers unions have been wholly unresponsive in that discussion and I will definitively say they don't give a rat's tail about "the children".

Jan said...


You wrote: "We are also seeing teachers union demands crippling state and local municipalities as their ability to pay becomes diminished."

But now you write: "I said NOTHING about teachers."

Logical disconnect alert: Obviously, the teachers unions you deride are composed of teachers. LIke our teachers. (In our schools, our great teachers teach our kids not to fall back on cleverly deceptive word games like that.) You trash the teachers I respect. For shame.

But beyond that juvenile silliness,

I am not aware of a single community in America that has been, in your words, "Bankrupted to support education." As you well know, that's a sky-is-falling red herring. (And a sorry cliche at that).

Now, if you don't believe in public education, and you don't believe in unions, and you don't believe in taxes, and you don't believe in government (all things that one can easily gather from skimming your blog), then just come out and say so.

Don't dress those far-right views up as some sort of "fiscal common sense" and then try to use them to hurt our children and their schools.

It is abhorrent.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Aron,

You said "nothing" about teachers?

Goodness, you titled your post, "Teacher Bailouts"!

Please your blog before commenting on it.

Judy Aron said...

Oh it looks like the trolls are out in full force.

Oh shame shame shame on me for suggesting that teachers unions are problematic for communities.

Jan, you are not "aware" of s single community being bankrupted by teacher unions? Do you not read the paper? Communities from Cleveland to Sacramento are being bankrupted. The whole reason for bailouts is because communities can't afford what unions demand!

Your response is the typical response from the Socialist Tax Me More Crowd, complete with the pejoratives regarding my opinions. Don't dress up you far Left Progressive views by saying it's "for the children". That is total BS. The money goes straight into salaries and pensions and health care while kids can't get decent books and supplies or heaven forbid a meaningful field trip and if they are lucky "Art on a Cart". Tell me how a multi-million dollar school budget exists and still kids go without adequate supplies? But the teachers sure get what they need, plus step increases, while kids are taught time wasting group think twaddle.

I believe in education.
The unions are not delivering an adequate one - and statistics prove it.
I believe in government that is small and least intrusive and certainly one that doesn't take a good chunk out of my wages.
I don't believe that unions have helped create a better product in education, in fact it has helped to undermine innovation and creativity and competition.
You don't like my opinion - tough. There are plenty of facts to back it up.

What is abhorrent is the Leftist garbage that YOU serve up to support a system that is wholly broken and a major disservice to the youth of this country who have been dumbed down and are ill equipped to compete in a global economy. We are being outpaced by other countries in all categories and believe me it isn't because we don't throw enough money at it.

Juvenile silliness? I'd say you are blind and refuse to recognize the real problems of our broken education system.

What is the real tragedy is that we have kids graduating from high school who can barely make change behind a store counter, who can barely spell or speak properly and who need remedial courses when they get to college!

Yeah - go ahead and be a cheer leader for the unions and defend your fine teachers (and I admit there actually are some) but on the whole, the youth of America and the future of this country are the ones who lose in the deal.