Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
46

$10 Billion in Schools Stimulus To Create… Zero Jobs

LET'S ROLLJust like financial service companies, manufacturers, law firms, media companies and nearly every other industry in these here United States, even our fine public schools refuse to create jobs in the recession, despite the $10 billion in stimulus money. Hey, at least we're getting a smaller government: "State and local governments have let go 102,000 more employees than they have added in the last three months."

The recovery! It's just five million new jobs away!

46 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

Sorry, teachers. And sorry, kids. We're not in the Too Big To Fail business anymore.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

Considering the inflexibility of Teacher's Unions, the ridiculous tenured positions that exist for gym teachers and the bloated pensions that teachers receive, in the long run hiring fewer teachers can only improve our fiscal position.

Jim Demintia (#1,815)

Right. But in the long run, we are all dead. In the meantime, I'd say teachers aren't really drawing down the kind of bloated pay that would make me want to keep them out of work, unlike, say, 90 percent of the employees in our financial sector.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I mean, come on now. If we're going to start in cutting pay, can we at least go where the real dollars are first?

Oh. But the wealthy are seldom in unions, so that would require the government take the money.

Never mind. Let's jack the teachers and the construction workers and those nose-pickers on the highway holding the "Slow" signs. Who the hell slows down, anyhow? Lazy buttholes.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

I agree. The overt targeting of public sector employees by the Right is ridiculous, but at the same time, teaching jobs are not the answer to our woes and without appropriate reforms more teachers simply facilitates our public sector balance sheet collapse.

Any enterprising NYC cop can retire by 40 at full pension meanwhile our infrastructure falls apart and we can't keep libraries open. I don't have a pension and I do not understand why I should have to pay taxes so that a New Jersey gym teacher can retire at 55 at $100,000 a year when most private sector employees make 1/3 of that amount when they are working. Do the math. It is simply not sustainable.

KarenUhOh (#19)

There is a hell of a load of stuff in this economy that hasn't been sustainable for decades. What's happening now is a featherbed compared to the hard landing to come.

Unless, of course, people start paying to look at sites of the Internet, in which case all is saved.

La Cieca (#1,110)

I don't have a pension

Yeah, smart move you made not joining that union, right?

deepomega (#1,720)

@La Cieca: I guess if your point is that everyone in the world should have a pension forever, then ok? But given that there are limited resources with which to pay public sector employees, maybe we can talk about the most effective ways to allocate them. And maybe unions existing solely as a sort of anti-corporation (which is to say, seeking only to maximize pay scales rather than maximize profits) is just as short-sighted as the corps they're supposed to be opposing.

Bittersweet (#765)

My teacher husband, who makes less than half my salary and works more hours than I do, laughed when I mentioned "bloated pensions."

He does think his union is inflexible and a fairly big waste of space, though.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Bittersweet: Part of the problem is that the union forces wage gaps that are utterly unrelated to teaching skill. It's just a matter of not quitting for long enough. Acting like teachers drive around in cadillacs is bullshit – but so is acting like all teachers deserve more money forever.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@deepomega: Ah teh youngs. If this "we" talking about the most effective ways to allocate public resource is an educated public, uncommandeered by financial experts ahem, then sure.

La Cieca (#1,110)

The problem here is that what retirees are being paid in pensions right now is not current income; it's deferred income from previous service. They're receiving pension funds now because they and the employers negotiated in good faith at some time in the past and came to an agreement that the workers in fields that are dangerous (police) or undesirable (teaching) would be paid less (or receive fewer benefits, or work longer hours or whatever) back then in exchange for receiving more installments of their compensation later.

The retired policeman and even the dreaded retired gym teacher are not getting paid for doing nothing. This has nothing to do with allocation of currently limited resources except as it applies to future negotiations, unless you want to set the precedent that employers can contract employees, agree to a rate of compensation, receive the benefits of the worker's labor, and then decide not to pay them.

The argument is typical "them vs. us" right-wing class and culture warfare, a variation on Reagan's welfare queens in Cadillacs. The answer to the problem is to work toward a solution where all Americans are assured of fair compensation during their working years and security during retirement, not to demonize and penalize union workers who had the sense and good fortune to defer some of their compensation to a time when (unfortunately for the employers) money is tight.

deepomega (#1,720)

@LaCieca: Sure. And I'm the last person to suggest that teachers/anyone should not receive the pensions they were promised. But I think that acting as though any cuts to pay/benefits/number of employees in teaching are a universal bad, or that taking higher and higher pensions is a universal good, is short-sighted. In the same way that pushing for endless quarterly profits is short-sighted.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@LaCieca: Not to throw a wrench, but I was under the impression that most public service pensions have not converted from negotiated/defined benefit to the deferred income/defined contribution model.

I hope they haven't, actually.

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

It's not really about paying people more or less. It's about investing the actual amount of money required to educate all comers in perpetuity. This absolutely requires hiring more teachers. Past promises need to be kept, but future investment needs to match the task at hand. Teaching is an incredibly desirable job (independent of salary) when the working conditions are right.

La Cieca (#1,110)

That's a "moving forward" question, and it is to be hoped that unions and management can work together in the future in a more cooperative way, instead of the adversary model currently in place. But part of that "moving forward" will require an effort to understand the reason for the adversary relationship, which is that historically management and labor have diametrically opposing interests.

And the reason gym teachers have fat pensions is that a decade or two ago local elected school boards were informed that what their constituents really want from the educational system is state finalists in football and basketball, and the only way to assure this success was to dangle sinecures before talented coaches.

La Cieca (#1,110)

I may be in over my head here, but even a negotiated/defined benefit is in a broad sense deferred compensation, isn't it?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

> in a broad sense

I guess if we're talking about IRS treatment blah blah I too am going to plead 'speak to your tax counsel/advisor'?

For purposes of policy discussion, it's probably enough to say that if we're talking about funded vs unfunded obligations, we're talking mainly about defined benefit plans, which are all on the employer, and which finance/investment people would really rather we forget about.

This is the kind, for anybody else still reading, where you receive a pension equal to a percentage of your final salary, where the percentage is calculated according to the number of years you served the employer.

iantenna (#5,160)

i don't know about this alleged garden state gym teacher but my wife, who works in the oakland unified school district (an admittedly fucked up district) will cap out at way less than that. meanwhile the administration chooses to literally break the law that states x percentage of payroll needs to go to teachers and y percentage to administrators, erring of course on the side of the administators, and getting away with it by simply paying a fine. they also continue to dump millions into private consultants for staff development and blah, blah, blah, while teachers work in illegal conditions and have to fucking buy their students stuff like paper and pencils because the budget doesn't exist for such things.

i obviously am heavily biased on this issue, and statements like the one lockheed made are exactly the kind that send me into a blurred rage, which is not really the best condition to formulate an argument in. but i have a really hard time understanding why it's always the unions (which are flawed, obvs) that get the biggest public backlash when it seems so absolutely clear to me that bloated bureaucratic administrations are the root of our public education problems.

deepomega (#1,720)

@iantenna: Speaking for myself, it's because the unions are the ones that block alternative organizational systems. I'm specifically thinking of the ragingly successful DC charter schools, which were loved by everyone on both sides of the aisle (dems for being a boon to poor black kids, repubs for moving away from purely publicly run education) and were nonetheless killed by teachers unions. Basically, the bureaucracy can legally be torn up. It's possible to fire an administrator. It's not really possible to fire a teacher (short of them actively hooking up with students) and that rankles. But for what it's worth, obviously the bureaucracy sucks too! It all sucks.

La Cieca (#1,110)

And then you'll reach the promised land in which one frivolous or malicious complaint from a disgruntled parent will be enough to get a teacher fired. But I guess that doesn't suck, right?

deepomega (#1,720)

@Cieca: Put your false dichotomy away. Unless you honestly think that there's no such thing as a teacher that should be fired. (Let alone a teacher that should be paid less than another teacher with equal experience)

The "Teachers make way too much money and unions and pensions!" argument is so poorly constructed it makes my eyes bleed. My mother holds a Master's degree and has been teaching since the early 70s, and she'll never see six figures. Her district is in serious financial trouble due to total mismanagement by their School Board, but she's constantly hearing the "Kindergarten teachers shouldn't make $80k!" rant from district residents. Even if ONE kindergarten teacher somewhere in her district makes that much (doubt it), who should make $80k? A third grade teacher? An eighth grade teacher? Where line in the sand that determines when a child's education starts to matter?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

It doesn't all suck. There are good teachers, there are good administrators, there are good schools, there are good districts. And not all of them are in high income districts or university towns. Just most of them.

Do we want a social contract or not.

Btw, my mom's not a kindergarten teacher, but from what she's told they've all spent their summers trying to avoid being crucified for making more than minimum wage.
Also, sorry 'bout the rant. Sore subject.

La Cieca (#1,110)

The mirror image of "I don't have _______, so why should they have ____________" is "I have ________, so I couldn't give a shit whether anyone else has ______." (So let's ask Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly what they think.)

La Cieca (#1,110)

I should buy into your false dichotomy instead?

deepomega (#1,720)

@Cieca Well, seeing as how you responded to my suggesting that we should make it easier to fire some teachers by saying this would lead to a land where teachers would be fired for no reason whatsoever, I think the onus is on you to defend your premise.

deepomega (#1,720)

@MyBike: Clearly true. My own problem is that I think pay should be determined by merit, not years on the job. Especially in what I call a "creative field" – one where skill varies tremendously between employees.

iantenna (#5,160)

@deep: the charter school discussion is a whole 'nother can of worms, and i'll admit to knowing little to nothing about their history in DC. but i personally think that all school teachers should have the right to collectively bargain. yes, there are bad teachers that deserve to be fired, and yes, one of the greatest flaws of unions is that the same protections granted to good teachers are granted to shitty ones, but i don't like the flip side of that coin one bit. studies are showing that charter schools have a higher turnover rate than traditional public schools, which is proven to be bad for test scores and overall school quality. while a lack of unions might not be the only contributing factor to this, it's certainly a big one.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

There is strong evidence that many major municipal union pensions are facing serious shortfalls. How should this be addressed? Increased taxes on the unemployed? Perhaps raise property taxes in the face of declining real estate values?

Maybe there is no perpetual bull market in the stock market that will fund America's retirement dreams. The lucrative pensions were based on the idea that investment returns could fund the commitments. This is not the case, and likely never will be the case. I am not opposed to Unions or pensions, but perhaps we should realize that America is not the country we thought it was a decade ago, and adjust expectations accordingly.

If the private sector must accept declining standards of living for the forseeable future, it is only fair that the public sector do as well. With the Baby Boomers retiring in mass, it will be much more difficult for these already bankrupt pension funds to support their retirees.

What exactly is the alternative if not to reduce the pension obligations?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@deep: "And then you'll reach the promised land in which one frivolous or malicious complaint from a disgruntled parent will be enough to get a teacher fired. But I guess that doesn't suck, right?" is not the same as "teachers would be fired for no reason whatsoever."

Whatevs. We're arguing over crumbs, and defensively. Send the schools money, auditors and parents with enough time to pay attention.

iantenna (#5,160)

@deep: the issue with merit based pay is how do we determine merit? i don't disagree with you, but the ways we've measured merit in the past (fuck you "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND"!) has been through test scores which, time and time again, have been shown to be a profoundly biased and flawed way of measuring school quality, classroom quality and, in turn, a teacher's "merit."

iantenna (#5,160)

@lockheed: sure, ok, but why are we starting with teachers? certainly there are some better targets within the public sector, right?

deepomega (#1,720)

@iantenna: I'm not gonna pretend I know shit about shit when it comes to metrics. But I think that acting like it's IMPOSSIBLE to judge merit for teachers is bizarre. And regarding charter schools, I'll let this describe the voucher program. An admittedly conservative site, but its coverage is great.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Peter Drucker's mania for measurements will be the end of us all.

iantenna (#5,160)

@deep: i never said it was impossible, i'm just saying that, so far, we've been doing it wrong. and it's not something that can be determined via some sweeping, across the board, metric. the educational and cultural landscape is way too diverse for that to work.

deepomega (#1,720)

@iantenna: Totally! I'm imagining it'd have to be, at most, something done within a school district. And to be really effective it'd at least need to control for relative performance to other teachers in the same school. And etc. etc. And all of this flows from my belief that the situation we currently have is untenable, at least with regards to how the education system fails to reward good teachers.

La Cieca (#1,110)

Fails to reward good teachers financially, you mean. A good school (even one without much money) is going to offer a good teacher a challenging, flow-generating experience in the classroom. A lousy school is mostly a school that doesn't have the teacher's back, that caves to outside pressure, that tries to impose an arbitrary one-size-fits-all method on what is essentially an art form rather than a skillset.

If there were a reliable way to measure teacher performance, wouldn't it have been developed by now? And don't even try to bring up standardized test scores.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Given that the total budget deficit faced by states is going to be $140 billion in 2011 and this new bill only provides $26 billion in narrowly-targeted funds, it's kinda understandable in the broad sense. (http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=711)

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

At this point it's not even about creating jobs. It's about not eliminating quite as many as we might have otherwise.

deepomega (#1,720)

Yes. Also, 100,000 is not that many in the broad scheme of the 6 million employed nationally. Especially in a recession.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I sure am glad we're running everything like a business.

I hate every sentence like this: I don't have _______, so why should they have _____________.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Hate is a strong word. How about "I LMAO at every sentence like this:…"

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

E.g. I don't have an estate tax, so why should they have an estate tax.

Post a Comment