Washington ponders how to pay for smaller classes
Voters in Washington state (sic) had only three statewide ballot measures to decide Nov. 4 and two of them…drew national attention because they concerned firearms…
However, it’s the third initiative, 1351, that’s likely to prove most vexing for Washington voters — and taxpayers. It requires the state’s public schools to limit their class sizes to 17 students for kindergarten through third grade and to 25 students for grades four through 12, with limits of 15 students and 22 students, respectively, for schools in low-income neighborhoods…
Although Initiative 1351 attracted little attention outside Washington, it generated a ferocious battle within the state, with the teachers’ unions leading the charge for a “yes” vote…Virtually every major newspaper in the state recommended a “no” vote, with The Bellingham Herald calling the initiative a “funding black hole.”
That’s because the measure doesn’t say where the money will come from to implement the smaller class sizes…
In addition to requiring hiring more teachers — possibly as many as 15,000 — the measure requires increased student support staff, including counselors, teaching assistants and librarians. The Office of Financial Management estimated that the initiative will add $4.7 billion to the cost of elementary and secondary education over the phase-in period…
We Respond & Your Comments
We’re shocked! Shocked! You mean somebody has to pay for this? Who on Earth could be against smaller class sizes? Can’t we just raise taxes on the rich? How about corporations? Just take it from them! How about millionaires?
Yes, Dear Readers, somebody has to pay for everything – no matter how good it sounds. No matter if politicos call it an “investment.” Even if it’s “for the children.” And that “someone” is you.
So we snicker while we watch to see how our neighbors to the north will find the $4.7 billion they’ll need to fund this “sounds good…feels good” boondoggle. And we take this opportunity to remind ourselves that the government has only one source for getting dollars. As readers of this publication know – that source is the money you worked to earn.
It’s really difficult to fire a bad teacher. A group of Silicon Valley investors wants to change that.
On a warm day in early June, a Los Angeles County trial-court judge, Rolf M. Treu…dropped a bombshell on the American public-school system. Ruling in Vergara v. California, Treu struck down five decades-old California laws governing teacher tenure and other job protections on the grounds that they violate the state’s constitution.
In his 4,000-word decision, he bounded through an unusually short explanation of what was an unprecedented interpretation of the law. Step 1: Tenure and other job protections make it harder to fire teachers and therefore effectively work to keep bad ones in the classroom. Step 2: Bad teachers “substantially undermine” a child’s education. That, Treu wrote, not only “shocks the conscience” but also violates the students’ right to a “basic equality of educational opportunity” as enshrined in California’s constitution…
…What happened next was predictable: the educational establishment hit DEFCON 1.
We Respond & Your Comments
We’ve touched on the subject of teacher tenure before (Lane Solutions, Issue 71), but we revisit it here for two reasons.
First, the writer of this Time article does an exceptional job of presenting opposing opinions on this controversial subject. Second, because, as this article reports, a lawsuit designed to eliminate teacher tenure may be coming soon to Oregon.
So we encourage you to click on the above link and take a few minutes to read this article. Be sure to also click on the responses at the end, witness the education establishment hitting DEFCON 1 and then ask yourself why the elimination of lifetime tenure for teachers drives them so crazy.
NEA spends more on lobbying than representing members
The nation’s largest teachers union [the National Education Association, or “NEA”] spends three times as much money on politics, overhead, and union administration as it does on serving its membership, according to federal labor filings…
The union annually collects nearly $370 million in dues from its 3 million members, as well as its 88,000 non-member teachers, according to the filings…
A Colorado teacher who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating union supporters said the NEA’s spending made her question its dedication to teachers…
… “The NEA claims that it is committed to advancing the cause of public education, but I think that there is a disconnect in furthering its political agenda.”…
“Big Labor unions like the NEA would rather push their radical political agenda instead of working to improve working conditions for their members,” [Ryan] Williams [of Worker Center Watch] said…
Our Response & Your Comments
Teachers’ unions were created to get more money for underpaid teachers. They’ve done that. Oregon teachers’ average salary is $58,758. When you annualize it, which means adjusting it to account for the fact that teachers work about 72% of the days that average employees work, their salaries average out at $81,608. The average Oregon employee earns $43,091. Teachers do quite well.
The NEA is now a $370 million business. It confiscates money from teachers in the form of dues and funnels it to politicians who repay them by voting for, as we quote above, “their radical political agenda.” That agenda may, or may not, help teachers. Least of all does it help the kids they say they’re fighting for.
As Eric Hoffer said, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
– Canton Winer, college.usatoday.com
Oregon lawmakers are currently exploring a proposal that could make community college free to the state’s residents.
If implemented, the proposal would cost Oregon between $10 million and $250 million annually…
Our Response & Your Comments
First, nothing is free. Somebody pays for it. Second, any “proposal” that costs between $10 million and 25 times that amount isn’t one bit serious. But who ever said the crowd in Salem was serious about anything except grabbing more of your money to give it away to people who’d return the favor with their votes?
Third, we’ve explained in past issues how subsidizing education leads to schools increasing tuition and fees to absorb the newfound money.
Finally, if you want to see even bigger increases in tuition just make it free. Then you’ll have educators who want more money from legislators who can grab it out of your paycheck. It’s called “third party payment” – and the first two parties (educators and legislators) have absolutely no interest in controlling how much they take from the third, which happens, dear readers, to be you.
So, if you think tuition is high now – just wait ‘til it’s “free.”
Higher ed commission recommends big increase
– Eugene Register Guard
…Gov. John Kitzhaber told the [Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission] to prepare a proposal for spending an additional $147 million on higher education, beyond the amount that would be needed to sustain the status quo in the 2015-17 biennium…
The commission recommended that $66 million, the biggest single portion of the $147 million, be allocated to student financial aid. An allocation of that size would increase current resources for state financial aid by 60 percent…
Our Response & Your Comments
Flash to Guv Kitz: Here’s an ironclad rule of economics: If you want more of something, subsidize it. It works for anything – including tuition.
Let’s be clear: We’re all for helping poor kids go to college. What we’re not for is the massive increases in government subsidies for tuition that have, according to former Secretary of Education William Bennett, “enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase.”
Between 1997 and 2008 total student aid (in constant dollars) rose 84%, helping to push tuition and fees at public four year colleges & universities up 50% in constant dollars.
So we have a vicious cycle: government subsidies make tuition more expensive, which causes politicians to toss in more government subsidies, which makes tuition even more expensive, which causes politicians…(you get the picture).
What have we gotten for all this money? From 1997 to 2008 the six year graduation rate rose 7% – which is less than the 10% population increase. What have college kids and parents gotten? Gigantic bills. How about the politicians who goosed tuition up for these kids and parents? They’ve gotten what they most crave: votes.
Five teacher hiring and firing laws bit the dust in California this week. In a major blow to teachers unions, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu’s ruling struck down teacher tenure, while freeing districts from spending hundreds of thousands to fire teachers and from having to fire newly-hired teachers first during layoffs…
…The data could not be clearer that the union-controlled public education monopoly disproportionately harms black and Latino students. But legal pushback on the issue puts the Democratic Party in a tight spot. Party leaders can continue ignoring or thwarting reform efforts… Or, they can jump on board the fight for equality, and alienate the teachers unions…
In his ruling Judge Treu described the evidence that California’s teacher hiring and firing laws harm poor and minority students “compelling.”
…Harvard Prof. Raj Chetty testified as well, showing research that a student with a grossly ineffective teacher for even one year loses $50,000 in lifetime earnings compared to a student assigned to an average teacher…
Our Response & Your Comments
While most teachers are dedicated and hardworking, as in any profession there are some who should be ushered out of it. This is why tenure matters.
According to Oregon Revised Statute 342.805(3), a teacher ends his/her probationary period and, in effect, earns tenure after three years providing that he/she “has been retained for the next succeeding school year.”
How hard is it to fire a tenured but incompetent teacher? According to a formerly highly placed Eugene official, very, very hard. In fact, a recent removal took one and one half years. According to Harvard Prof. Chetty (above), that means that for every class of just 20 kids with an incompetent teacher, those kids lose a total of $1,500,000 in lifetime income.
Maybe Eugene’s lucky. According to a former administrator in Salem Keizer Public Schools it takes two years to fire an incompetent teacher there. That’s a whopping $2,000,000 in total lifetime income lost to every class of 20 kids with a bad teacher.
We all know (or at least we’ve been told) that schools never have enough money. The next time they want more, maybe we should tell them to find a way to stop victimizing kids with bad teachers. Then we’ll talk about more money!
– CNN Money, June 8, 2014
President Obama will announce on Monday an expansion of a program that helps student loan borrowers manage their debt, a White House official said.
The official said Obama will expand the criteria for an alternative repayment program, which caps monthly payments for certain federal student loans at 10% of a borrower’s discretionary income.
The changes would allow an additional 5 million borrowers to qualify and will be available beginning in December 2015, the official said
The alternative payment programs…include forgiveness programs for on-time payments and public-sector employees. Teachers can have their balance canceled after ten years, for example. Low-income borrowers can have their balance canceled after 20 or 25 years of on-time payments…
Our Response & Your Comments
Today, 60% of Oregon college graduates are faced with an average $26,639 in student debt. Now Pres. Obama’s going to “help” them. Will he? We doubt it. But we believe that the student loan fiasco is a perfect example of The Government Four Step Program:
Step 1: The Government seizes on a problem (rising college tuition) and labels it a “crisis.”
Step 2: Politicians, usually at election time, promise to solve the problem. In the case of college tuition, by loaning kids money to pay it.
Step 3: They make the problem worse by subsidizing it. In this case, by flooding colleges with money to pay tuition that rockets up in price to absorb the extra money. It’s like trying to cure an alcoholic by giving him free Jack Daniels.
Step 4: The worse the problem gets, the harder government encourages people to do what caused the problem in the first place. In our example, they encourage kids to borrow more by making it easier to repay the loans.
President Obama, on behalf of Oregon students we plead “Don’t ‘help’ so much.”
Link to article: http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/08/pf/college/obama-student-loans/
Portland Public Schools superintendent proposes 9 percent staffing increase in ‘reinvestment’ budget
– Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian, Feb. 13, 2014
Portland Public Schools officials plan to increase staffing levels by nearly 9 percent in the next school year under a new budget proposed by Superintendent Carole Smith…
… “This proposal represents a significant reinvestment in Portland’s schools and is my first budget message where we are able to strategically invest without simultaneously cutting programs,” Smith told the board on Monday.
Our Response & Your Comments
Did you ever wonder “What’s the difference between ‘spending’ and ‘investment’?”
Well, here it is: When politicians want to confiscate your money and spend it, they call it “investment.” When they’ve spent all that and want more, they call it “reinvestment.”
To us, “investment” implies some sort of ownership, control over the investment, and an expectation of a rate of return.
When the government, rightly or wrongly, “invests” your money in hiring more people, what exactly do you own? Do you control what they do with your money? How would you measure return on the money you “invested”?
We believe that if you want to truly invest your money, send it to our son in law the stockbroker. He’ll: a) do with it what you tell him to; b) send it back if you want; and c) not send you to jail if you don’t send him more next year.
I was first elected to the legislature in 2002, yet I am still surprised by the political “blame game” that occurs at the end of most Legislative Sessions. [To see a brief YouTube on this subject, click here.]
Last week, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber spoke to the House Republicans and requested an additional $275 million in tax increases. He promised that if Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for tax increases the additional revenue would enable the legislature to help publicly funded K-12 schools, community colleges, universities and youth mental health programs. In other words, “it’s for the kids.”
I reminded the Governor that:
- The Democrats control the spending priorities and drafted the State Budget;
- There is a $1.91 billion (12%) increase in the 2013-15 Budget over the current one; and
- If he’s only asking for less than 2% of the $16.5 billion State Budget, then surely he could find such a small amount in the State Budget “for the kids,” without raising taxes on Oregonians.
I also reminded the Governor that, notwithstanding the $1.9 billion of additional revenue, he and his party are once again holding the K-12 school budget hostage, and acting like a tax increase is required to fund it. It’s an obvious set-up. If the Republicans fail to agree to the proposed tax increases, the Democrats will, once again, play the “blame-game,” and accuse Republicans of neglecting children, hating schools and abandoning seniors. This is a transparent and unfortunate case of playing political games instead of focusing on actually helping the kids and other Oregonians. (Click here to read entire article)
– Oregon Representative Dennis Richardson
Lane Solutions Replies:
Rep. Richardson couldn’t be more correct. Like Martha and the Vandellas sang, this time for the Democrats there’s “Nowhere to Run to Nowhere to hide.” They’re in charge of the Oregon House, Senate and Governor’s office. They can spend where and when they want to. They can spend every cent “For the kids.” But they chose to spend it to subsidize health insurance for families of four making up to $94,000/year. After all – unlike kids, these moms and dads will vote.
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The problem arises from Oregon’s unique “money match” PERS program that enables many employees to earn more in retirement than they did while working. The result is a very expensive system that, as a share of our economy, is the third most costly in the U.S.
As the Governor and legislators wrestle with solutions, it’s important to understand the nature of the problem.
Watch this short video, prepared for the Oregon School Boards Association and narrated by economist John Tapogna, to learn about how we got here, and what will happen if we don’t fix the system now.
What is the Oregon Business Plan?
The Oregon Business Plan is an effort by the state’s business leaders to create 25, 000 new jobs across Oregon each year and raise Oregon’s per capita income above the national average. The Plan is a collaborative effort among several business leaders and business associations, developed in close partnership with Oregon’s elected leadership.
We envision achieving the Business Plan goals by growing diverse, thriving clusters of industries that are global leaders in product design and innovation. The strategy to boost these industries is to improve the conditions necessary for them to succeed: talented people, greater productivity, quality of place, and pioneering innovation – what we call the 4Ps for prosperity.
Learn more at www.oregonbusinessplan.org.
Reprinted with permission from Oregon Business Plan