Another “emergency” and pending “catastrophe” is being used to justify more federal government spending to support unsustainable teachers’ union contracts:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says President Obama “absolutely supports” a congressional proposal for $23 billion in emergency education spending in order to stave off teacher layoffs and cancellation of summer classes.
Duncan told CNN Wednesday that the emergency spending request is needed to head off “an education catastrophe, “in which as many as 300-thousand teachers across the country could be laid off.
Duncan also said that without the extra spending, some school districts will be forced to eliminate summer school and after-school programs.
The real numbers, as usual, are fuzzy:
How many of the estimated 3.3 million public school teachers nationwide will lose their jobs remains unknown. Duncan often says 100,000 to 300,000 education jobs are at risk, including support staff.
Notice how quickly “100,000 to 300,000” became 300,000? Notice how “support staff” became “teachers”? Notice how possible layoffs became definite layoffs?
Even The Washington Post Editors sees the folly of this “emergency” spending and the numbers-games, Obama’s shallow plan to spend $23 billion on education:
Its sponsors on Capitol Hill have labeled it “emergency” legislation, worthy of exemption from President Obama’s anti-deficit pay-as-you-go rules. But it’s certainly not a uniquely effective way to stimulate the economy. [Chrisina] Romer [chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers] suggests on the opposite page today that keeping teachers at work will enable them to maintain their spending, thus supporting economic growth — and saving on unemployment benefits and the like. The real question is whether this bill promotes more growth than other possible uses of $23 billion. Ms. Romer did not explain why retaining teachers stimulates the economy better than retaining, say, construction workers. Nor does she weigh the costs and benefits of not borrowing another $23 billion from China….
Officials have issued more than 100,000 layoff notices, according to data compiled by teachers unions. The unions predict layoffs could go as high as 300,000. It’s hard to imagine losing that many teachers without some damage to learning.
But that many teachers almost certainly are not going to lose their jobs. For technical reasons, school districts must send notices in the spring to more teachers than they actually expect to let go in the fall. What’s more, the unions’ 300,000 estimate includes not only classroom teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade but also support staff and college professors. The bill would distribute money to states according to their population, not expected layoffs; states where no layoffs are imminent would get checks anyway, and the majority of states would receive more than they could possibly need to avoid layoffs. The Senate version of the bill permits them to spend the excess on other things.
We have seen this movie before:
Republicans and some Democrats say the government can’t afford an extension of last year’s economic stimulus that would add to the federal deficit. The stimulus law kept many school budgets afloat with $49 billion in direct aid to states and billions of dollars more for various programs. But the stimulus funding is trailing off before state and local tax revenue can recover from the recession.
Skeptics of a new education jobs fund point out that the teaching force in recent years has grown faster than enrollment, with schools adding instructional coaches and reducing class sizes.
Spending more without serious reforms to teacher union contracts, particularly pension and other benefits, will not solve anything:
Some leaders of local teachers unions continue to earn credit in the state pension system — boosting their payout at retirement — even though they haven’t taught students in years.
The heads of the Bergen County Education Association, Passaic County Education Associations and Paterson Education Association, for example, have all taken extended leaves from school duties, but state records show each is still paid at least $97,000 by his district. The unions reimburse the districts for their salaries, a legal maneuver that allows them to build up time — and cash — in the pension system.
In one unusual arrangement, James L. Joyner, a vice president for the Paterson local, said he has worked full time for the union for the past seven years, but the union does not reimburse the district for his pay. State pension records put his 2009 salary at $97,269.
In Rhode Island, most locals of the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI), one of the main teachers’ unions, refused to support the State of Rhode Island’s application for federal Race to the Top funding because it would have required reforms.
The list goes on and on.
Teachers need to learn a thing or two about the damage their unions are doing to teachers, who are paying and will pay the price when local municipalities are pushed to the brink because of unsustainable union contracts. Just ask Central Falls, Rhode Island.
If the $23 billion “emergency” funding fails to pass, teachers should use it as a teachable moment, for themselves, about the disastrous path on which they are being led by their union leaderships.