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  • The Public Education Spending Binge Must Stop

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan

    On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan tried to publicly shore-up support for the $23 billion “Education Jobs Fund” being considered by Congress. Flanked by union heads Dennis Van Roekel (President, National Education Association) and Randi Weingarten (President, American Federation of Teachers) and Representatives Dave Obey (D-WI) and George Miller (D-CA), Secretary Duncan pleaded for additional taxpayers dollars:

    School boards and state legislatures are finalizing their education budgets for the upcoming school year and many face tough choices about whether to retain teachers and continue programs that are vital to their ability to provide a world-class education for their students. We must act quickly and responsibly to provide schools the resources they need so they don’t have to make choices that would not be in the best interests of their students and teachers.

    But the Washington Post today editorializes against Congress’ plans for another public education bailout, suggesting that the doom-and-gloom picture painted by the administration is overblown:

    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.

    The Post hits the nail on the head. For the past several decades, states have acted like a hungry child at an all-you-can-eat buffet. When the economy was good and state revenues were plush, school districts increased staff roles. And more recently, with eyes bigger than their stomachs, a seemingly endless buffet of federal funding has enabled states to continue bloating their staff roles even when state budgets needed trimming.  In particular, states piled up on non-teaching staff positions. In the mid-20th century for example, public schools employed about 2 teachers for every non-teacher on their rolls; today, only half of those people employed by public school districts are teachers.

    But the billions in additional taxpayer dollars the administration seeks will continue to support a decades-long hiring binge by states. From the 1997–98 school year to the 2006–07 school year, student enrollment in public schools increased 6.8 percent. Over the same time period, the number of teachers in the classroom increased 15.8 percent.

    The Post suggests that, if intent on spending another $23 billion of taxpayer dollars on public education, Congress should press for long-term education reforms.

    If the goal were to preserve the maximum number of good K-12 teachers at minimum cost, the bill would encourage states to lay off teachers according to ability, rather than seniority — as current rules, sacrosanct to unions, dictate… Many jobs could be saved if more teachers accepted wage and benefits restraint, as workers in other hard-pressed industries have done.

    Last year, the Department of Education received an unprecedented $98 billion through the so-called stimulus. Although that money was supposed to span a two-year period, Congress and the Obama administration are already asking taxpayers for billions more to support unsustainable public education spending. Instead of coming back to taxpayers for another public sector bailout, states should work on cutting costs in areas that are long overdue for reform: age-old tenure practices, teacher compensation and pension reform. Not only would this prevent already overburdened taxpayers from incurring more debt, but it would put states on a path toward meaningful education reform.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to The Public Education Spending Binge Must Stop

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    4. Barbara Frances Delo says:

      There is alot of truth to this. Because of both parents desire for the 'absolute best' for their child and a strong teachers union, an enormous amount of money has been funnelled into education and the number of staff and programs has mushroomed.

      I can remember working in a school and seeing a support program that was looking for students because someones idea had been proposed, packaged, sold to the administration, yet it was operating with more staff than students.

      There are two problems with this. Spending that is unnecessary adds to our nations tax burden and debt. Secondly, this type of uninhibited spending funnels needed money from other necessary programs.

    5. Edward L. Smith says:

      We need to get Washington and unions out of our local schools. The need for ever increasing sums of educational dollars are directly related to this cancer. Program after program, standards after standards, place school systems in the federal governments back pocket. The need for federal dollars to meet federal mandated standards has locked schools into dependence on those dollars. The problems today may be more complex because of the creation of a welfare class in our society, but there was a time when local schools handled their local expenditures through local control.

      I started in the public school system in the mid-1960's and attended through the desegregation years. From my personal perspective the problem is this, discipline and teaching social values have disappeared from our schools. While desegregation was necessary for educational equality and opportunity, it was implemented in a destructive way. It destroyed the excellent education system we did have in this country. Destroyed not from integration in itself but what it introduced into our schools.

      Before integration, schools had morning prayers, corporal punishment was common for misbehavior, patriotic values were taught in history, the pledge of allegiance to our flag was conducted every morning, respect for teachers and students was commonly instructed. Students knew if they did not receive grades acceptable to the school grading system for successful completion of their grade they would fail and have to retake that grade's curriculum.

      Discipline left the school system from fear of the accusation of racism. Once discipline was removed from schools everything began to crumble. Teachers, students, and staff were disrespected. Voluntary segregation in the schools took root as racial divisions banded together along racial lines. Classroom disturbances became common and chaos prevailed. Those students that desired to learn, couldn't. Great teachers that loved teaching and loved their students left their chosen vocation in disgust. Great teachers were unwilling to concede educational teaching to baby sitting. They would not tolerate being spit on, cursed at, and forced to pass through students that were not meeting the curriculum standards for their subjects. Get discipline back into our schools, teach social values and respect for others, and instill patriotism in students again. Maybe we can reverse this cancer created by the Federal government without their help or their dollars.

    6. Dave says:

      If this approach doesn't work, perhaps they will try to provide assistance to tuition paying parents. This will allow the colleges to increase tuition without hurting enrollment or their bloated budgets. When will this sector be put on the same diet as everyone else.

    7. L. R., Utah says:

      Enforce the law! Seal the borders by all means! Deport! Deport 'anchor' youth. The result will be less cost to: educate illegals, provide unlimited health services for a diseased and impaired population, provide for social services for criminality as a way of life, provide security forces, jails, courts, attorney fees and law enforcement.

      The over-whelming cost for the state to employ people to contain these illegals (as listed above) will be reduced as a direct result.

      The way it is headed, costs can't be contained. American way of life will vanish as we are witnessing because illegals only know socialism, horror, and the evil of 'might is right'. For this, what I have earned the hard way is confiscated and spread around to foster more evil in direct opposition to the cause that our American military dies for?

    8. Randall Holland, Ari says:

      Money is not the answer. The federal government should get out of the education process. The Dept of Education should be abolished. Control of our education system should be returned to the local and state levels.

      Stop the spending. Stop big government. Let the free market system do it's thing, make money and jobs.

    9. Drew Page, IL says:

      Arne Duncan was the Superintendent of the Chicago School System before his friend and neighbor Mr. Obama invited him to take over as Secretary of Education. Ask anyone in Chicago if they are happy with the Chicago School system left by Mr. Duncan. The Chicago public schools were a mess before Duncan got there and they are still a mess, again, ask anyone in Chicago. Politicians looking for campaign from teachers' unions will always demand MORE MONEY FOR EDUCATION. Who can be against education, right? Except we have been throwing billions of dollars at "EDUCATION" and it never seems to be enough.

      The Chicago Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education are all unions. Every time they renogotiate their compensation contracts, pensions and health insurance benefits, it is always FOR THE CHILDREN. Negotiations for compensation and benefits are usually put off by union negotiators until late Spring, then postponed again due to Summer vacations, then pushed by the union immediately prior to the opening of school. This is delaying tactic is employed by the unions to put additional pressure on the school's administration and parents of school children, to concede to union demands. If a strike were to occur in September, that could (gasp) ruin a school's football season.

      Teachers know in advance what they will make each year they work. They know that as they obtain higher degrees (Masters Degree, Masters plus additional hours of education and PHD degrees) they will fall into a higher salary schedule, again knowing they will be getting an automatic pay increase. They know that after working in the same district for a number of years they will have tenure and can't be fired except for a criminal offense. They also know that these various salary schedules, each providing a higher salary for each year of employment, will all be increased each year of the new contract period, by the negotiated percentages settled in the multi-year contract.

      All the unions say these salaries, pensions and benefits are absolutely necessary to attract and retain THE BEST teachers. What a laugh. By what standard are these teachers determined to be the best of all possible teachers?

      Are teachers tested each year for competence? Even if they were, how do you get rid of one who is tenured? When a school board must pay $15,000 to $20,000 a year for teacher's Cadillac health insurance plans and proposed that teahers pay a percentage of the cost, or increase the deductibles of the health plan, you can count on the union resisting and threatening a strike. Of course this is always done ON BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN.

    10. Russ, Deltona FL says:

      A report initiated Civic Report

      No. 61 April 2010

      UNDERFUNDED TEACHER PENSION PLANS:

      It’s Worse Than You Think

      Josh Barro, Walter B. Wriston Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

      Stuart Buck, Distinguished Doctoral Fellow, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

      This report was co-sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Choice

      Executive Summary

      To all the other fiscal travails facing this country’s states and largest cities, now add their pension obligations, which are far greater than they may realize or are willing to admit. This paper focuses on the crisis in funding teachers’ pensions, because education is often the largest program area in state budgets, making it an obvious target for cuts.

      Although it is generally acknowledged that education is the foundation of every modern society’s future prosperity, schools unfortunately will have

      The crux of the problem is the gap between assets and liabilities affecting the fifty-nine pension funds that cover most public school teachers in America. Some of these are general state-employee pension funds, while others cover only teachers. Among the findings of our study of these funds:

      All fifty-nine pension funds studied face shortfalls.

      California, the most populous state, has the largest unfunded teacher pension liability: almost $100 billion.

      The worst-funded plan in our sample is West Virginia’s, which we estimate to be only 31 percent funded.

      Five plans are 75 percent funded or better: teacher-dedicated plans in the District of Columbia, New York State and Washington State and state employee retirement systems in North Carolina and Tennessee that include teachers.

      The general picture is not a good one. According to the fifty-nine funds’ own financial statements:

      Total unfunded liabilities to teachers—i.e., the gap between existing plan assets and the present value of benefits accrued by plan participants—are $332 billion.

      According to our more conservative calculations:

      These plans’ unfunded liabilities total about $933 billion.

      In addition, we have found that:

      Only $116 billion, or less than one quarter, of this $600 billion discrepancy is attributable to the stock market drop precipitated by the 2007 financial crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average would have to nearly double overnight to make up for the present underfunding of these plans.

      What explains the rest of the gap between the funds’ estimates and our own? The funds aggressively “discount” the cost of paying benefits in the future because they assume that stocks’ values will be much higher by the time the funds have to pay out those benefits. This assumption permits public officials to contribute fewer dollars toward satisfying these plans’ obligations, and thus to avoid taking the cautious but unpopular step of raising taxes or cutting services.

      Under current guidances, which are prepared by separate bodies, state pension funds are able to set aside fewer assets than their counterparts in private companies to cover equal liabilities. Private pension plans may invest in stocks and other higher-risk assets, but those plans may not reduce their pension funding on the basis of the superior performance expected of these types of assets. This is because those higher returns are accompanied by greater risk that returns will fall short of expectations. Yet pension funds’ obligation to retirees present and future does not diminish accordingly.

      Education Bill Introduced in Senate Would Provide $23 Billion to States

      Apr 14

      Written by: NASBO-Direct

      4/14/2010 11:35 AM 

      Later today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is expeced to introduce the Keep Our Educators Working Act which would provide $23 billion to state govertnments through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF). Representatives from Senator Harkin’s office indicated that the bill would be brought up as an amendment to the upcoming Afghanistan War Supplemental, scheduled to be brought to the Senate floor in early May. The cost of the bill is currently not offset making its chances of being approved as a standalone bill quite low. While the House has passed similar text, it was incorporated into the House’s version of a “jobs” bill that was passed last year. Please find below the text of the bill, state by state funding estimates, as prepared by the Congressional Research Service as well as a press release form Senator Harkin’s office. Should you have any comments or questions on the bill, including changes made to the waiver provisions, maintenance of effort provisions (MOE), or funding requirements, please do not hesitate to contact NASBO at bhusch@nasbo.org.

       

      This would be to assist in bailing out the underfunded Teachers Pension Plans which are in worse trouble than most think. According to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI)

      Josh Barro, Walter B. Wriston Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

      Stuart Buck, Distinguished Doctoral Fellow, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

      This report was co-sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Choice

      1.

    11. Margaret Mueller, Ro says:

      And how about cutting the state Departments of Education — those bloated, high-salary, top-heavy bastions of those 'intellectuals,' unfit for classroom duty, have made a fat-cat career out of creating programs that never are implemented, shuffling papers that never impact a classroom or a teacher, and yet are protected as members of the teacher's union.

      If I was a teacher (and may father was), I'd be made as hell that millions, if not billions, continue to be spent to support tens of thousands of bureaucrats who don't spend one of their annual salaried days in front of a group of students.

      SHAME! on the Education bureaucracy for protecting their own at the expense of the children! SHAME! on the teacher's and education worker's unions that prohibit by statue parents from volunteering to replace librarians or other staff when financially strapped states, counties and cities need to deal with budget realities.

      Those who work are already supporting more unemployed than employed. We can't sustain this level of spending!

    12. Al Wunsch, Fl says:

      I cannot remember when education wasn't calling for more funds and yet the quality of education continues to degrade. I agree with Edward Smith re discipline and social values but you won't get that effectively done at the federal level. More money is not the answer. We would do well to eliminate the feds dept of educatiion and implement a voucher system wherein schools compete. As a related but an aside issue, we need to get rid of unions in the public jobs sector.

    13. Rebecca Crisp says:

      Thomas Jefferson wrote that an educated society is America's only hope. However, as Milton Friedman wrote, there is a difference between "education" and "schooling". We've been so busy "schooling" – creating bureaucracies, structure, framework, etc. – that there's little "education" going on in the government schools anymore. President Reagan wanted to do away with the Department of Education which was created by his predecessor, Jimmy Carter. Bill Bennett also writes in many of his books about how interference from government has ruined schools. He wrote that test scores and other measures reflect that the longer our kids are in government schools, the dumber they get. Many parents need to wake up and realize what is happening.

    14. Corky, Fl says:

      Get rid of the UNIONS!! Cut the school boards salary's. When the one's who are only concerned about their money start complaining..FIRE THEM. What you have left are the one's who really want the best for the KIDS! Teachers will gain a savings of the moneies paid, to belong to a union who only uses them to gain for themselves…………….

    15. Tim AZ says:

      World class education in America is extremely rare these days and I doubt that anyone alive today ever received a world class education in a govt. run school. This is just another example of the regime rewarding another union from which campaign contributions will surely flow and endorsements of the liberals will be pushed upon union laborers. I wouldn't be surprised if the kids come home to give their parents stump speeches for liberal candidates including Mao-Bama in 2012.

    16. Larry J, Wisconsin says:

      I am damned sick and tired of school districts along with slimy politicians TELLING the voters that of they don't approve bond issue "X", the children are going to suffer while all along bond issue "X" does nothing but pump more money into OVERPAID teachers salaries and the unions that they belong to. It is WAY PAST TIME for Americans to stand up and say a big collective "HELL NO" to these cheesy politicians and teachers unions AND school boards and tell them TO DO THEIR JOB WHAT THEY ARE PAID TO DO! Teachers need to get back to TEACHING and stop their crap of political activism 1st, then students somewhere else down the line.

      After all the trillions over the years thrown at school districts what do we have to show for it? Come on, what do we have to show for it? Our kids rank at the lowest of the low as far as competency (or mastery) scores among all developed nations. What the hell have "educators" been doing with our money?

      Remember this: governments, whether they be local or federal DO NOT HAVE ANY MONEY! Any money they "have" has been stolen from taxpayers who are increasingly pressed to make hard decisions when their property taxes skyrocket without a referendum or voters approval–just edicts passed along to the taxpayers by the local teachers unions in conjunction with sleazy school boards!

      And they have the NERVE to say: "but, it's for the children, they will suffer if you don't pass this." This is the lowest form immorality and underhanded tactics I have ever seen used. The sad thing about it is that the STUPID voters approve theses measures buying the lie! In Wisconsin where I live, it is getting so hard to live here with the high taxes (that are driving businesses out of the state) that my family is strongly considering moving to a red state where the liberal politics don't make what is otherwise a beautiful place to live.

      "Nuff said.

    17. Elizabeth Quinn, Mar says:

      Over the years much money has been wasted by the school systems nationwide. The curriculum is not improving, it is becoming very liberal, and is neglecting our American history, culture, and our morals, and values. World government is necessary to learn about, however not at the expense and neglect of our own country. Morals are losing value as well. Our children and young adults need the foundation teachings of America first, and more indepth studies than is being alloted by the schools. By sixth grade our history and government are being phased out of the curriculum, saying it is enough. I have never understood why there is so much participation and activities surrounding other nations and their cultures. Social studies seems to be the norm, not history. I have been disappointed for years over the way our schools have deteriorated and that the quality of the scholastics are substandard. School is for excersizing the brain, learning to think and learn knowledge, not theories and opinions of very liberal educators. What was so wrong with the 3 Rs? It worked very successfully for many generations. Respectfully, Elizabeth Quinn.

    18. Cathie says:

      And don't forget that almost all of the non-teacher positions are positions that were mandated to be created by the federal government in order to support special education. Unfunded mandates and overdiagnosis of students have become the bane of our educational system!

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