The Truth About Public Education in the U.S.: Public School Systems Are Overfunded and Public School Employees Are OvercompensatedDecades of dealmaking between districts, states and the NEA and AFT have also saddled school systems with teacher pay plans -- including defined-benefit pensions and near-free healthcare -- that have become too expensive to bear; in Jersey City, N.J., for example, the district there spent 184 percent more on teacher benefits in 2007-2008 than it did a decade earlier. State laws that govern how school districts manage spending and labor -- including collective bargaining rules -- are part of the problem. Detroit, for example, must negotiate with 10 different unions, including locals of the AFT, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. These burdens, along with federal regulations such as "supplement-not-supplant" (which requires districts to essentially use Title 1 dollars to fund field trips to prove that they aren't shortchanging students instead of programs that might actually improve their performance), add to taxpayer burdens without improving graduation rates. [Return of the One-Room Schoolhouse, The American Spectator, March 29, 2011]
More than $500 billion is spent annually on public education in the United States (state and local spending for kindergarten through 12th grade education more than doubled since 1990). According to New America Foundation: "The federal government contributes about 8 percent of direct funding for elementary and secondary schools nationally (through the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government provides more than $40 billion a year on primary and secondary education programs). The two biggest federal programs are No Child Left Behind Title I Grants to local school districts ($14.5 billion in fiscal year 2009) and IDEA Special Education State Grants ($11.5 billion in fiscal year 2009). States rely primarily on income and sales taxes to fund elementary and secondary education. Property taxes support most of the funding that local government provides for education."
The nation’s public schools employ more than 6 million workers, and instructional staff receive about $295 billion in salary and benefits, according to federal estimates ... All told, personnel costs—the salaries and benefits that sustain the K-12 workforce—consume about 80 percent of school districts' budgets, and many policymakers are determined to drive those expenses down. Yet reducing those costs is not as simple as chopping away at the state or local education budget, or eliminating programs or services. State pension systems, which typically cover teachers, generally are protected by state constitutions and other laws, and courts have made it difficult to reduce benefits for current enrollees. And teachers’ salary schedules and health-care costs are often protected by hard-fought collective bargaining agreements at the local level. There’s a lot of money at stake. [Sean Cavanagh, Personnel costs prove tough to contain, Education Week, January 12, 2011]
Roughly $1 out of every $8 Maryland pays in pension benefits will go to Montgomery County teachers in fiscal 2011, as promised increases in salary and benefits have almost tripled teacher pension costs in the past decade. Ballooning teacher pensions will cost Maryland roughly $924 million in fiscal 2011, up 165% from $348 million in 2002. Maryland's total pension contributions -- including state employees, police, judges, lawmakers and teachers -- will add up to $1.4 billion for fiscal 2011, with Montgomery teachers getting roughly $181 million of that. [Montgomery teacher pensions cost Md. $181 million, Examiner.com, November 23, 2010]
February 18, 2008
If you graduated from high school in 1980, your entire k-12 education cost your fellow taxpayers about $75,000, in 2009 dollars. But the graduating class of 2009 had roughly twice that amount lavished on their public school careers. The extra $75,000 we’re now spending has done wonders for public school employee union membership, dues revenue, and political clout. It’s done a whole lotta nothin’ for student learning (see chart).
But, some readers may ask: were all those new employees teachers? About two thirds of public school employment growth has been teachers (41 percent) or teachers’ aides (23 percent). The remaining third was comprised almost entirely of support staff in schools and district offices...
Are Wisconsin Public School Teachers Really Underpaid?, Wisconsin Interest, Fall 2002
National Education Association (NEA)
The U.S. average public school teacher salary for 2008–09 was $54,319. State average public school teacher salaries ranged from those in New York ($69,118), California ($68,093), and Massachusetts ($66,712) at the high end to South Dakota ($35,070), North Dakota ($41,654), and Utah ($42,335) at the low end (C-11).
School Revenues: School funding continues to be state oriented, although the federal share increased somewhat in recent years. Between school years 2007–08 and 2008–09, the local share of K–12 public education funding increased from 43.1 to 43.5 percent (F-7, F-8) and the state share slightly decreased from 48.4 to 47.1 (F-9, F-10). The federal share increased to 9.4 percent (F-11, F-12). Throughout the past 10 years, state and local governments have each provided between 43 and 50 percent of the total revenues.
Government Expenditures: Expenditures for elementary and secondary schools and for higher education can serve as indicators of state and local government “effort” to fund these services. Between 1997 and 2007, expenditures for elementary and secondary (K–12) education increased 22.1 percent, whereas higher education spending increased 30.3 percent, in real dollars. The ratio of elementary and secondary expenditures to higher education expenditures was 2.6 to 1 in 2007, similar to the 2006 ratio of 2.6 to 1.
Expenditures per Student: Expenditures per student in fall enrollment were expected to increase by 3.1 percent to $10,506 in 2009–10, up from $10,190 in 2008–09. This compares with a 3.3 percent increase in total current expenditures.
General Resources: State governments still provide the largest share of public school financial support—estimated at 45.6 percent for 2009–10—down 1.5 percent from the revised figure of 47.1 percent in 2008–09. Once again, differences among states are considerable, reflecting differences in state and local revenue systems, demographic characteristics, and program priorities, to name but a few factors.
For 2009–10, the federal government’s contribution to public elementary and secondary school revenues increased from 9.4% to 10.2%, compared to 2008–09. The federal, state, and local revenue contributions for public education for 2009–10 are estimated at $60.4 billion, $268.8 billion, and $260.1 billion, respectively, totaling $589.3 billion.
As a comparison, the expenditures of elementary and secondary schools were about $308 billion for 1994-95, while institutions of higher education spent about $201 billion. Viewed in another context, the total expenditures for education were about 7.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1994-95. School funding comes from a variety of federal, state, and city money pots. About 46 percent of public spending on elementary and secondary schools is derived from local government budgets. The size of the local tax base is one reason for the large disparity in spending. In 1994-95, the estimated current expenditure per student in average daily attendance was $6,084. After adjustment for inflation, this represents an increase of 23 percent since 1983-84. [Statistics from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics]Classroom Teacher Salaries: Based on trends, the NEA estimated that the average classroom teacher salary for 2009–10 would increase by 1.9 percent over 2008–09, from $54,319 to $55,350. The national average salary, although useful as a benchmark statistic, hides vast differences among states, with statewide averages likewise clouding significant local variations.
Education is big business in America. There are five to six million teachers in America (and 50 million students)! They start with salaries of between $35 – $40 thousand per year! That significant starter salary does not reference the many, many perks teachers receive for working around 180 days out of the year, the required school year. (The rest of us work at least 240 days a year, and many work far more.) Of course, the poor teacher does not stay at this starter rate very long. - Regarding the Teacher Work Stoppage in Wisconsin, Homeschool Under Siege, February 19, 2011
The federal, state, and local revenue contributions for public education for 2009–10 are estimated at $60.4 billion, $268.8 billion, and $260.1 billion, respectively, totaling $589.3 billion. - National Education Association (NEA), Rankings of the States 2009 and Estimates of School Statistics 2010, December 2009
Over the past four decades, the per-student cost of running our K-12 schools has more than doubled, while our student achievement has remained virtually flat. The same pattern holds for higher education. When you need more achievement for less money, you have to change the way you spend. The single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. To flip the curve, we have to identify great teachers. The United States spends $50 billion a year on automatic salary increases based on teacher seniority. After the first few years, seniority seems to have no effect on student achievement. Another standard feature of school budgets is a bump in pay for advanced degrees. Such raises have almost no impact on achievement, but every year they cost $15 billion that would help students more if spent in other ways. Perhaps the most expensive assumption embedded in school budgets -- and one of the most unchallenged -- is the view that reducing class size is the best way to improve student achievement. This belief has driven school budget increases for more than 50 years. U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960, yet achievement is roughly the same. One approach is to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students. Part of the savings could then be used to give the top teachers a raise. (In a 2008 survey funded by the Gates Foundation, 83 percent of teachers said they would be happy to teach more students for more pay.) The rest of the savings could go toward improving teacher support and evaluation systems, to help more teachers become great. - Bill Gates, Bill Gates: How Teacher Development Could Revolutionize Our Schools, February 28, 2011
By Roxeanne de Luca, Haemet
February 25, 2011
In the Great Union Debacle of 2011, one of the things mentioned is that teachers work about 195 days a year, compared to the 250 days a year that are expected of workers in the private sector. Obviously, people trade time for money, and money for time, so it is expected that teachers will be paid a bit less for this. (Also, for any teachers with children, this is a huge bonus – the amount of money that they save on child care, summer camps, and babysitters is a huge benefit.)
Teachers usually respond that they work more than 40 hours a week when they are in class, and they have continuing education requirements, so they work the same amount of time as someone in the private sector.
To which I must reply… If teachers had to work at least one year in the private sector prior to being certified, we wouldn’t be having this debate. The only time that I had ever gotten away with a mere 40-hour workweek is when I’ve done temp work. (I worked as a receptionist while I studied for the bar – an idea I would heartily recommend to anyone who doesn’t feel like taking out yet more loans for that infernal exam.) Engineering intern – yes, intern - easily closing in on 60 hours a week some weeks. Legal intern? Billing 40 a week. Political work? Close to 80 in the weeks leading up to elections. Litigation? Life? what life? I look at my parents – in sales, banking, and as small business owners – and know that they pull in sixty or seventy a week on a regular basis.
Awww, poor babies, you sometimes have to work fifty hours a week, and maybe sixty a week when you’re in your first year or teaching a course for the first time? Try that every week, every year, for the rest of your life, which is totally normal in the private sector. People in the private sector do that every week, except for their two-week vacations every year. They work as long hours as you do, with a much less flexible schedule (no grading papers at home after the kids are in bed), and without three months off.
While any decent teacher works longer than 7:30 am to 2:30 pm, they do not work nearly as long hours as people do in the private sector, and their time is much more flexible. While I thoroughly respect the work that teachers do, and have done quite a bit of teaching (private sector and my own company) myself, I deeply resent the idea that teachers have in their heads that they are the only professionals out there who work more than forty hours a week.
With the Federal Government Overseeing the Education Departments of the 50 States at a Cost of $68 Billion Per Year, the U.S. Falls to Average in Education RankingA UN study has concluded that South Korea and Japan have the most effective education systems. It was based on testing what pupils actually know and what they are able to do. The US ranked 18th, Germany 19th. Furthermore the US finished low in each test and in adult literacy. The bottom line is this: stupid people do not stay free very long. - Bob Chapman, Financial Crisis Only Squandering Our Future, The International Forecaster, December 6, 2008
December 8, 2010
The United States has fallen from top of the class to average in world education rankings, said a report Tuesday that warned of US economic losses from the trend.
The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.
In Canada, 15-year-olds are more than one school year ahead of their US peers in math and more than half a school year ahead in reading and science, said the report released hours after President Barack Obama urged Americans not to rein in education spending, even in a tough economy.
The OECD report also noted that investment in education is paid back many times over.
Boosting US scores for reading, math and science by 25 points over the next 20 years would result in a gain of 41 trillion dollars for the United States economy over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010, the OECD said.
"Bringing the United States up to the average performance of Finland, the best-performing education system among OECD countries, could result in gains in the order of 103 trillion dollars," said the report.The first step towards helping the United States climb back up the education rankings to the top of the class would be to convince Americans "to make the choices needed to show that (they) value education more than other areas of national interest," the report said.
"This is not to say that efforts should not be directed towards mitigating the short-term effects of the economic recession, but it is to say that long-term issues should not be neglected," it said.
Currently, 18 percent of US 15-year-olds do not reach an OECD-set level of of reading proficiency, compared to 10 percent in China-Shanghai and Hong Kong, which are compared with countries because of the size of their populations, said the report.
The United States has also fallen behind in the percentage of 15-year-olds who are enrolled in school, ranking third from bottom of the OECD countries, above only Mexico and Turkey.
Only eight OECD countries have a lower high school graduation rate than the United States, and in college education, the United States slipped from second to 13th between 1995 and 2008 -- not because US college graduation rates declined, but because they rose so much faster in other OECD countries.
"These developments will be amplified over the coming decades as countries such as China and India raise their educational output at an ever-increasing pace," the report said, stressing the need for Americans to invest in education.
December 21, 2010
Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.
The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.
"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system."The effect of the low eligibility rate might not be noticeable now — the Department of Defense says it is meeting its recruitment goals — but that could change as the economy improves, said retired Navy Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett.
"If you can't get the people that you need, there's a potential for a decline in your readiness," said Barnett, who is part of the group Mission: Readiness, a coalition of retired military leaders working to bring awareness to the high ineligibility rates.The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?"
The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.
Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.
"It's surprising and shocking that we are still having students who are walking across the stage who really don't deserve to be and haven't earned that right," said Tim Callahan with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group that represents more than 80,000 educators.Kenneth Jackson, 19, of Miami, enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He said passing the entrance exam is easy for those who paid attention in school, but blamed the education system for why more recruits aren't able to pass the test.
"The classes need to be tougher because people aren't learning enough," Jackson said.This is the first time that the U.S. Army has released this test data publicly, said Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based children's advocacy group. The study examined the scores of nearly 350,000 high school graduates, ages 17 to 20, who took the ASVAB exam between 2004 and 2009. About half of the applicants went on to join the Army.
Recruits must score at least a 31 out of 99 on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army. The Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits need higher scores.
Further tests determine what kind of job the recruit can do with questions on mechanical maintenance, accounting, word comprehension, mathematics and science.
The study shows wide disparities in scores among white and minority students, similar to racial gaps on other standardized tests. Nearly 40 percent of black students and 30 percent of Hispanics don't pass, compared with 16 percent of whites. The average score for blacks is 38 and for Hispanics is 44, compared to whites' average score of 55.
Even those passing muster on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, usually aren't getting scores high enough to snag the best jobs.
"A lot of times, schools have failed to step up and challenge these young people, thinking it didn't really matter — they'll straighten up when they get into the military," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. "The military doesn't think that way."Entrance exams for the U.S. military date to World War I. The test has changed over time as computers and technology became more prevalent, and skills like ability to translate Morse code have fallen by the wayside.
The test was overhauled in 2004, and the study only covers scores from 2004 through 2009. The Education Trust didn't request examine earlier data to avoid a comparison between two versions of the test, said Christina Theokas, the author of the study. The Army did not immediately respond to requests for further information.
Tom Loveless, an education expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the results echo those on other tests. In 2009, 26 percent of seniors performed below the 'basic' reading level on the National Assessment of Education Progress.
Other tests, like the SAT, look at students who are going to college.
"A lot of people make the charge that in this era of accountability and standardized testing, that we've put too much emphasis on basic skills," Loveless said. "This study really refutes that. We have a lot of kids that graduate from high school who have not mastered basic skills."The study also found disparities across states, with Wyoming having the lowest ineligibility rate, at 13 percent, and Hawaii having the highest, at 38.3 percent.
Retired military leaders say the report's findings are cause for concern.
"The military is a lot more high-tech than in the past," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip. "I don't care if you're a soldier Marine carrying a backpack or someone sitting in a research laboratory, the things we expect out of our military members requires a very, very well educated force."A Department of Defense report notes the military must recruit about 15 percent of youth, but only one-third are eligible. More high school graduates are going to college than in earlier decades, and about one-fourth are obese, making them medically ineligible.
In 1980, by comparison, just 5 percent of youth were obese.
Don't Let the Powerful, Politically-connected Teachers' Unions Bully You Into Submission or Use Your Kids as Props for Union Demands; Your Property Taxes/A Portion of Your Rent Pay Their Generous Salaries & Benefits
Wisconsin Will Layoff Teachers to Help Reduce Budget Deficit; the Other Choice is to Cut Wages and Benefits for Teachers or Raise Their Contributions toward Benefits, but Teachers Don't Want to Make Sacrifices; They Want the Rest of Us to Bear the BurdenThe Associated Press
February 28, 2011
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's explosive proposal to take nearly all collective bargaining rights away from most public workers represents just one piece of his vision for the state's future. Now he's ready to reveal the rest.
With the union rights proposal stuck in a legislative stalemate thanks to runaway Senate Democrats, Walker planned to forge ahead with the Tuesday release of his two-year spending plan that will include major cuts to schools and local governments to help close a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Tens of thousands of protesters have demonstrated for two weeks against the Republican governor's collective bargaining proposal, which he calls necessary to free local governments from having to bargain with public employee unions as they deal with the cuts he'll outline Tuesday.
Schools last week started putting teachers on notice that their contracts may not be renewed for next year given the budget uncertainty. Walker has confirmed he will propose cutting education aid by about $900 million, or 9 percent statewide.
"All of this turmoil, all of this chaos, are examples that Walker's proposals are too extreme," said Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. She said more than 2,000 teachers had received nonrenewal notices as of Monday.Labor leaders and Democratic lawmakers say Walker's proposal is intended to undermine unions and weaken a key Democratic voter base. The state's largest public employee union filed a complaint Monday alleging Walker has engaged in unfair labor practices by refusing to negotiate.
The Wisconsin State Employees Union complaint asked the state labor relations board to extend its contract and require Walker's administration to engage in collective bargaining.
Walker insists Wisconsin is broke and has nothing to offer. He spent another day touring the state Monday, renewing his threat of deeper cuts and layoffs if his proposal isn't passed by Tuesday. If the state misses that deadline, it won't be able to save $165 million through debt refinancing, which was a key part of his bill, Walker said.
Walker has warned he will start issuing layoff notices to state workers as soon as this week if the bill isn't passed, but he hasn't said who would be targeted.
School leaders are bracing for more bad news.
The governor is expected Tuesday to announce a new revenue limit that would require a $500 per-pupil reduction in property tax authority. The limits, in place since 1993, have gradually grown to reflect increasing education costs. That part of Walker's proposal alone would reduce the money available to the state's 424 districts by 7 percent, or nearly $600 million, based on a study done by University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor Andrew Reschovsky.
"When you make unprecedented and historic cuts like these to schools, it means teachers are laid off, class sizes are larger, course offerings are reduced, extracurricular activities are cut, and whole parts of what we value in our schools are gone," state superintendent Tony Evers said in a statement.In Janesville, a district with about 10,000 students, the school expects to get about a $5 million cut in aid, said David Parr, president of the local teachers union.
The district already is considering laying off up to 60 of its teachers to deal with a nearly $10 million budget deficit this year, Parr said. The teachers also have been asked to re-open contracts that are in effect until mid-2013, he said.
"If we don't reopen the contract, that means they would have to cut teachers," Parr said. "That's the bottom line. There aren't a lot of options left."An analysis by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards determined the changes stripping workers' collective bargaining rights wouldn't take effect until an existing agreement expires or is extended, modified or renewed.
Teachers in Janesville are terrified to reopen their contracts, Parr said.
"The whole district is walking on eggshells," Parr said. "Teachers are upset, aides are upset, the administration is upset, school board members are upset."A large state aid cut also could force Milwaukee Public Schools, the state's largest district, to lay off teachers. Their four-year contract runs until 2013. Reschovsky's analysis says the district stands to lose $60 million under Walker's revenue limit reduction alone.
A spokesman for the district declined to comment.
Wisconsin's average teacher salary of about $48,000 ranks in the top half of states nationally, though it remains significantly behind the $60,000 average salaries in the top-paying states of California and Connecticut, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Wisconsin students also rank in the top half nationally on standardized tests, scoring a full percentage point better on the ACT college entrance exam.
Walker's stalled collective bargaining proposal would require state workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries toward pensions and double their health insurance contribution beginning April 1. Those changes would be expanded to nearly all other public workers, except those operating under existing union contracts, beginning July 1.
The higher benefit contribution would equate to an 8 percent pay decrease for the average worker. The state would save $30 million this fiscal year and $300 million over the next two years.
Walker said not realizing those savings would mean laying off 1,500 workers between now and July and 12,000 state and local employees over the next two years.
The statewide teachers union and state workers unions, in an attempt to compromise with Walker, have said they will agree to the benefit concessions as long as they retain collective bargaining rights. The bill takes away collective bargaining except over wage increases that don't go above the rate of inflation.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, one of the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois, scoffed at Walker's layoff threat, saying such a move ignores that public employees have agreed to abide by the financial concessions demanded by the governor.
"He's not even conceding the fact that they've given them the money," Erpenbach during a Monday interview in Chicago. "He's threatening their livelihoods. He's treating them like poker chips."Erpenbach and other Democrats who fled say Walker's unwillingness to deal motivates them to stay away. The bill passed the Assembly on Friday following a three-day filibuster.
"There's a compromise here, I just really think there is," Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin said Monday. "We continue to seek it."Bureau of Labor Statistics
Homeschool Under Siege
February 19, 2011
...Education is big business in America. There are five to six million teachers in America! They start with salaries of between $35 – $40 thousand per year! That significant starter salary does not reference the many, many perks teachers receive for working around 180 days out of the year, the required school year. (The rest of us work at least 240 days a year, and many work far more.) Of course, the poor teacher does not stay at this starter rate very long. As of about 15 years ago, tenured college professors in Los Angeles were making at least $50,000 a year — after retirement. I knew two of them quite well, they were my closest friends.
Teachers unions in this country help get Presidents elected. That’s why every person running for office makes a lot of noise about supporting education. They claim it’s for the children, but they really make all that noise for the votes and financial support. The Teachers Unions are extraordinarily powerful, given their numbers and the relative wealth and security of their membership. Their lobbyists are very well funded, amongst the best in Washington and in state houses across the nation. And heaven help the person who implies that teachers may not be “underpaid”, as teachers like to broadly promote. Heaven help the government official who murmurs something about failed school systems, dropout rates that tower over 50% in many large cities, and abusive teachers who cannot be removed from their posts thanks to their unions and tenure.
Please do not get me wrong. I think the self-named Tea Party is coming to Wisconsin for all the wrong reasons, which surprises me not at all. After all, they are a wing of a political party, and politics has utterly failed our children for over a century now. The Tea Partiers are winging their way to Wisconsin to support government and big business, to march against the right of collective bargaining. It’s big business against big business, all with an air of self-righteous indignation on the parts of both sides, and all while the children go to educational hell.
To quote Shakespeare, a curse on both your houses.
Do I think that teachers should be well paid? Sure — when they deliver extraordinary results. (So should a plumber who delivers great results, or a doctor, or a store clerk. Anyone who does a great job should be rewarded.) Given the dwindling condition of our country, it’s all too clear that very few teachers today (or for the past decades) deliver the sort of results that would justify teacher’s extraordinary perks and salaries. And as for schools and school districts that deliver such results, we all know that’s a joke.
Yet for reasons that passeth understanding, teachers are held in high esteem. Parents listen and believe when a teacher says that their child is doing well or poorly. Families believe the teacher when they are told that their child’s problems in school are the child’s problems, and the parent’s problems. A student’s problems in school seem mysteriously never to be related to a failure on the part of the school or teacher. No, they are simply never at fault, though they consume a massive part of our national budget each year, those nearly six million teachers. Still, they can’t be bothered to take any real responsibility for their failure to our children and our country.
It appears impressive, this marching, counter-marching, and noise. But really, it isn’t at all impressive. It’s depressing and it’s destructive. And most importantly, it’s off point...
The teachers' unions have convinced the average teacher that they are underpaid and that they are entitled to be generously rewarded by the taxpayers. They seem to believe the lies they tell, and their sense of entitlement seems to know no bounds. They don't seem to appreciate the fact that every working American contributes to society, not just teachers.
Positively Persistent Teach
February 25, 2011
...You can have my money, but…. Ask any number of my students, who have heard me publicly proclaim that a proper solution to this fiscal crisis is to raise taxes. I will pay them. I have the great good fortune to live in a nation where opportunity is nearly limitless, and I am willing to pay for the honor of calling myself an American.
Incidentally, Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the nation (and a Democrat) agrees with me. Your proposed Budget Repair Bill will cost me just under $3000 per year at my current salary, with the stated goal of saving $30 million this year on the state budget. I say, take it. You can have it. It will hurt me financially, but if it will balance the budget of the state that has been my home since birth, take it with my blessing. But if I may, before you do, I have some questions.
According to the 2009 estimate for the U.S. Census, 5,654,774 people live in the state of Wisconsin. Of those, 23.2% are under the age of 18, and presumably are not subject to much in the way of income tax. That still leaves about 4,342,867 taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin. If you wished to trim $30 million off of the budget, that works out to about $6.91 per Wisconsin taxpayer. So I must ask: Is it fair that you ask $3000 of me, but you fail to ask $6.91 of everyone? I know that times are tough, but would it not be more equitable to ask that each taxpayer in the state contribute an extra 13 cents a week?...
"There is ample evidence that the growth of teacher unions was a factor in the decline of the quality of public education. The dramatic rise in teacher union membership and collective bargaining in public education began in 1962. By 1976 teacher union membership had more than doubled. The decline in SAT scores began in 1963 and continued throughout this period. Yet all of the studies on the state of public education in America and the challenges it faces in the future completely ignore the question of the union role in the decline of quality."- David Y. Denholm, Beyond Public Sector Unionism: A Better Way, Public Service Research Foundation, 1994
David Y. Denholm, Public Service Research Foundation
Time and again public officials have described to me their shock and disbelief at what a union had done to them personally during organizing campaigns or labor disputes. I have told them that such activity was entirely predictable because it was almost textbook Alinsky. Their response has generally been that, if they had only known what to expect, they could have prepared for it and taken steps to neutralize its worst effects.
Alinsky emphatically states that the end justifies the means but cautions that extreme means are only justified in certain situations. He also had a set of rules for what he called power tactics" or the means used to "take." He described it as "how the Have Nots can take power away from the Haves." Even a cursory review of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals reveals that a union activist schooled in them will have no compunction about using almost any tactic in a conflict with a public agency. In fact, radicals must often create issues to stir up problems in order to radicalize their potential followers.
The tactic that seems to shock public officials most is the personalization of the attack -- union leaders use the "pick it, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it" tactic no matter how distasteful this might be -- Alinsky says that, even if the decision is 48% to 52%, once it is made the opposition becomes "100 percent devil." Even if public officials are not willing to respond in kind to this sort of tactic, a great deal can be accomplished before a conflict by warning audiences what will happen.
The protesters were rallying against a Republican-backed state bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for most state workers, and that would require public employees to contribute 12% to their health care premiums and 5.8% to their pensions.
The collective bargaining laws have given enormous political power to the public sector unions. No matter what the real intent of these laws, by any objective standard they are not in the public interest. They represent an expression of the selfish self-interest of public sector union organizers and, indirectly, the interest of the politicians who enact them in order to curry favor with the union's political operatives. The existence of public sector collective bargaining makes public employees 'super citizens' and relegates the rest of the public to second class status. Rising public discontent has focused on the public employee, while public employees increasingly take a hostile attitude toward the public. Why is no one pointing out that unions are supposed to be for the people against the corporation, not for the people against the people? - Beyond Public Sector Unionism: A Better Way, Public Service Research Foundation
February 21, 2011
Protesters are making outrageous claims in Madison, Wis., where thousands of public-sector union workers have gathered to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal.
To help document them — and set the record straight — The Heritage Foundation sent a team to the state capital. What we found was a highly organized effort with signs posted throughout the Capitol building providing “media talking points” for protesters. At least one instructed protesters “how to talk to teabaggers.”
Pro-union protesters insist this isn’t a debate about government spending — Walker’s argument and a point even acknowledged by liberal media outlets. For the people chanting on the streets of Madison, it’s the equivalent of Nazi Germany. Walker apparently is a modern-day Adolf Hitler trying to shut down unions.
Yet several news outlets — MSNBC, The New York Times, Reuters, CNN, BusinessWeek and NPR — have all acknowledged that Walker is currently facing a budget deficit of $137 million or $3.6 billion shortfall by 2013. Those are hardly conservative sources of news.
Then there’s the claim made by union workers that Walker’s proposals unfairly target them. But the fact is that taxpayers currently contribute about 99% to public employee pensions, according to a report from Minnesota Public Radio. Walker merely wants them to pay 5.8%, which is still below the national average.
And how about those pricey health care premiums? Public employees currently pay about 6%, while Walker’s proposal would increase it to 12%. But even after the increase, it’s still about half the national average, according to state government figures.
When the protesters were challenged on these points, some stopped talking.
“You’re against everything we stand for,” one said. Another added, “In case you don’t know, you work for an organization with a bad reputation.”
“What did Hitler do first? He busted the unions. Right? First you take away the unions, then you take away the Jews, then you take away, you know, that’s where it starts.” – Union protester in Madison, Wis.
Only 39 Percent of Wisconsin Public-School Eighth Graders Proficient in Math, Says Department of Education"There is ample evidence that the growth of teacher unions was a factor in the decline of the quality of public education. The dramatic rise in teacher union membership and collective bargaining in public education began in 1962. By 1976 teacher union membership had more than doubled. The decline in SAT scores began in 1963 and continued throughout this period. Yet all of the studies on the state of public education in America and the challenges it faces in the future completely ignore the question of the union role in the decline of quality."- David Y. Denholm, Beyond Public Sector Unionism: A Better Way, Public Service Research Foundation, 1994CNSNews.com
February 22, 2011
Only 39 percent of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools are proficient or better in mathematics, according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.
In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 31 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 28 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 61 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 40 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 21 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”
The test also showed that the mathematics test scores of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders have remained almost flat since 1996 while inflation adjusted per-pupil spending has significantly increased.
In 1996, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public-school eighth graders scored an average of 283 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics test. In 2009, they scored an average of 288 out of 500. In other words, the average mathematics test score for Wisconsin eighth graders increased by 5 points out of 500—or one percentage point—from 1996 to 2009.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s per pupil spending on public school students increased from $6,517 in 1996 to $10,791 in 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $6,517 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1996 dollars equaled $8,942 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1996 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $1,849—or 20.7 percent--in real terms while adding only one percentage point to their average eighth grader’s math score.
The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.
Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education, public schools are not doing a good job teaching children to be proficient in math. The average American eighth-grade public school student scored 282 out of 500 on the NAEP mathematics test in 2009, with only 25 percent earning a “proficient” rating and only 7 percent earning an “advanced rating.” The other 68 percent of American eighth grader were rated less than proficient in math.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress explains its student rating system as follows:
“Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced represents superior performance.”In fiscal 2008, the federal government provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin.
Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public-School 8th Graders Can’t Read Proficiently—Despite Highest Per Pupil Spending in MidwestCNSNews.com
February 22, 2011
Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.
In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 2 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 44 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 22 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”
The test also showed that the reading abilities of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders had not improved at all between 1998 and 2009 despite a significant inflation-adjusted increase in the amount of money Wisconsin public schools spent per pupil each year.
In 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public school eighth graders scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. In 2009, Wisconsin public school eighth graders once again scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. Meanwhile, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil expenditures from $4,956 per pupil in 1998 to 10,791 per pupil in 2008.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $4,956 Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1998 dollars equaled $6,546 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1998 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $4,245 in real terms yet did not add a single point to the reading scores of their eighth graders and still could lift only one-third of their eighth graders to at least a “proficient” level in reading.
The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.
Neighboring Illinois spent $10,353 per student in 2008, Minnesota spent $10,048 per student; Iowa spent $9,520 per student. Among Midwest states, Nebraska was second to Wisconsin in per pupil spending in its public schools, spending $10,565 per student.
Of these nearby states, only Minnesota did slightly better teaching reading to its public school students. In 2009, 39 percent of eighth graders in Minnesota public schools earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average eighth grade reading score in the state was 270 out of 500.
In Illinois, only 32 percent of eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average eighth grade reading score was 265 out of 500. In Iowa, only 32 percent of eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average reading score was 265 out of 500. In Nebraska, only 35 percent of eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in their public schools, and the average reading score was 267 out of 500.
Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average reading score on the NAEP test was 262 out of 500.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress explains its student rating system as follows:
“Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced represents superior performance.”In other words, despite the $10,791 that taxpayers were paying to educate students in Wisconsin public schools, two-thirds of eighth graders in those schools showed at best only a “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work” at that grade level.
In fiscal 2008, the federal government provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin.
March 8, 2011
A USA Today investigation that reviewed three to seven years of data found 1,610 cases where entire classrooms in six states and Washington D.C. made huge, statistically rare gains in standardized test scores over the course of just one year. In some of those cases, the class's scores plunged just as steeply the next year.
The findings raise questions about whether some teachers or administrators are encouraging cheating with impunity. The data also indicates that miraculous-seeming turnarounds in test-score performance get very little critical scrutiny.
Students in each classroom improved on the tests by three standard deviations or more--meaning that they improved at a pace greater than that achieved by 99.9 percent of their peers. Experts told USA Today they were skeptical:
Thomas Haladyna, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, says test gains of 3 standard deviations or more for an entire grade are "so incredible that you have to ask yourself, 'How can this be real?'
"Haladyna says such a spike in scores would be like finding "a weight-loss clinic where you lose 100 pounds a day."Federal and state education policy increasingly rely on test scores to decide which schools to close and even how much to pay teachers. The paper says that for reasons of cost--as well as on the grounds of simple institutional self-interest--many districts don't investigate big test score gains, even when high-profile examples show cheating does happen. Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall announced her resignation after allegations of cheating at 58 of her schools.
You can read more about which schools showed questionable test score gains, and their explanations for why their students improved so dramatically over a year.
(Map from the Detroit Free Press via This Week in Education.)
February 19, 2011
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for state employee contributions have brought condemnation from the president because they threaten his union-boss constituency.
Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker - elected last November along with GOP majorities in both chambers of the state's legislature -- wants his state's public employees to contribute half the cost of their pensions -- up from zero -- and about one-eighth of the cost of their health insurance premiums.
These contributions are less than the private-sector average, but you wouldn't know it from watching the 25,000 unionists and supporters from around the country who have descended on the capitol building in Madison, carrying signs comparing Walker to Hitler. Madison has become ground zero in the battle for the future of America because there is a lot more at stake than the simple concept that well-paid state employees should share the sacrifices that hard economic times have imposed on the private sector workers who pay their salaries.
Walker's proposals have also brought condemnation from President Obama, because they directly threaten his favored union-boss constituency. Walker wants to let state workers vote each year on which union (if any) they want representing them. He wants the state to stop garnishing workers' wages on the unions' behalf, and to exclude state benefit packages from future negotiations. The unions, whose object is to underwrite the election of politicians who care more about them than taxpayers, fear that their days of cutting sweetheart deals may soon be over.
Thousands of Wisconsin teachers who called in sick last week somehow managed to stagger over to the state capitol building in Madison to participate in protests, forcing many school districts to cancel classes. In various interviews with Wisconsin newspapers, teachers at the capitol expressed frustration with Walker's plans. We went to the Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction to get the salary data for some of the noisiest teachers, and found that they were making salaries of $67,000, $68,000, $58,000, and $59,000, with benefit packages of $18,000, $20,000, $12,000, and $29,000, respectively. Depending on the school district and the teacher's education level, Wisconsin teachers can expect to make that kind of money and enjoy such benefits after several years of experience. This seems more than reasonable for a job that only runs nine months out of the year.
The strikers are doing so much better than most of Wisconsin's private sector workers that their complaints evince a gross disrespect for taxpayers, who on average make much less. The average single-income family in the state brings in $40,500, and the average worker pays 20 percent of his employee health plan.
Wisconsin's state workers are not exploited. Their union has become far too politically powerful and now feels threatened, and that's the real reason union leaders called for the protests. Obama, who as usual has reflexively taken the side of unions, should be ashamed for trying to crush reforms that are long overdue in Wisconsin and virtually every other state in the nation.
Corporations have been moving away in massive numbers from the defined benefit programs that governments had emulated. In 2008, just 48,000 companies in the U.S. offered pension programs -- down from 150,000 in 1988. Instead of maintaining costly pensions and committing to a lifetime of defined benefits for retirees, companies contributed to mobile retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s. The nation's workforce has also changed. By January 2010, for the first time, public employees made up the largest percentage of union workers. Several recent studies show that at least some public employees now make more than their private-sector counterparts, although that is not true across the board.
Low-wage public-sector workers also had better access to retirement plans: 74% were eligible, compared with 40% in the private sector. - The Public Sector “Haves” Get Richer Benefits Too…, The Swine Line, July 28, 2010
February 13, 2011
For years, government work was seen as a tradeoff: slightly lower salaries in exchange for security, good benefits and a comfortable pension. Over time, other perks crept in.
At the University of Minnesota, employees attended school free until last year; they now pay 25 percent. Up until just a few years ago, Duluth city employees got free health care when they retired -- including public safety workers who could retire in their mid-40s with young families.
In 2008, just 48,000 companies in the U.S. offered pension programs -- down from 150,000 in 1988. Instead of maintaining costly pensions and committing to a lifetime of defined benefits for retirees, companies contributed to mobile retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s.
The nation's workforce has also changed. By January 2010, for the first time, public employees made up the largest percentage of union workers. Several recent studies show that at least some public employees now make more than their private-sector counterparts, although that is not true across the board.
As the economy soured, resentments got new breath and the GOP grabbed hold.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican with presidential aspirations, has taken to calling the rise of government unions "a silent coup."
State Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, said we need to "starve the beast" as he unveiled a proposal to cut the state's workforce 15 percent.
Government workers say they are sick of being demonized at dinner parties and on the stump, where they are reviled as lazy and inferior. They also resent the criticism for hard-fought union contracts they say are tough, but fair.
Mike Buesing, 62, said the rancor has reached a crescendo. A skilled highway construction planner, Buesing has put in 38 years at the state Department of Transportation. He owns a modest townhouse in Shoreview with a mortgage and makes $54,000 annually. When he retires later this year, he'll take in about $3,000 monthly from his pension.
"I am not living high off the hog," Buesing said. "It's a struggle, paycheck to paycheck. People think I am making a lot more money than I am. When I tell them, they usually are surprised."Union leaders note that employees like Buesing are on the high end. State retiree pensions average a modest $13,000 a year.
Eliot Seide, president of AFSCME Council 5, said that such pensions are a testament to the union belief that middle-class workers should be able to enjoy retirement "with dignity."
But in a badly battered economy, that level of comfort comes with big risks for taxpayers. The state faces a $14 billion unfunded liability in coming decades for the 644,000 state workers who are or will be eligible for pensions. That's about $3,200 for every person in Minnesota.
Union officials say the problem is less about increasing benefits and more about investments that sagged during the recession. The pension shortfall has become less breathtaking as those investments have rebounded. Pension analysts also note that the problem stretches over 30 years, allowing ample time for modifications.
Moody's Investor Service, a premier credit-rating agency, issued a report this year that added pension obligations to its formula for determining a state's fiscal health.
Minnesota holds one of the best credit ratings in the nation, but adding in its unfunded pension liability drops it to the middle of the pack.
On Wednesday, the rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded New Jersey's bond rating. The reason? Its mounting pension obligations.
"There isn't a push to get rid of pensions; it's to lower dollars going in," said former State Auditor Pat Anderson, a Republican who joined the Minnesota Free Market Institute's Pension Reform Project.Anderson and others say the pension system encourages risk-averse employees who never leave. The longer they stay, the more seniority they acquire and the sweeter their pension becomes. That, she said, leaves little room for more entrepreneurial types.
"If we want to attract good people to government, who aren't careerist, you need a system that works," she said.Anderson, for all her criticism of the system, will receive money from two government programs when she retires: one from her time as mayor and city councilwoman in Eagan, plus additional benefits from her term as an elected state official.
Pawlenty, who has criticized public employees' "Cadillac" health care plans, requested a letter before he left office outlining his future state health care benefits. The former legislator and state employee can draw from two state retirement programs, including a defined benefit pension program, when he retires.
The Problem Is Not Public Employee Wages (Federal Civil Servants and Public School Systems Being the Exception), It Is the Pensions and BenefitsAs the stock market bubbled ever higher in the 1990s, managers of pension plans ratcheted up their expectations of future "permanent" growth, giving politicos the go-ahead to ramp up pension pay-outs. In essence, pension plans, which were once constructed on the long-term expectation of 4-5% returns on capital, now based future earnings and pay-outs on the stock market's "average return" of 8% annually. As any reasonable person might have foreseen, the bubblicious stock market of the 1990s was not a "new permanent plateau" but, in fact, a bubble which imploded. Real returns in the past decade have been literally half what was anticipated and, as a result, state and local governments are having to make up the difference with cash out of general fund tax receipts. As tax receipts plummet in the "slow-growth," jobless recession, then state and local governments are forced to gut their programs to fund the oligarchy / fiefdom's pension promises. - Blame the Fed for the Pension Crisis Because They Engineered It, Seeking Alpha, May 24, 2010
Having public pensions being so superior and far better than private retirement savings — and the inevitable backlash this would produce — is one of the unavoidable adjustments similar to falling house prices. This huge gap of public employees being so much better compensated than private employees became visible about a year ago even in just ordinary news reports in the papers, for those that read widely. Just like falling house prices, this will be adjusted, sometimes by drastic action (similar to a foreclosure being drastic). The bottom line is that taxpayers cannot be expected to make public employees far more comfortable than themselves. - Hal Horvath, Pension Envy, Pension Crisis, On Point Radio, July 28, 2010
February 17, 2011
One of the major public pension funds' spin-meisters recently wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal, seeking to counter the claims that taxpayers bear the brunt of costs of public pension funds.
The argument, which has made the rounds through the public pension community, is that public employers — and hence the taxpayers — only contribute about 20 percent of the cost of public pensions. The rest, she claimed, is paid for by the employees and investment income. It's as if investment income grew from some kind of magic beans that are peculiar only to public pension funds, and simply wouldn't exist if we didn't have pension funds to create money out of thin air.
This idea started circulating several years ago, and it has oddly gained a life of its own despite its intellectual dishonesty. Following the old adage that repeating the same lie enough times will make people believe it, labor union and pension plan spin-doctors have taken long-term accounting information and added up the numbers using second-grade math. But they completely ignored the time value of money as well as the fiduciary concept that interest (and investment income) follows principal.
Time value of money. The second-grade math works like this: Take all the contributions made by public employers since their pension plans were started 100 years ago, then ignore inflation, discount rates and the time value of money. Add up the historical employee contributions in nominal dollars. Add up the cumulative investment income. Voila! It turns out that Einstein's "miracle of compound interest" works: That darned investment income grew in value. My gosh! It would seem that the magic beans are what pay for pensions, and apparently this has no relationship to who bought the beans and who planted, watered and cultivated them — and most importantly, who insured the crop.
The logical corollary of this line of thinking is that today's dollar of employer contributions is worth no more and no less than yesterday's. If that is the case, then the rational approach of all public employers would be to revert to pay-as-you-go financing so that they can optimize the value of their tax receipts which can be put to better work almost anywhere else but in a pension fund where they apparently get no credit for the employer.
Interest follows principal. Third-graders know that principal (their money) earns interest. That's why we take them to the bank to open a savings account, right? That's why we open 529 college savings plans for them, right? So it follows that interest is directly related to the contributions made by the respective donors, the employer and the employees.
Employers could invest elsewhere. It’s not as if pension funds are the only place a public employer could invest its money. Although the investment returns of pension funds should earn more over time than a state or municipal general fund that invests only in government bonds, a risk-free rate in U.S. treasuries (just like their bond sinking funds and debt service reserves) would earn over half the investment yield of a diversified pension fund, so the idea that employer contributions earn zero is ludicrous.
If pension funds want to take credit for their contribution to investment income, it would be fair and informative for them to separate out and analyze the portion of their cumulative earnings that exceeds the risk-free rate. Over the past 20, 30 and 84 years, this would be a substantial accumulation that exceeds what most government employers would have earned otherwise. Since 2000, however, the risk-adjusted returns from the public pension portfolios have been negative, which accounts for much of today's unfunded liabilities for irrevocable benefits awarded in that era.
Dual discount rates are hypocritical. Pension advocates lobby the Governmental Accounting Standards Board to use the expected return on investments to discount liabilities for reporting employers' liabilities. How can they then turn around and suggest that we discount previous contributions by employers at zero when calculating the share of costs paid by employers? These are the same people who scream loudly when academic financial economists suggest a lower discount rate of 4 or 5 percent rather than today's 7 or 8 percent actuarial conventions. Try discounting tomorrow's pension costs using a zero percent discount rate! You'll see national unfunded liabilities that make the "risk-free" projections look like small change.
Unfunded liabilities don't lie. To see how flimsy this line of logic is, ask yourself who will pay for the unfunded liabilities now that the investment returns of the pension funds failed to meet their actuarial expectations? Will the investment portfolio managers write checks to the retirees? Will the current employees? Has the pension fund asserting this claim sent bills for its unfunded liabilities to these parties? No, it will be the public employers and ultimately the taxpayers who will either face higher taxes or reduced services. Today, taxpayers nationwide are on the hook for around $700 billion, and that's just for unfunded pension liabilities of state and local pension plans, if my calculations using today's prevailing pension portfolio valuations and conventional discount rates are reasonably accurate.
The 20 percent VEBA solution. If unions want to start a plan in which public employers can limit their contributions and obligations to 20 percent of the total cost, that can easily be done through a VEBA (voluntary employee beneficiary association) that adjusts benefits downward when markets underperform and funding ratios are substandard. Every public employer and taxpayer group in America would jump at the chance to limit their financial exposure to that level, and the pension crisis would end tomorrow. That's just what happened when General Motors declared bankruptcy and left employees holding the investment and retirement risks in their VEBA plan.
The honest approach. Public pension plans should differentiate themselves from the private sector by calling attention to the much-higher share of real costs that public employees bear. On average, public employees pay a significant share of the "normal cost" of their pensions, unlike their counterparts in the private sector whose plans are "non-contributory" for employees. They don't pay much if anything toward the unfunded liabilities which remain the taxpayers' obligation, but that may change quickly as the bills come due and financially stretched public employers begin to demand cost-sharing of the unfunded liabilities. Instead of stretching their facts, the pension proponents should work harder to require public employees to bear one half of the total costs of their pensions and retiree medical benefits. That would put an end to the debate about who foots the bills.
- In 2009, the average wage for the nation's 108 million private sector workers was $50,082.
- In 2009, the average wage for the nation's two million federal civilian workers was $79,197.
- In 2008, the average salary for federal civilian workers in Frederick County was $73,060
- In 2008, the average salary for local government workers in Frederick County was $45,344.
- In 2008, the average salary for state government workers in Frederick County was $42,120.
- In 2008, the average salary for private sector workers in Frederick County was $42,380.
- In 2009, the average salary for public teachers in Frederick County was $67,150.
Following President Obama’s Federal employee pay freeze, 2011 GS tables remain the same as 2010. This includes the special base rates for GS law enforcement officers (GL) at GS grades 3 through 10.
Unfortunately this means that the proposed raises discussed in previous updates below will not come to pass in 2011. The latest table is shown below, with rates effective from January 2011.
In 1953, about 75 percent of Federal employees had a GS level of 7 or below. By 2009, in contrast, more than 70 percent of the workforce was GS 8 or higher.
The General Schedule consists of 15 pay grades and 10 steps within those pay grades. GS grades 1 through 7 denote entry-level positions, while grades 8 through 12 mark mid-level positions and grades 13 through 15 are top-level and management positions. The General Schedule also incorporates locality pay adjustments to account for cost-of-living differences across the country and overseas.
We are unique among our fellow Federal employees because we do not use the standard GS grading system you may be familiar with. We use an "SV" grading system, which is a system of discrete grades with pay ranges that differ from GS pay ranges. These discrete grades, which are identified by letters rather than numbers, have minimum and maximum rates.
In the table below, we show the ranges for each pay band.
The above rates are basic pay rates and do not include locality pay. 2010 basic pay rates are limited to $155,500. 2010 adjusted pay rates (base pay plus locality) are limited to $172,550.
Public Pension Perversion and NWO Orchestrated ProtestsWith the Wisconsin showdown at a fever pitch, Mark McKinnon says America doesn’t need public unions anymore—they silence voters’ choice, redistribute wealth, and clog the political system.
By Mark McKinnon, The Daily Beast
February 26, 2011
The manufactured Madison, Wis., mob is not the movement the White House was hoping for. Both may find themselves at the wrong end of the populist pitchfork. While I generally defend collective bargaining and private-sector unions (lots of airline pilots in my family), it is the abuse by public unions and their bosses that pushes centrists like me to the GOP. It is the right and duty of citizens to petition their government. The Tea Party and Republicans seek to limit government growth to protect their pocketbooks. Public-union bosses want to increase the cost of government to protect their racket.
1. Public unions are big money.
Public unions are big money. Paul Krugman is correct: we do need “some counterweight to the political power of big money.” But in the Alice in Wonderland world where what’s up is down and what’s down is up, Krugman believes public unions do not represent big money. Of the top 20 biggest givers in federal-level politics over the past 20 years, 10 are unions; just four are corporations. The three biggest public unions gave $171.5 million for the 2010 elections alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s big money.
2. Public unions redistribute wealth.
Public employees contribute real value for the benefit of all citizens. Public-union bosses collect real money from all taxpayers for the benefit of a few. Unlike private-sector jobs, which are more than fully funded through revenues created in a voluntary exchange of money for goods or services, public-sector jobs are funded by taxpayer dollars, forcibly collected by the government (union dues are often deducted from public employees’ paychecks). In 28 states, state and local employees must pay full union dues or be fired. A sizable portion of those dues is then donated by the public unions almost exclusively to Democratic candidates. Michael Barone sums it up:
“Public-employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.”3. Public unions silence the voters’ voice.
Big money from public unions, collected through mandatory dues, and funded entirely by the taxpayer, is then redistributed as campaign cash to help elect the politicians who are then supposed to represent taxpayers in negotiations with those same unions. In effect, the unions sit on both sides of the table and collectively bargain to raise taxes while the voters’ voice is silenced.
But the noisy mob in Madison is amplified beyond its numbers. Wisconsin faces a $137 million deficit this year, and a $3.6 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget. The proposals offered by Gov. Scott Walker would avert 5,500 layoffs of public employees and save $300 million.
The public unions, representing just 300,000 government employees in the Badger State, are trying to trump the will of the voters. Though voters don’t get to sit at the bargaining table, they do speak collectively at the ballot box.
4. Public unions are unnecessary.
The primary purpose of private-sector unions today is to get workers a larger share of the profits they helped create. But with a power greater than their numbers, these unions have destroyed the manufacturing sector, forcing jobs overseas by driving labor costs above the price consumers here will pay.
The government is a monopoly and it earns no profits to be shared. Public employees are already protected by statutes that preclude arbitrary hiring and firing decisions.
The primary purpose of public unions today, as ugly as it sounds, is to work against the financial interests of taxpayers: the more public employees are paid in wages and uncapped benefits, the less taxpayers keep of the money they earn. It’s time to call an end to the privileged class. And the White House makes a mistake if it thinks it can grow a manufactured and uncivil unrest into a popular movement. Voters will not follow those who flee.
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.
A UN study has concluded that South Korea and Japan have the most effective education systems. It was based on testing what pupils actually know and what they are able to do. The US ranked 18th, Germany 19th. Furthermore the US finished low in each test and in adult literacy. The bottom line is this: stupid people do not stay free very long. - Bob Chapman, Financial Crisis Only Squandering Our Future, The International Forecaster, December 6, 2008
Whiskey & Gunpowder
May 3, 2010
The following is a fictionalized scenario of what might result if the public schools were eliminated. At the moment this idea has a near-zero, if not zero, chance of happening, particularly in those states whose constitutions now contain or have been construed to contain provisions enshrining a “positive right” to an education, meaning a positive claim upon the labor and property of others, a claim backed by the left’s stock-in-trade, the coercive force of the state. As resistance to ever-bigger government increases, with a commensurate greater appreciation for individual liberty, state constitutions will be re-examined, perhaps even amended.
What follows is not a prediction, only an exploration which in turn may lead to better ideas. Finally, readers should bear in mind that eliminating public schooling is not the elimination of education, but rather the expansion of both freedom and education.
“Alright, George Bailey, you’ve got your wish. The public schools were never invented. Now stay calm, and don’t fret about the many strange but freedom-affirming phenomena you’ll encounter as you stroll through a re-invigorated Bedford Falls. Ready?”
Freedom for Taxpayers. Property taxpayers would no longer support a system which even its supporters readily admit must be “structurally improved” [Statist-ese for, “Give us more money”]. Anything in constant need of major improvements, not just routine adjustment, which produces uneducated “graduates” year after year (JayWalking anyone?), for decades on end, is irredeemable, netting very poor investment returns for taxpayers despite huge outlays. Since a sizable percentage of local municipal budgets (usually well over 50%, typically with supplemental “help” from state capitols) is dedicated to school funding, the elimination of this line item will give meaningful property tax relief.
Freedom for Municipalities. In the view of some – though at this point in time not nearly enough – all education is intrinsically coupled with morality, religion, and the reason of life itself. Necessarily it cannot then lawfully be a proper function of government if we’re to be serious about individual liberty and separating church and state. Governmental involvement in matters with religious overtones and nuances including differing worldviews conflicts with the Establishment Clause and state constitutional counterparts. Freed of school budgets, cities and towns will confine themselves to matters within their appropriate purview, generally subjects associated with public safety.
Freedom for Parents. Parents, relieved of a portion of their property tax burden, will have greater disposable income with which they may choose a private school appropriate for their child, including a home school. Today, families wanting alternative schooling for their child/ren pay two tuitions, one to the chosen school directly, another to the municipality to support the public schools.
Freedom for Students. Relief to students who simply do not want to spend time in school for whatever reason (e.g., attitude, disinterest, safety concerns). Relief from One-Size-Fits-All-ism. How these now-emancipated students will choose to spend their newly-acquired time and freedom will be left to them and their parents. For the student willing to learn there will be choices galore as a thousand points of light evolve following the demise of the public schools. Throughout their history Americans have shown themselves to be both generous and ingenious. From scholarships and tuition assistance (remember, property tax relief will enable all citizens to spend their property tax relief as they see fit, not as government sees fit) to an array of different school types, all manner of ideas will come forth on “what to do with all those children.” To believe otherwise is to concede that we have lost our way as well as our senses of freedom and personal responsibility, and that only overseeing superintendent-esque nannies can save us.
Repealing the truancy and compulsory attendance laws frees students enabling but also requiring them to become personally responsible for usefully filling their time, simultaneously serving as a sobering means of correcting immature attitudes via a dose of reality. Students and parents will of necessity become discerning consumers of those educational services which they desire. Consider this example. A parent/s believes that comprehensive sex education, including awareness of all different perspectives of human sexuality, is an important educational value and that such information should be taught, at all grade levels, to his/her/their child. These parents will choose, through free association and without compulsion, schools accommodating their expressed wishes. While acknowledging the rights of those parents to choose as they may, other parents might avoid those choices, preferring instead other educational values which for them may include emphasis on math & science, fine arts, building trades, mechanics, religious instruction, and so forth. They too will decide through free association and without compulsion. Open choice aka freedom aka liberty will enable each educational consumer to receive the specific educational values which he/she/they seek/s without the application of governmental force upon others who do not share or want those educational choices.
Freedom for Teachers. To those who tsk-tsk the viable idea of doing away with the public schools, they should know that eliminating the public schools will not be the end of education. To the contrary it will encourage genuine learning. In an atmosphere of non-compulsion students who want to learn a chosen curriculum will present themselves before teachers who want to teach. The discipline problems of which teachers complain, including bullying, will largely disappear. Teaching to willing students is a joy unto itself. Having been a teacher in several venues – as seminar instructor on tax law matters to other accounting, tax & legal professionals; as host of numerous client seminars; as a homeschooling parent – I am keenly aware of how fulfilling it is to teach receptive students.
Freedom from Incompetence or Indifference. Every large public school system has its “rubber rooms” (search, “rubber rooms Stossel”) to which incompetent, insubordinate, or dangerous teachers are assigned, at full pay, while their cases for dismissal wend their way through a labyrinth of union contract provisions. Why such rooms? Because in the perverse world of public schools it is next to impossible to get rid of bad teachers. Despite the overriding concern, stated endlessly by politicians, bureaucrats and unions, of how much they all want to “educate the children,” the game is really about protecting government and its employees. Big government types, invariably “led” by Democrats and lapdog teachers’ unions, are the biggest offenders. Bureaucrats and union members have little concern whether children learn or not; their principal worry is their own paycheck. And please, let’s not hear about the many fine, dedicated teachers, blah, blah, blah. Even if true, these teachers are like students and parents: trapped in the grip of the union–big government vise. The fine intentions of these teachers will never loosen this grip; only an adherence to limited government and a commitment to personal responsibility will do that.
Freedom for the Uninvolved. Elimination corrects an inequity visited upon those who have no current direct stake in the educational system. Why should those who have no school-aged children be burdened with the schooling costs of those who do? If you choose to raise children, your obligations include clothing, sustenance, housing, and education. Before setting out, the cost is to be counted. The decision to start a family was yours, not that of your elderly, childless, or empty-nest neighbors. It doesn’t take a village to raise a family: it takes a responsible mom and a responsible dad. As matters now stand, your neighbors, not exercising any influence in your family-raising decision, are sent the bill for educating your children. All sorts of rationales are given for continuing this unfairness. They reduce to one: We benefit when all citizens are educated, or in bumper sticker language, If you think public education is expensive, try ignorance. This slogan’s encapsulated arrogance assumes that people are incapable of acting in their own best interests and would forever remain inert until the Nanny State intercedes and affects a rescue, all for their own good you must understand. Who else but leftists sell people for such short money? If those who are inadequately prepared understand that the principal difference between themselves and others who have better prospects, employment, or social standing, is education, common sense says that the former will know what to do.
Freedom to Choose. Each of us has different driving wants and needs; we choose cars accordingly, based on factors which include cost, safety, options, color, type (sedans, wagons, SUVs, minivans, pickups, light & heavy duty trucks, et alia). Yet the choice of schooling, also subject to a variety of factors, is far more determinative of an individual’s life direction than the choice of a car whose life span is a matter of mere years. Freedom prevails when parents and students, acting as consumers, make thoughtful choices for their purposes among competing alternatives with funds that would otherwise have been taken from them and wasted on a scheme that has failed for decades. Even leftists endorse educational choice, but only for themselves; when given the chance, leftists never choose the public option. Obama’s daughters go to private schools, as did Chelsea Clinton, as did Ted Kennedy’s kids. If this is leadership by example, then the people too should be able to choose. “Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do.”
What is more, genuine educational choice (without a public option) will defuse, at least in the school setting, many of society’s divisive issues, issues brought into the public schools through raw political power imposed on students, a captive, generally powerless audience. Without forced public schooling there would be no more of the seemingly endless battles on church-state separation and courses on human sexuality. Gone and unmissed will be battles over religious songs and symbols, whether religious days special to a particular faith should be recognized as school holidays, refusals to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, prayers at games or graduations. Mandatory sex education and associated hot-button topics such as abortion counseling, creationism, evolution, environ-ism, and countless other subjects which at best are only marginally tangential to core academic subjects, will be dealt with in a manner agreeable to students and parents since they as consumers will be freely choosing schools compatible with their wishes and expectations in these areas.
Tuition will be reasonable as schools will no longer be forced by law to deal with the selfish demands of public employee unions. Rather than serving the interests of their employees and administrators, schools will compete as every other successful consumer service competes, by placing the customer, here parents and students, not employees, as Priority #1. Sometime in the 1980s I heard Lane Kirkland, a then important union leader, speak at an American Federation of Teachers function. After his prepared remarks he took some questions one of which touched on the declining academic achievements of students. His blunt and forceful answer remains with me to this day. Paraphrased, “When children become union members paying union dues, then I’ll care about children’s education.”
Ending educational compulsion will bring freedom and freedom will bring responsibility and accountability. Schools in the post–public school era will be burdened to please their customers, parents and students, if they wish to succeed. Today, failing public schools are neither punished nor eliminated; rather, in the eccentric world that defines the “public domain,” they’re rewarded by being allowed to continue, often with increased funding, in order to “self-correct.” Bailouts may be new to Wall Street & Detroit carmakers, but bailouts have long been a part of failed public school systems.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the beneficial effects accruing to the American system of federalism, which will naturally flow from the elimination of public schooling. [Eliminate Public Schools, Part II]
Public School Systems Spent Recklessly on Wages, Benefits and Pensions During the Real Estate Bubble Years, and Continue to Do So; Property Values are Dropping But Property Taxes Are Not
State Spending on Teachers:
- Salary expenditure on all teachers (including home schoolers, special education, non-certified teachers): $3,571,389,694
- Benefits expenditures for teachers: $1,719,827,769
- Instructional expenditures for teaching supplies: $196,466,650
- Total current instructional expenditures per student (teacher salary and curriculum): $6,730
- Total current expenditures per student: $11,418
- State revenue per student: $6,043
- Federal revenue per student: $772
- Revenue by state property tax: $4,068,141,705
- Revenue by local government property tax: $21,309,250
- Federal grants direct to local districts: $46,575,346
- Federal grants through state: $572,547,127
People often believe that teachers don't make a lot of money. Those in the know, though, are aware that compensation in the education industry can be quite generous, especially when you factor in the great vacation schedule and the comprehensive benefits packages that usually go along with teaching. In Wisconsin, teaching salaries averaged $52,644 in 2009-10, according to the National Education Association, with most school districts offering benefits that range from health insurance to retirement plans.
The average Wisconsin teacher salary does vary, however. One major source of salary variation is what grade level you teach. In May 2009, preschool teachers in Wisconsin earned an average salary of $23,460, elementary school teachers earned $51,240, and secondary school teachers earned $49,400. Education and experience level also make a difference in teacher salaries: secondary school teachers in the 90th wage percentile earned $69,550, while the entry-level teacher salary is generally in the $30,000s.
Geographic location is another significant reason for variation in Wisconsin teaching salaries. Areas that have a higher cost of living often pay correspondingly higher salaries. Below are average annual earnings for secondary school teachers in five of the largest metropolitan areas in the state: (4)
- Green Bay: $55,110
- Kenosha: $68,400
- Madison: $50,770
- Milwaukee: $54,620
- Racine: $49,710
March 8, 2007
School researcher Jay Greene wrote last year about what he called “the teacher pay myth”:
"The common assertion that teachers are severely underpaid when compared to workers in similar professions is so omnipresent that many Americans simply accept it as gospel… But the facts tell a different story."In a study released in January 2007, Greene reported that –
"When considering teacher pay, policymakers should be aware that public school teachers, on average, are paid 36% more per-hour than the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker. They should be aware that the higher relative pay for public school teachers exists in almost every metro area for which data are available. Finally, they should be aware that paying public school teachers more does not appear to be associated with higher student achievement."
Click here to read “The Problem with Public Sector Unions.”
Blaine Young Show on WFMD in Frederick County, Maryland, a public school teacher with 26 years on the job, and making $86,000 per year, defended the salaries of public school teachers and administrators. Let us compare his salary of $86,000 with the rest of Frederick County and the U.S. in general [and keep in mind that school teachers work only 10 months per year, so they should be making less that the average private sector and public sector salaries (the people who pay their wages) for their area]:
|His Salary Minus the National Average for Federal Workers||$86,000||-||$79,197||=||$6,803|
|His Salary Minus the Average for Local Federal Workers||$86,000||-||$73,060||=||$12,940|
|His Salary Minus the Local Average for Teachers||$86,000||-||$67,150||=||$18,850|
|His Salary Minus the State Average for Teachers||$86,000||-||$57,000||=||$29,000|
|His Salary Minus the Average for Local Government Workers||$86,000||-||$45,344||=||$40,656|
|His Salary Minus the Average for Local Private Sector Workers||$86,000||-||$42,380||=||$43,620|
|His Salary Minus the Average for State Government Workers||$86,000||-||$42,120||=||$43,880|
The teaching profession for decades has complained about being underpaid. Now they defend their extravagant salaries (while working only 10 months vs. 12 months), which are paid for by taxpayers, as if their skill level and education are far superior to the rest of the workforce and as if their contribution to society is greater than that of the average American.
Public school employees who see themselves as intellectual-elitists vote for politicians who promise them the most benefits from the public treasury. Public school workers, backed by politically-powerful labor unions, have a much higher standard of living than that of the people they serve—the taxpayers who pay their salaries, benefits and pensions.
Wages in the public sector are not driven by competition and the free market because the public sector is a monopoly. In Frederick County, the average public sector employee makes about the same as the average private sector employee; however, this is not the case for Frederick County school employees. And not only are public school employees paid much more than the private sector (as well as others in the public sector), they have generous benefits and retirement packages. Plus (like others in the public sector) they can retire after 30 years, regardless of their age, with a taxpayer-guaranteed annuity that lasts a lifetime and which is not affected by fluctuations in the stock market. These lavish pension plans have bankrupted the 50 states.
The average public sector worker spends about 30 years in the workforce and 30 years retired, while the average private sector worker spends about 40 years in the workforce and 20 years retired. On average, public sector retirees receive a pension equal to 66% of their average base pay after working 30 years while private sector retirees receive benefits equal to 33% of their base pay after working 40 years. In the case of public school employees, the average retirement pension is greater than the average private sector worker’s base wages while still working! It is no wonder that public sector retirees cost taxpayers almost as much as the entire bill for social security for more than six times as many people.
In Frederick County Maryland, the starting salary for a teacher is $40,706 - $47,228 per year. The average salary for Frederick County public school teachers is $67,150 (note that teachers work 10-months vs. 12 months); the average salary for Frederick County public workers is $45,344; the median income for county employees in fiscal 2010 was $47,090, $6,500 more than the median pay for other county residents older than 16 (the average wage for private sector workers in Frederick County Maryland is $43,620). [Source]
What is the average teacher salary in each state?
Salaries for Faculty of State Universities
Financial Data for Public Schools in Maryland
Maryland teacher salaries are a good incentive, too—at $65,333 in 2009-2010, they were the fourth highest in the nation (National Education Association). [Source]
State Spending on Teachers
- Salary expenditure on all teachers (including home schoolers, special education, non-certified teachers): $4,546,093,989
- Benefits expenditures for teachers: $1,662,721,481
- Instructional expenditures for teaching supplies: $203,406,269
- Total current instructional expenditures per student (teacher salary and curriculum): $7,954
- Total current expenditures per student: $13,942
- State revenue per student: $6,502
- Federal revenue per student: $842
- Revenue by state property tax: $-1
- Revenue by local government property tax: $3,198,101,418
- Federal grants direct to local districts: $21,766,147
- Federal grants through state: $617,505,010
February 22, 2008
On Wednesday, the Frederick County School Board heard testimony about the FY 2009 budget. Among those testifying were Frederick County Teachers Association President Gary Brennan and Vice President Carol Dagan, both arguing for "competitive salaries" for county teachers.
Now don't get me wrong, Brennan and Dagan have every right, even the duty, to plead their case for more money for teachers. But let's take a look at some facts. The Frederick News Post conveniently links to a table of Frederick County Public School Salaries. With the FCTA arguing that teacher salaries are not "competitive" you have to wonder, what is FCPS doing paying our teachers poverty wages? Well, lets take a look at the teacher' salaries at three county schools, Ballenger Creek Elementary, Urbana High School and West Frederick Middle School.
[Comparing the salaries of the teachers at a elementary, middle and high school in Frederick County], the teachers at the three schools had a average individual income of between $57,250 and $60,500. The median income, again for these individuals, was between $53,886 and $61,061.
Economic data for Frederick County indicates that the median household income in November 2007 was is $60,507 and the median family income is $67,879. Using the lowest median teacher income for the three schools, teachers are making 89.2% of the median household income and 79.3% of the median family income--all by themselves with a generous benefit package.
In Frederick County, males had a median income of $42,378 versus $30,564 for females. In our teacher pool for these three schools, female teachers (146) are making a median income of $55,558 on a median experience level of eight years. Male teachers (60) make a median salary of $59,023 on a median experience level of nine years.
Thus female teachers in Frederick County are making a 81.7% larger income than the general female population in Frederick County. Male teachers are make 39.2% more money than the general population of males in Frederick County.
In all of Frederick County there are 413 teachers employed by the FCPS making better than $80,000 a year.
Take note that these are cash compensation salaries and do not account for the substantial benefits package that teachers receive, including generous pension and health care benefits.
This analysis is done on just three schools in Frederick County. A larger county wide assessment is worth a look to examine all the teachers, full or part time, in the county, but I suspect the numbers would not be all that different.
For all the bluster about teachers not being paid a competitive salary looks to be pure bunk, particularly when compared to the incomes of the rest of the county. So if teachers are being well compensated with 413 individualsy making some 30% more than the median household income, why then is the School Board even considering more than a cost of living increase in salaries?
The union can ask for more money, but it seems to me that teacher salaries in Frederick County are not only more than sufficient for our area, they are more than competitive with the every other industry in the county.
As the stock market bubbled ever higher in the 1990s, managers of pension plans ratcheted up their expectations of future "permanent" growth, giving politicos the go-ahead to ramp up pension pay-outs. In essence, pension plans, which were once constructed on the long-term expectation of 4-5% returns on capital, now based future earnings and pay-outs on the stock market's "average return" of 8% annually. As any reasonable person might have foreseen, the bubblicious stock market of the 1990s was not a "new permanent plateau" but, in fact, a bubble which imploded. Real returns in the past decade have been literally half what was anticipated and, as a result, state and local governments are having to make up the difference with cash out of general fund tax receipts. As tax receipts plummet in the "slow-growth," jobless recession, then state and local governments are forced to gut their programs to fund the oligarchy / fiefdom's pension promises. - Blame the Fed for the Pension Crisis Because They Engineered It, Seeking Alpha, May 24, 2010
July 6, 2006
Frederick County teachers and support staff will receive pay raises for the 2006-07 academic year under contracts approved by the school board on June 28.
The Board of Education had sought to give its employees a 6 percent cost of living adjustment, but the need for numerous programs to benefit student achievement also demanded budget funds. The board settled on a 4.5 percent increase as part of its fiscal 2007 budget approved last month. This is in addition to a 3.5 percent ‘‘step” increase based on years of experience for employees.
The new contract for the Frederick County Teachers Association went into effect Saturday. In addition to the 4.5 percent pay increase, the contract also reimburses employees for testing fees associated with certification.
Health insurance for the union will also cover hearing aids for children 18 years and younger and increase coverage of in vitro fertilization to $30,000 over a lifetime.
The union represents teachers, guidance counselors, specialists and others in the school system. Gary Brennan (hired 08/28/86; 2010 salary of $86,420), the union’s president, thanked the school board for making employee pay raises a top priority of budget deliberations, but noted the shortfall in the 6 percent goal.
‘‘Although I feel that we reached an acceptable agreement, we need to acknowledge that our goal was not met,” he said. ‘‘This means we need to set a similarly ambitious goal for next year and find ways to fund it.”School board president Michael E. Schaden noted that negotiations were successful this year because ‘‘everyone involved worked together.” Regarding teacher salaries, Schaden said he is hopeful that the pay increase will help keep qualified teachers in Frederick County classrooms.
‘‘Hopefully, our employees have recognition of what we’ve accomplished and stay,” he said.Members of the Frederick Association of School Support Employees, which includes bus drivers and custodial staff, also received approval for a contract spanning the next three academic years.
In the first year, which became effective Saturday, members will receive a 4.4 percent pay increase and see pay for second and third shifts of work increase by 10 cents per hour. The second year of the contract, for 2007-08, will bring a 3 percent salary increase and larger clothing allowances and bus driver⁄assistant stipends.
Union president Karen Blackwood (teacher's assistant hired 08/27/96; 2010 salary of $24,314) said,
Employees ‘‘value the children and their progress. And for us, it is not just a job, but our passion.”
‘‘We have a desire to work closely [with the school board] over the next year to make sure we always stay competitive in our quest to obtain and retain the best in all our work fields,” she said.
Vol. 11, No.6 : July 2008
July 1 paychecks brought good news for eligible employees: a step increase averaging 3.5% plus a 2% cost of living adjustment.
The 5.5% overall increase helps offset the Maryland Retirement and Pension System contribution rate change from 4% to 5% to provide better member benefits.
Employee healthcare and dental deductions remain steady, with no increase in premiums.
Finally, changing our life insurance carrier to Prudential brought lower premiums to 12-month employees with optional dependent coverage. Deductions declined from 50 to 30 cents per pay period, while benefit offerings remain the same.
Benefits booklets and assignment letters are out or on the way from HR along with details about expanded 403(b) investment options.
For more, visit the benefits page in the www.fcps.org Staff section.
Originally published May 9, 2008
A first-year, 10-month teacher in Frederick County earns $39,907. A six-year teacher at Myersville Elementary makes about $49,000, according to Frederick County Public School records.
This week, educators asked the county for a salary raise. Nine out of 10 people interviewed Thursday in Buckeystown, Adamstown, Urbana and Frederick said they should get it.
At the Urbana Park & Ride, Frederick resident Carla Tedford said,
"Yes I do. They have a lot to contend with. Children today are a lot different then when we were growing up. Teachers, they have such a great responsibility. Not only are they teachers, sometimes they're playing surrogate parents. The things they have to go through as an educator, and try to teach our young children how to make it in the world. I think they do deserve it."Urbana resident Siheen Asfaha said,
"I think they do. I don't think they get paid enough for what they deal with. They're preparing the future generation. They deserve it. When it comes to tax issues, I know we can't (burden) the taxpayers ... Maybe we need to cut down somewhere else so we can pay them more."But Adamstown resident Kenneth Cornwell said,
"No, because they have a lot of extra time off. I think they're making pretty good money. I got a whopping $2 dollar an hour raise over four years. I do make good money for what I do -- stock shelves for a living. Still, I work six days a week, have to. That's no voluntary type thing ... So I think they make good money and have good enough benefits."In Buckeystown, Frederick resident Shelia King said,
"Yes, because they go through a whole lot. They get beat up, shot at. It's their choice to be a teacher, and that's what their career is all about."Frederick student Linsey Hill had this to say:
"Yeah, I do. I also think they should get more money in the private schools too. They're really facing some difficult students ... I think with these times, with the economy becoming more strenuous, they need more money to keep up on books and school work ... They're building the foundation for us and we need the proper education."Mark Sackville works in Frederick County, lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and travels the country.
"Sure, they're molding our youth, aren't they," he said.
July 29, 2010
By a "comfortable margin," Frederick County Teachers Association members ratified a contract that keeps salaries flat but provides health insurance coverage for domestic partners, a long-sought benefit.
"For the second year, members will not receive a step increment or a cost of living pay raise," FCTA President Gary Brennan said Thursday. "But we were able to get the addition of domestic partners health insurance coverage."
"Opposite-sex couples have the option of marrying, so they are not included in this provision," he said. "Should Maryland pass a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, then we would revisit our plan."
Previously, there was a single tier to address employees with one dependent or seven, and the premium was the same regardless of size of family, Brennan said.
The new, employee-plus-one tier will be available to employees with just one dependent, whether a spouse or a child, he said. The new category is expected to save eligible employees about $50 a month.
Employees and retirees who participated in the medical and/or dental plans from Jan. 1 to June 30 will receive one-time rebates from the health insurance benefits fund.
Employees who paid for medical and dental plans will receive a rebate of $565 before taxes; employees who paid only for dental insurance will receive $200 before taxes; and retirees who paid for medical and health coverage will receive $200 before taxes.
Another $3 million is going to the Board of Education for its use, according to Hal Keller, executive director of fiscal services.
While the board has not met to discuss the money, Keller said one possible use would be to hold it and apply it toward the fiscal year 2012 budget.
"Entering the third year at the same salaries has caused our members to delay financial decisions and delay goals," he said.
"We see corporate gains going up, an"d the stock market going up -- we in the middle class wonder when it will hit us.
Teachers' Contract Negotiations will be First Hurdle for New School Board Members in Frederick County MarylandFrederick Gazette
October 7, 2010
The last time the contract between the Frederick County Board of Education and the teachers' union was up for negotiation, 11 months of haggling, a painful impasse process and five days of teachers' protests resulted before an agreement was reached.
The contract expires again in June and signing a new agreement with the teachers' union will be one of the most significant challenges for the Frederick County school board, which will have at least three new board members in December.
Four seats on the school board will be filled during the Nov. 2 general election. One incumbent is running for re-election.
Contract negotiations will not be easy, especially in a year when the school board will have to balance a tight budget with mounting pressure from teachers who have gone for three years without getting a raise, said Michael Schaden, vice president of the school board whose term will end in December.
New board members will not have much time to learn the specifics of the negotiations process before they start making important decisions about teachers' salaries and benefits, planning time and workload.
"The learning curve will be steep," Schaden said. "There are lots of things on the contract. And we haven't had any preliminary discussions about it."The school system and the teachers' union hold negotiations on salaries and financial issues every year, and renegotiate the entire teachers' contract every three years.
Paula Lawton ( hired 08/29/84; 2010 salary of $126,067), the school system's human resources director, anticipates negotiations will begin in December and continue through April.
The biggest question before the board during that time will be whether to raise teachers' salaries for fiscal 2012. That is not a simple decision, even though skipping salary increases in a tough budget climate may seem like a no-brainer.
While holding back salary increases may be a healthy budget decision, it is not the best strategy for ensuring that Frederick County remains competitive with other Maryland counties, Lawton said.
"Other counties in Maryland have been giving their teachers salary increases and we remain significantly behind," she said.Because of the bad budget times in the last few years Frederick County officials have not given teachers a raise since 2008, which has impacted negatively the school system's ability to compete for highly qualified teachers with other counties in the state, Lawton said.
According to Lawton, the Frederick County public school system offers $40,706 as a starting salary for new teachers, which ranks 22 among the 24 public education systems in Maryland.
In comparison, the starting salary for new teachers is $46,410 in Montgomery County, $45,061 in Howard County and $44,799 in Prince George's County.
Washington County, which is comparable to Frederick County by size and makeup, pays new teachers $43,652 and ranks sixth in the state, Lawton said.
"That is problematic," Lawton said.Salary increases, however, are just one small aspect of the discussion of teacher contracts, which normally covers topic such as health benefits, workload and planning time. Each of these topics has the potential to become a potential deal-breaker in the negotiations process, especially if the new school board takes salaries off the discussion table.
In 2008, for example, the issue that became a deal-breaker was the amount of planning time for high school teachers.
Up to that point, Frederick County high school teachers had 450 minutes each week to plan lessons and grade papers and the school board tried to push principals to reassign 90 of those minutes for collaborative time every week.
The school board later limited that collaborative time to 45 minutes twice per month, but as a result of their initial push, the negotiations between the school system and the union reached an impasse in May. As a result, the two sides had to hire a mediator to issue a non-binding solution to the problem.
Teachers eventually organized five "work to the policy" protest days, coming to school during only the hours for which they were paid. Some teachers stopped volunteering with student clubs or writing letters of recommendation outside of paid time.
Eventually, the two sides signed a contract in December 2008, nearly a year after they started negotiations.
Teachers may want to bring collaboration time up for discussion again, mostly because they don't feel it is being used efficiently, said Gary Brennan, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association. In addition, teachers most likely would want to discuss workload and the increasing demands on teachers' time, Brennan said.
That is why it will be crucial for the negotiations to start early and to ensure that new board members are fully aware of the rules and regulations that govern the negotiations process, Brennan said.
"There are very specific laws for how this works and there is definitely going to be a learning curve there," he said. "In my experience this is going to be pretty unique. In the last number of elections you've always had the same five core people on the board."Related story: Frederick County Board of Education candidates discuss teachers' contract issues
Originally published May 5, 2007
Frederick County Public Schools employees could receive an 8 percent raise this year.
The Board of Education announced Friday that it had reached an agreement with the Frederick County Teachers Association, giving teachers a 4.5 percent cost of living adjustment and 3.5 percent average scheduled salary increase.
Although the school system's other two unions -- the Frederick County Association of School Support Employees and the Frederick County Association of School Administrators -- are in the second year of a three-year contract that calls for 3 percent scheduled salary increases, the school board bumped their raise to match that of teachers.
"Our members are going to be very happy about this," said FASSE president Karen Blackwood. "It's probably one of the best we've had in a while."The Frederick County commissioners are paying for the 3.5 percent average scheduled salary increase, but only included a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment in their $471 million proposed fiscal 2008 operating budget.
The school system plans to fund the 2 percent difference for the cost of living adjustment with money from the state, said FCPS executive director for fiscal services Harold Keller, Jr (hired 09/05/90; 2010 salary of $140,665). The cost of living adjustment, the 2 percent difference, and other salary enhancements will cost the school system roughly $8.3 million of its proposed $462.9 million budget.
Gary Brennan, president of FCTA, said it is important to offer salaries that can compete with neighboring counties.
During the 2006-2007 school year, first-year, 10-month teachers with a bachelor's degree in Frederick County made $37,987 while in Montgomery County 10-month teachers with the same level of education earned $42,176.
"We presented a number we thought was fair and we just worked from there," Brennan said. "...Between the cost of living adjustment and the (scheduled salary increase) I think it definitely helps us to stay with surrounding counties, (but) I think we still need to look at a long-term solution to this."Brennan said he would like to set up a multiyear agreement so new employees would have an idea of how much their salaries would increase for a number of years.
The agreement also includes a memorandum of understanding that teachers hired for critical shortage areas such as special education, English language learners and speech/language instruction will receive a $3,000 incentive bonus.
Teachers who choose to pursue certification in those areas will also be eligible for full tuition reimbursement and a $10,000 bonus after working for the school system for three consecutive years.
FCPS attorney Jamie Cannon (hired 01/16/98; 2010 salary of $134,229) said the school board will evaluate the incentive program next year to determine if it was effective in recruiting teachers to those positions.
"That really was more of an initiative from the Board of Ed side," Brennan said. "They feel some positions are especially hard to fill because you have an extremely limited pool of qualified people ... Our priority is competitive salaries for all teachers because we feel a great and effective second grade teacher is just as important as a great and effective special education teacher."
February 16, 2011
Baltimore school officials hope as many as 750 teachers accept an offer for an early-retirement buyout.
It’s part of an effort to help close a $73 million budget gap in the fiscal 2012 budget and avoid layoffs. The school system is also facing a possible $15 million cut in state funding.
A letter sent to 3,200 eligible teachers on Friday offers teachers with more than 10 years of experience 75 percent of their current annual salary over five years if they commit to retire by April 15.
At least 350 teachers must accept the offer for the buyout to take effect. If more than 750 teachers or a large number of teachers in a particular subject area apply, participants will be selected by seniority. Teachers who take the buyout could still serve as substitutes.
February 16, 2011
Baltimore school officials hope as many as 750 teachers accept an offer for an early-retirement buyout.
It’s part of an effort to help close a $73 million budget gap in the fiscal 2012 budget and avoid layoffs. The school system is also facing a possible $15 million cut in state funding.
A letter sent to 3,200 eligible teachers on Friday offers teachers with more than 10 years of experience 75 percent of their current annual salary over five years if they commit to retire by April 15.
At least 350 teachers must accept the offer for the buyout to take effect. If more than 750 teachers or a large number of teachers in a particular subject area apply, participants will be selected by seniority. Teachers who take the buyout could still serve as substitutes.
Collective bargaining agreements with each of the three employee unions determine salaries and benefits for FCPS employees. The unions are the:
- Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA) for teachers and other professional staff,
- Frederick Association of School Support Employees (FASSE) for supporting services staff, and
- Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association (FCASA) for principals and other supervisors.
Unions may negotiate the scope of benefits and percentage share of premiums that employees will pay, but they may not negotiate the total cost of benefits or the specific identity of third-party providers. FCPS is self-insured for health and dental insurance, meaning that it pays the actual cost for claims as they occur instead of paying premiums to an insurance company. Eligible FCPS employees are covered by the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System defined benefits plan. Monthly payments to members and beneficiaries are made upon retirement, disability, or death.
- Negotiated Agreement Between the Frederick County Teachers Association and the Board of Education of Frederick County Maryland, School Year 2010-2011
- Approaching Retirement with the State Retirement & Pension System
- Frederick County Teachers Association Enrollment Form
- Search FCPS Salary Database
- What is the average teacher salary in each state?
Of Two Minds
March 30, 2011
Something remarkable happened to property taxes in the U.S. while housing lost 31% of its value from 2006 to 2009: they went up by $100 billion (27%). Equally remarkably, as we can see from this U.S. Census Bureau data on state and local tax revenues, property taxes went up even when housing slumped in the early 1990s.
So though U.S. housing continues losing value–U.S. home prices declined in January, continuing a downward trend that began in August, with average U.S. home prices retreating to summer 2003 levels, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home-price indexes–property tax revenues continue their inexorable rise.
I’ve plotted out the total national property tax revenues on a chart of the Case-Shiller home-price index.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation measures, if property taxes had risen along with inflation, the total property tax revenues nationally would have risen from $210 billion in 1996—more or less about the start of housing’s decade-long bubble—to $296 billion in 2011. But property taxes totaled $476 billion in 2009, a solid 60% ($180 billion) above inflation.
So even as the net worth of property has fallen by a third, the property taxes collected from the owners have risen 27%. Exhibit A in this ceaseless rise of property tax revenues is the structural shortfalls in state and local government budgets between what was promised to various fiefdoms and constituencies at the apex of various bubbles, and what is sustainable in non-bubble times.
Here is a chart of California’s systemic gap between revenues and expenditures. Please note that the apparent alignment of revenues and expenditures in 2010-11 is entirely illusory: the budget gap is $26 billion or perhaps more, once the fantasy accounting is removed.
And here is a chart of house prices in a classic symmetrical post-bubble deflation. I’ve drawn a target which is drawn from the reversion-to-the-mean model that the majority of bubbles track: prices don’t just retrace to the starting lift-off point, they overshoot to a level below that initial line.
As I reported in House Values Fall 30%, But Property Taxes Keep Rising (December 22, 2010), the nation’s state and local governments will collect an estimated $476 billion in property taxes in 2010–about 90% of state income tax revenues of $250 billion and sales tax revenues of $286 billion combined.
A decade ago, property taxes were roughly equivalent to sales taxes. In 2000, property taxes totaled $247 billion and sales taxes came in at $223 billion—a differential of roughly 10%. Sales taxes have increased by 28% since 2000—roughly in line with the rise in consumer prices.
State income taxes have risen nationally from $217 billion in 2000 to $250 billion in 2010, after peaking at $303 billion in 2008, just as the global financial meltdown began. That’s a rise of $33 billion, or 15%—actually less than inflation (27% from 2000 to 2010).
Add all this up and we can see that local governments have become far more dependent on property tax revenues than they were in 2000. Thanks to stiff increases in junk fees and taxes of all kinds, state and local government revenue has climbed back to its pre-recession height of $1.29 trillion, roughly equal to the $1.32 trillion collected in 2008. In terms of total tax revenue, the recession is over—yet the gap between expenditures and revenues continues to widen in most states and local governments.
Imagine if your income taxes rose by 27% even as your income declined by 30%.
The ultimate tax hostage is the property owner. The business owner can pull up stakes and leave, the wage earner can transfer or get another job elsewhere, and the consumer can restrict his/her consumption to lower the burden of sales taxes, but the property owner is the perfect tax donkey because the transaction costs of selling are so prohibitive.
How long will property owners keep swallowing significantly higher property taxes even as the value of their real estate continues declining? It’s an open question. I suspect the answer won’t be known until some invisible breaking point is reached, and voters simply rebel against higher taxes while their own net worth and incomes stagnate.
Just because there is little visible resistance to sharply higher property taxes (and other taxes and junk fees as well, of course) doesn’t mean resistance isn’t building below the surface, unreported by a financial media obsessed with the S&P 500 as the only metric of wealth and prosperity and unnoticed by state and local governments obsessed with stripmining more tax revenues by any means at hand.
The rising S&P 500 looks good as propaganda, but for most Americans, that’s about as edible and nourishing as an iPad.
Loudoun County Public School is by far the largest employer in Loudoun County, Virginia, employing more than 10,000 people in 2009. With a budget of $738,988,960 for fiscal year 2010, and with 80% of the typical school budget going to salaries, health benefits and pensions, that amounts to $591,191,168 spent on employees and retirees.
Loudoun Taxpayers for Responsible Government
February 16, 2010
The Loudoun County FY 2011 budget process promises to be one of the most challenging ever. Too much spending and too much borrowing during the housing bubble years of the past decade has elevated spending to exorbitant levels. County bureaucrats want to keep it that way with a proposed 10% tax hike on Loudoun homeowners.
In a recent video promoting his bloated $764 million budget proposal -- $32 million more than the adopted FY10 budget -- LCPS Superintendent Ed Hatrick stated that in a “normal” year he would have asked for a staggering $815 million.
He has become accustomed to such exorbitant increases and surely would have asked for that much, or more, had the BOS not provided fiscal "guidance" limiting his budget to a 5% increase in local tax funding.
To put $815 million in perspective, it is enough to fund enrollment growth plus 6% at a time when inflation is just over 2% a year. It would require a 17% tax hike.
Today’s bloated budget is a direct result of too many of those “normal” years in the past 10 years. The following table details the adopted school budget history, as well as projected budget “needs” from the FY10 adopted school budget document, which would reach $1 billion dollars by FY13!
If funding had just kept pace with enrollment growth and inflation since FY00 (2.8% a year on average), the FY11 school budget would need to be only $631 million, instead of the $764 million Hatrick is asking for.
The general county operating budget has also been overfunded.
While the budget has grown because of population growth, there has been an astounding growth in per capita spending over the past 10 years. More people, plus twice as much spending per person is a recipe for a fat budget!
The funding increases from FY00 to FY08 were anything but normal. In fact, it could well have been the biggest run-up in spending ever. Increasing the rate of spending on a per capita or per pupil basis at 3 times the rate of inflation is excessive and unsustainable without massive property tax increases.
Housing Bubble Revenue Fuels Unprecedented Budget GrowthAll homeowners are aware of the numerous double-digit property tax hikes during the housing bubble era, but it is lesser known that the county became dependent on other taxes and fees related to real estate transactions and development. They proved to be just as cyclical as the real estate market itself and when the housing bubble burst, revenues plummeted as depicted in the following graph.
Then there are revenue sources that rose drastically in the first half of the decade and have since tapered off. Many of these were related to wealth generated by the housing bubble, such as sales, personal property and income taxes. The state coffers were also overflowing, fueled by rising incomes and a state-level tax increase enacted during Governor Warner’s administration, which resulted in a big jump in state aid to localities.
The BOS was able to use rising property values as an excuse to raise the average tax bill by as much as 18% a year. There was little outrage from homeowners blinded by their new-found wealth. It was analogous to when Walt Disney Company stock was flying high and Michael Eisner received nearly a billion dollars in stock options, but shareholders did not care as long as the stock price continued to rise and they were making money.
After the housing bubble burst and other revenue sources either declined or were flat, the BOS turned to their good ol’ reliable ATM – Loudoun homeowners – to make up the difference and continue spending at the level they had become accustomed to. The fact that housing values peaked in 2006 and have declined every year since was not a hindrance. It was time to work the other part of the tax bill equation – the tax rate, which increased a low of 89 cents in 2006 to a proposed $1.40 in 2010.
While the soaring tax rate was bad enough for homeowners, it was particularly hard on business owners because commercial property values were still rising. Is it a wonder so many businesses have folded over the past few years? How is sharply increasing the cost of business going to help attract new businesses to Loudoun to help relieve the disproportionate homeowner tax burden?
What happens during economic upturns is that the county will drastically increase spending and consider it normal. Of course, county officials don’t like to remind folks of the good ol' days when spending was skyrocketing. In the aforementioned video (actually, it’s more of an infomercial format) Hatrick has a chart of per-pupil spending that only goes back to FY06, which leaves out the biggest run-up in spending.
Other Graphs (from Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance)
FCTA Testimony on the Fairfax County Public Schools Proposed FY2012 Budget
By Arthur G. Purves - President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
January 24, 2011
Dr. Dale and Members of the Board:
Good evening. My name is Arthur Purves. I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.
Recently a Taxpayer Alliance board member emailed the school board to express concerns about rising taxes. The reply, from an at-large school board member, stated that one reason for increased taxes is that FCPS has to pay next year $8.1 million to implement an unfunded mandate for online testing.
One would conclude from the school board email that unfunded mandates were the primary driver of higher school spending. That would be an incorrect conclusion. In his FY2012 budget proposal, the superintendent has proposed $99 million of spending increases.
Of that, $47 million is to give all school employees average raises of 4 percent, since they have gone without raises for two years. However, between 2001 and 2009, county and school raises exceeded DC area private sector raises by 300 percent (22% vs. 7.3%0) I doubt that many private-sector businesses will be giving 4 percent raises to all employees next year.
Another $33 million is for increased pension and health insurance costs, even though private-sector taxpayers are far less likely than county workers to have pensions and health insurance. When you include pensions and health insurance, school and county workers are far better compensated than the private sector. Are you and the neighboring school districts being fair to taxpayers when you raise taxes so that county employees can have better raises and benefits than the taxpayers who fund them?
Does student achievement justify higher taxes? We think not. According to the ACT college admissions test results for Fairfax County Public Schools, last year only 44 percent of the students tested were prepared for college. Also, while FCPS made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, remember that passing SOL tests requires only “D” level achievement.
While we oppose compensation increases, we heartily agree teachers are overworked. Lighten their load. Special Ed teachers have told us that they need to work 80 hours a week, but only 40 hours is spent teaching; the rest is for IEPs, which are federally mandated. Here’s a solution: as a school board you can declare all your schools to be charter schools, waive the unnecessary and burdensome mandates and let your teachers teach.
In summary, we believe that the school board is unfair to taxpayers, overstates academic achievement, and unnecessarily burdens its teachers.
Testimony to the Fairfax County Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly
By Arthur G. Purves - President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
January 8, 2011
Distinguished Members of the General Assembly:
My name is Arthur Purves. I address you as president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.
Virginia’s current budget crisis was preceded by a ten-year spending binge. According to the Virginia General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s Review of State Spending: 2007 Update, between 1998 and 2007, the Virginia budget doubled, from $17.6 billion to $35 billion.
The report (Table 4) states that during this period Virginia public college inflation-adjusted budgets increased three times faster than enrollment (46% vs. 15%), inflation-adjusted spending for public schools increased four times faster than enrollment (37% vs. 9%), and Medicaid spending adjusted for Medical Inflation increased four times faster than population (48% vs. 12%). Unbelievably, public school staff increased five times faster than enrollment (48% vs. 9%).
However, according to the 2010 ACT college admissions test results for Virginia, only 31 percent of the 19,236 Virginia students taking the test were prepared for college. While the Standards of Learning (SOL) testing program has accredited most schools, passing the SOL tests (“Pass Proficient”) represents “D” level work. When I queried the VDOE database to find the percent of students who scored at “Pass Advanced”, which is a much better indicator of college preparedness, the response I got was “The data you have requested would require 303 columns. The most allowed by Excel is 256. Please adjust your request to decrease the number of columns” with no guidance on how to reduce the number of columns.
College achievement is also decreasing while college tuition increases. Why does college tuition outpace inflation? I cannot find a JLARC report on the topic.
Medicaid funds healthcare for those in poverty. Isn’t the solution to educate low-income children so they can become self-supporting adults? However, despite decades of lip-service to the minority student achievement gap it is clear that our public schools, with their progressive anti-phonics, anti-drill, anti-fact, atheistic curriculum cannot close it. Why do you give state and local school boards veto authority over charter schools when these boards are unable to educate their own students?
After decades of massive public-education funding with paltry results, you should cut education spending and open the way to school competition.
Massive spending on education and healthcare is one of the major reasons there is inadequate funding for roads and bridges. The other reason is Dulles Rail. Five billion dollars for Dulles Rail is five billion diverted from road and bridge construction. The Dulles Rail project construction began without a viable financial plan. The Airports Authority will not disclose how much it will raise tolls to pay for it. The expectation is that tolls will increase ten-fold. Support Delegate LeMunyon’s bill to require Loudoun and Fairfax supervisors to vote on all toll road increases. If Dulles Rail collapses because of this, let it be a monument to reckless local and state government budgeting.
Dulles Rail is not too big to fail.
Obama’s 'Organizing for America' is Behind Public Workers' Protests in Wisconsin and Ohio; Students are being Used as PropsThe Sheeple Are Reacting Just as Planned for the Illuminati to Bring Order Out of Chaos
February 17, 2011
Wisconsin is starting to look like Egypt. As I write this, I see images on television of protesters carrying signs calling Wisconsin Governor Walker a dictator, calling him Mubarek and depicting him as Hitler. The man is only doing what he was elected to do! How does that make him a dictator?
Earlier it was noted that union thugs were showing up at the private residences of Republican lawmakers to intimidate them. Now we find out that Organizing for America, Obama’s campaign arm, is behind the protests.
OfA, as the campaign group is known, has been criticized at times for staying out of local issues like same-sex marraige, but it’s riding to the aide of the public sector unions who hoping to persuade some Republican legislators to oppose Walker’s plan. And while Obama may have his difference with teachers unions, OfA’s engagement with the fight — and Obama’s own clear stance against Walker — mean that he’s remaining loyal to key Democratic Party allies at what is, for them, a very dangerous moment.
OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on planning and producing rallies, a Democratic Party official in Washington said.How typical. Something tells me we won’t hear any Democrats talking about the Astroturf nature of the protests.
Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature are nowhere to be found. Republican Senators planned on beginning debate on Walker’s bill reining in the unions today, but they can’t do so due to senate rules.
All 14 Senate Democrats were absent when Sen. President Michael Ellis
called role at about 11:30 a.m.
Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the Senate needs 20 members
to vote on the bill, meaning one Democrat must be present.
Fitzgerald called the move “disappointing.” Ellis announced to the(Via Maggie) According to JS Online, some of the Senators have fled the state and law enforcement officers are searching for them. These people are in contempt, and apparently our president supports them.
Senate audience members he did not know when the chamber would
Patrick McIlheran summed things up nicely.
Say you generally liked Gov. Scott Walker’s move to rein in government labor costs but had a few doubts on his method. The last few days should have cleared that up nicely.
The public-sector union tantrums, meant to make lawmakers wobble, have an inadvertent message for the rest of us: Voters can vote all they want. We can elect a cheapskate governor and a Legislature to match. But come the moment, unions will have the last, loudest word.
They’ll have it if takes marches. They’ll have it if it takes what amounts to an illegal strike, with so many Madison teachers calling in sick Wednesday that the district closed schools. If it takes showing up for a we-know-where-your-family-is protest on Walker’s Wauwatosa lawn while he was at work, the unions are sure they can outshout any election result.
This is exactly why Walker is right to limit the unions’ power over government spending.
Walker, remember, is not removing unions’ fundamental power to bargain for wages. He is demanding that state workers put 5.8% of their wages toward retirement and that they cover 12.6% of their health care premiums, which would still have them paying more than $100 less a month than the average schmoe. He is also proposing that elected officials determine the shape of employee benefits without having to bargain them, and this as much as the added cost has unions crying “unfair.”RTWT. These people are beyond contempt. They talk about democracy – give me a break. Basically they’re telling the people that foot the entire bill for their health care and their retirement to F*** off! They’ll keep on taking, and taking, and taking until everyone is bankrupt. It’s disgusting. And this has nothing, I repeat, nothing, to do with the children!
Update: It isn’t like teachers in Wisconsin aren’t paid well.
People often believe that teachers don’t make a lot of money. Those in the know, though, are aware that compensation in the education industry can be quite generous, especially when you factor in the great vacation schedule and the comprehensive benefits packages that usually go along with teaching. In Wisconsin, teaching salaries averaged $52,644 in 2009-10, according to the National Education Association, with most school districts offering benefits that range from health insurance to retirement plans.Keep in mind, those figures do not include the generous benefits they receive, which are much, much better than we get in the private sector. Being a teachers union boss is even more lucrative.
Government employee unions’ class warfare rhetoric seems out of place coming from the top union brass.
The MacIver News Service has examined hundreds of pages of public records available through the U.S. Department of Labor and via the online search site Guidestar and found that many of the most prominent union advocates in the state make well in excess of $100,000 a year in salary alone.
For example, Marty Beil, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME )Council 24 SEPAC, made $161,847 in 2008 according to the organization’s Form 990. That’s considerably more than the $144,423 a year Scott Walker makes as Wisconsin’s Governor.
Despite this, Beil has repeatedly attempted to portray Walker as a member of some upper class elite. In December, Beil said Walker’s treatment of state employees was like “the plantation owner talking to the slaves.”
Update 2: The missing Democrats have been found – at a resort in Illinois.
Update 3: Speaker John Boehner released a statement supporting Governor Walker and the voters of Wisconsin.
Update 4: I’m watching ABC News, and the reporting has been quite supportive of the unions. What a shock.
Gateway Pundit reports that the tea party is following the Dems on the run, and he offers a $100 reward to the first to make a citizen’s arrest. It sounds like they could be on their way back from Wisconsin.
Update 5: A tea party activist caught up with a couple of Wisconsin Democrats who are allegedly returning to Illinois to do their jobs. We’ll have to wait and see about that.
Update 6: Doug Ross posted the top 15 photos from the protests in Wisconsin. This one takes the cake.
Just who’s raping whom?
He ignored a federal court, he sued the State of Arizona to force his will upon them and now Barack Obama might be playing a role in the protests in Wisconsin calling for the ouster of that state's governor because of he opposes the wishes of some unions closely tied to the Obama administration? - Marcus Carey, bluegrassbulletin.com
February 18, 2011
Give one of Politico’s Journolisters Ben Smith some credit. He actually told the truth that Obama’s Organizing for America is behind the protests in Wisconsin’s by the union thugs.
Smith of course tries to sugar coat the whole thing by discussing things like in as same-sex marriage which has absolutely no relevance to this story. Smith also goes on to say Obama has “had his differences with the teacher’s unions” which is another big crock of sh*t.
Organizing for America’s Wisconsin’s twitter account has sent out at least 54 tweets promoting the protests, and plug their blog.
“At a time when most folks are still struggling to get back on their feet, Gov. Walker has asked the state legislature to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Under his plan, park rangers, teachers, and prison guards would no longer be able to fight back if the new Republican majority tries to slash their health benefits or pensions,” Organzing for America's Wisconsin State Director Dan Grandone wrote supporters in an email.
“But that’s not even the most shocking part: The governor has also put the state National Guard on alert in case of ‘labor unrest.’
As you may have heard, thousands of union workers have stormed the State Capitol in Wisconsin, and are attempting to bully lawmakers into siding with public employee unions just as Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, is attempting to instill some fiscal responsibility to that state’s budget. Politico has broken the news this morning that Obama’s campaign arm “Organizing for America” is responsible for most of the chaos, and has been filling bus after bus with protestors and shuttled them to the State Capitol. This was not a spontaneous uprising – this was an organized effort by Barack Obama to further his radical, leftist agenda. Obama’s “Organizing for America” has been promoting the effort to instill chaos in Wisconsin, using email lists, Twitter, and Facebook urging liberals in the state to bully lawmakers into siding against Governor Walker. They sent out 54 messages on Twitter alone! This is one more reminder why it is that we must Defeat Barack Obama once and for all. - The Party Of No, Obama’s Campaign Arm Organizing For Amercia Behind WI Protest, February 17, 2011“We can’t — and won’t — let Scott Walker’s heavy-handed tactics scare us. This Tuesday and Wednesday, February 15th and 16th, volunteers will be attending rallies at the state”
The Daily Caller
February 17, 2011
The organizing arm of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that got President Barack Obama elected, “Organizing for America,” is engaging and actively supporting the union protests in Wisconsin – despite DNC Chairman Tim Kaine’s previous stint as governor of a state with employees without collective bargaining rights.
Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson sent a letter to Kaine asking him to acknowledge that, in Virginia where he served as governor,
“Public employees get along just fine without having collective bargaining rights, yet you remain silent about this fact and allow your minions to seek to incite protests rather than promoting an understanding that being freed from the shackles of collective bargaining is one of the keys to Virginia’s prosperity.”The Democratic Party’s official Wisconsin organizing Twitter account — @OFA_WI – has been tweeting from the scene since the protests began. The tweets range from encouraging the protesters to encouraging underage students to join in.
Obama has called Walker’s plans an “assault on unions,” and his Organizing for America campaign group is filling buses and running phone banks in Madison, Wisconsin.
February 17, 2011
Stunner. Barack Obama’s Organizing for America website is helping to organize the “day of rage” protests in Wisconsin.
What a complete shock.The OFA Wisconsin twitter feed bragged about how they used students as props at their protests today.
February 17, 2011
...Building on the momentum in Wisconsin, OFA has also started to mobilize its army of followers in Ohio and Indiana where measures similar to Gov. Walker’s are taking shape.
On Thursday, an estimated crowd of more than 1,000 descended on the Ohio statehouse in Columbus to march in favor of state workers’ collective-bargaining privileges. According to one report from the Huffington Post, organizing efforts in Ohio are “about a week behind that in Wisconsin.”
A DNC staffer told The Huffington Post that the group upped its efforts in Wisconsin after Chairman Tim Kaine spoke with local legislators last week. OFA then began organizing turnout for Thursday’s statehouse rally and running phone banks in Ohio targeting state senators, which are slated to continue next week. This weekend, organizers have set up door-to-door canvassing in key districts that they hope will likewise put pressure on swing lawmakers.
OFA National Deputy Director Jeremy Bird said volunteers first alerted the group to the contested Ohio legislation. “The energy is pretty remarkable,” he told The Huffington Post. “People started to contact us, and they’d call our office and our volunteers, and say, ‘This is a big deal. This is going to affect my family.’ … That started to really simmer earlier this week in Ohio, and it’s starting to pick up the pace.”
In Ohio, major labor unions including AFSCME and the AFL-CIO are also stepping up the pressure against Gov. John Kasich (R) and the bill’s supporters. The AFL-CIO estimated that tens of thousands of phone calls, emails and handwritten postcards have been delivered to state senators in opposition to the legislation, and a spokesman said the protests will continue in the coming weeks.Pension Envy, Pension Crisis, On Point Radio, July 28, 2010
Only 9% of all private sector workers are now represented by a union, less than half the percentage of two decades ago. Meanwhile, the proportion of state and local workers with union representation has held steady over the same time, at about 43%... Government pensions are generally much richer than those offered by corporations. The average public sector employee now collects an annual pension benefit of 60% after 30 years on the job or 75% if he is one of the one-fifth or so of workers who are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits. Of the corporate employers that still offer traditional pensions, the average benefit is equal to 45% of salary after 30 years... Just as important, about 80% of government retirees receive pensions that are increased each year to keep pace with the cost of living, a feature which protects pensions against the effects of inflation and that can increase the value of a typical pension by hundreds of thousands of dollars over a person's retirement. But such inflation protection is nonexistent in corporate plans. - Bankrupt Public Pensions: A Time Bomb That Will Explode, AnchorRising.com, May 16, 2005
Misguided public sector incentives are particularly obvious when reviewing the status of public sector pensions across America, where public sector unions make outrageous demands and spineless politicians and bureaucrats cave into those demands, leaving working family and retiree taxpayers holding the bag. - Bankrupt Public Pensions: A Time Bomb That Will Explode, AnchorRising.com, May 16, 2005
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. - Justice Litle, Is America’s Economic Recovery on the Whole Based on a Rotten Sham?, Daily Markets, April 20, 2010
February 17, 2011
Thousands of teachers, union members and students packed the Wisconsin state house on Wednesday, vowing to remain for the rest of the week, in a heightening face-off with the new Republican governor over collective bargaining rights and pensions.
In a day-long rally that extended into the evening, as the state's Joint Finance Committee met to consider the legislation designed to greatly curb public employees from union-led contract negotiating, protesters chanted slogans such as, “Union busting is disgusting,” and “Kill the bill.”
Filling several floors of the ornate, domed building, the protesters also toted signs showing their personal ire for Gov. Scott Walker himself, including “Suck it Walker” and “Show your face, coward!”
Mike Graff, a biology teacher, was holding the latter, and joined plumbing, electrical and garbage collection union members in calls for preserving union rights and upholding pension agreements.
“We've played by the rules for the last 20 years,” Graff told FOX Business. “Now the concern is the rules will suddenly change.”Beneath the capitol dome, the patchwork of interest groups provided a varied feel to the event – making it part rally, part concert, and part anti-globalization protest, replete with signs exclaiming “Tax the rich and corporations. Fix the deficit.”
Outside, however, a lone bill supporter faced the crowd with a sign of his own, proclaiming,
“The rest of Wisconsin supports Gov. Walker.”
As union members pleaded their case with him, Bryan Riesing, an electrical engineer, told FOX Business,
“I'm not a fan of unions. That's just the way it is. I'm not. If people disagree with me, they disagree with me.”Some lawmakers are calling for amendments to the bill, but Republicans, who control the legislature, are trying to get the bill passed unchanged by the end of the week.
"With Wisconsin facing a $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget, bold steps must be taken," Republican State Rep. Tyler August said to FOX Business. “This bill aligns the contributions state employees make to their benefit packages closer to that of those in the private sector.”Among other provisions, the bill would prohibit union-negotiated raises for teachers beyond the consumer price index. Teacher unions are encouraging their members, and other unions, to take part in “sit-ins” at the capitol for the next two days in anticipation of a final vote on the measure. This week, many state teachers have protested the legislation by taking sick days in massive numbers, shutting down schools across the state.
Chris Wilharm, a social studies teacher and chief negotiator for Wisconsin's Neenah Joint School District, says members have already offered $100 million in concessions, but have so far been ignored.
“He wants to strip us of any power,” she said. “This is poisoning everything – everything.”Meanwhile, Riesing, the bill supporter, made attempts to change the minds of some teachers, with little success.
“The way I get more pay is I work harder at work,” he said. “My boss sees that, and I get a raise. And the guy next to me might not get a raise.”They yelled back, “Many years we lost money, or didn't get any!”In Washington, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday fiscal restraint is needed, and cited recent federal salary freezes, but called the legislation during a radio interview, “an assault on unions.”
Teachers Union Has Stranglehold on Wisconsin Schools
Teachers fighting new union regulations and Teachers Debating Gov. Walker's Bill
Teachers March on Wisconsin Capital; Teachers Striking
What to Know About Illinois Public School Teacher and Administrator Pay
When considering teacher pay, policymakers should be aware that public school teachers, on average, are paid 36% more per-hour than the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker. They should be aware that the higher relative pay for public school teachers exists in almost every metro area for which data are available. Finally, they should be aware that paying public school teachers more does not appear to be associated with higher student achievement.