Teachers seek spot at bailout trough

June 6, 2010


— Jay Gould, a 19th-century railroad tycoon and unrepentant rapscallion, said he was a Democrat when in Democratic districts and a Republican when in Republican districts but that he was always for the Erie Railroad. Gould, emblematic of Gilded Age rapaciousness, was called a robber baron. What should we call people whose defining constancy is that they are always for unionized public employees? Call them Democrats.

This week, when Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, many Democrats, having gone an eternity — more than a week — without spending billions of their constituents’ money, will try to make up for lost time by sending another $23 billion to states to prevent teachers from being laid off. The alternative to this “desperately” needed bailout, says Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is “catastrophe.”

Amazing. Just 16 months ago, in the stimulus legislation, Congress shoveled about $100 billion to education, including $48 billion in direct aid to states. According to a University of Washington study, this saved more than 342,000 teaching and school staff positions — about 5.5 percent of all the positions in America’s 15,000 school systems.

The federal component of education spending on grades K through 12, the quintessential state and local responsibility, has doubled since 2000, to 15 percent. Now the supposed emergency, and states’ dependency, may be becoming routine and perpetual.

Duncan says that without the $23 billion, 100,000 to 300,000 public school teachers and staff will lose their jobs. But Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute says 300,000 would mean a cut of just 4.8 percent of the teachers and staff nationwide; 100,000 would mean cuts of 1.6 percent.

Although the public education lobby’s cry of “Parsimony!” is not much of an argument, it is persuasive to Democrats comfortable in a relationship of co-dependency with teachers unions. But before Congress is stampeded into spending yet more (borrowed) billions, it should read “The Phony Funding Crisis” in the journal Education Next by James W. Guthrie, a professor at Southern Methodist University, and Arthur Peng, a research associate. They say:

“For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year.” Indeed, public schools have been so insulated from economic downturns that “there have been 11 periods during which GDP declined but mean total real per-pupil revenues still increased.”

Primary and secondary education is given privileged status in most state constitutions, some of which declare it the “paramount duty” of the legislature. Between 2001 and 2007, in 12 states the number of teachers rose while the number of students fell. In another six states, teachers were hired much faster than enrollment increased: In Virginia, enrollment grew 5 percent, the number of teachers grew 21 percent. In Florida, the numbers were 6 percent and 20 percent; in North Carolina, 9 percent and 22 percent.

In New York state between 2000 and 2009, public schools added 15,000 teachers while enrollment was declining by 121,000 pupils. By 2008, New York’s pupil-teacher ratio (13:1) was the eighth lowest among the states, and its per-pupil spending ($16,000) was the nation’s highest.

While the private sector has shed 8.5 million jobs — 7.4 percent of workers — during the recession, local governments have lost only 141,000, less than 1 percent. Duncan says the $23 billion is for an “emergency.” But, then, what isn’t an emergency nowadays? The Senate just passed a $60 billion “emergency” supplemental appropriation for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are “emergencies” as Washington understands that term: They are regularly recurring surprises. Watch for an attempt to attach the $23 billion for teachers to the war-funding bill.

We are witnessing a familiar government dance, the Prosperity-to-Hysteria Two-Step: When revenues grow, governments put in place permanent spending streams; when revenues fall, governments exclaim that any retrenchment, even back to spending levels of a few years ago, is a “catastrophe.”

The National Education Association, a net subtraction from the national mind, has a television ad featuring children dressed in suits and ties:

Kid 1: Maybe Congress would listen to us ...

Kid 2: If I was a Wall Street banker,

Kid 3: Or a car company CEO ...

The largest teachers union gets an F for grammar — the correct subjunctive mood would be, “If I were a Wall Street banker” — but it understands the logic of public life in the bailout era: If anyone gets to the trough, everyone is entitled to get there.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. georgewill@washpost.com


Brent Garner 7 years, 11 months ago

With the NEA being one of the largest contributors to the Demoncrat (spelling deliberate) party, we should not be surprised at all that the Great Usurper and his leftist cronies will do all they can to protect and prosper their friends, allies, and contributors. After all, from the Chicago viewpoint, isn't that what politics is about?

beatrice 7 years, 11 months ago

So you believe that roughly half of registered voters are "Demons."

You are clearly a party-over-country idiot.

Brent Garner 7 years, 11 months ago

No, I am not a party-over-country idiot. What I am is disgusted at the profligate political payoffs being made by demoncrats now that they control, essentially, two branches of the government. If you leftist/demoncrats can't stand having the truth thrust into your faces, that's too bad!

beatrice 7 years, 11 months ago

"Demoncrats" -- using sweet talk like that, and I still call you an idiot. I know, it is because us Democrats are terrible people out to destroy the country, not just have a different way of approaching issues, and Republicans are all superstars.


Brent Garner 7 years, 11 months ago

First, explain where in any of my posts I supported republicans? For the record, I am a conservative first. Yes, I am also a registered republican, but that is primarily because the republican party aligns more frequently with my views than does the demoncrat party. i have plenty of beefs with republicans, particularly those who spend money like there is no tomorrow.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

So George doesn't like education for the hoi polloi. What a surprise.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 11 months ago

No, Bozo, he simply points out that you can't improve public education by continuing to throw money at it. We've spent untold billions on public education at the federal level over the last 50 years while the quality of public education has seriously declined all over the country. No one would contend with a straight face that public education in America produces better-educated students today than it did 50 years ago. It's just the opposite, and federal involvement in public education has played a significant role in this gradual dumbing-down process that has been going on for decades.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

Oh come off it. Bald assertions do not a convincing argument make.

Is education perfect? No. Are there identifiable wastes? Of course-- that's true in any human endeavor, private or public.

But there were no good old days of education 50 years ago, and projecting that lie will do nothing to improve educational outcomes.

Public schools have much room for improvement, but the notion that starving them of funds will accomplish that is as simplistic as it is wrong.

citizen0123 7 years, 11 months ago

(Bozo) your name pretty much says it all.

weeslicket 7 years, 11 months ago

"No one would contend with a straight face that public education in America produces better-educated students today than it did 50 years ago." perhaps you are thinking of the mythical children of ward and june cleaver and their neighbors. well, maybe not the beaver. maybe not eddie either. or larry. or lumpy. oh, never mind.

beginning in the early 80s, curricula, standards, best practices, and accountability to outcomes have been strengthened mightily. to say this another way: young students of today are expected to master skills which were scarcely even touched upon until junior high or later (i don't recall the beaver being proficient at algebra or spatial geometry or expository writing or biology in "grammar school").

please also remember that schools serve ALL students (and test ALL of them; and expect ALL of them to be proficient): autism, downs syndrome, aspergers, dandy walker, cerebal palsey, developmental delays of all kinds, MSP, psychoses of various types, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive disorders of every imaginable form, abused and neglected children, children who are new to this country who arrive with no english whatsoever*, etc. etc. this was simply not the case 50 years ago. (were there even "negroes" in mayfield?)

anywhoo, i'm sure it's ultimately the fault of lazy, incompetent, raging socialist teachers like alice landers and miss canfield pigging out at the public trough. snort.

(*just for fun, imagine you arrived in, say, saudi arabia and were expected to pass a test in arabic; or moved to india and your children had to pass a test in urdu. hmmmm.)

cato_the_elder 7 years, 11 months ago

Weeslicket, your militant apologia, with particular attention to your reference to "outcomes," betrays your fealty to the education-fad crowd who have consistently dumbed down public education for decades. Perhaps you're part of it. You're also full of it. Curricula have been miserably dumbed down in American public education since 1980. For example, a few years back the Lawrence public school system eliminated basic biology as a high school graduation requirement. Why? Because not everyone could pass it, that's why. It's a fact. Look it up. And people wonder why a high school diploma doesn't count for much nowadays.

As for your love of "outcomes," weeslicket, let's just put it this way: With outcomes-based education, I can teach anyone, I mean anyone, to dunk a basketball.

All I have to do is lower the goal.

weeslicket 7 years, 11 months ago

such name-calling mr. cato.
militant apologia fealty to the education-fad crowd You're also full of it.

"Curricula have been miserably dumbed down in American public education since 1980." please support this assertion in more detail. regarding your single example of biology standards, the high school graduation requirements in lawrence state that a student needs 6 credits in science to graduate. it is true that biology doesn't have to be one of them. check this out: http://lhs.usd497.org/Academics/Science/

i think, though, what your are remembering about the changes to the high school biology requirements was its former status as a "gateway class": meaning a student had to pass biology before being allowed to proceed with ANY OTHER science classes. really, a very sensible change.

regarding your current understanding of state standards or outcomes ( "Curricula have been miserably dumbed down in American public education since 1980." and "All I have to do is lower the goal."): here is a link that may be of interest to you. http://www.kerc-ks.org/standards.aspx?con_group_id=2

jonas_opines 7 years, 11 months ago

Better be careful, weeslicket. There's at least one typo in that post, and lacking anything else Cato tends to fixate on those as proof of the decline of intelligence, etc. in the world today. Well, when he's out of fresh insults, anyway.

weeslicket 7 years, 11 months ago

oh crap! another typo! (at least it's not "its")

your are correct jonas, about the typo/spelling fixations that people have. to be fair to mr. cato, though, he is not the only one who engages in that exercise.

hey! check it out!
civility and fairness all in one post. ta-daaaa !

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Notice the majority of local,state and federal politicians from Kansas are never ready to push and support education. It ain't nothing but lip service!!!

All of this negative chit chat about public schools is all about trying to shut down the USA public school system.

Behind the scenes is privatization,charter schools and vouchers. The deal is however is private schools and scholarship money are available as we speak so why not leave well enough alone?

Those privatization schemes are all about making money for corporations with YOUR BIG GOVERNMENT TAX DOLLARS = guaranteed profits. Tax dollar supported corporate schools aka corporate welfare!

If as much effort were put into public school academics and teaching staff as is put into high dollar athletic projects our children would be the among the best on the planet.

People constantly talk about all of the great things athletics does for a person. Learning good study habits and applying oneself can do anything football or basketball can do.

There may be one or two things academics cannot do that football,basketball or track can do. What academics cannot do is create lifetime injuries to the body that which increase the cost of health care thus creates the inflated costs of medical insurance.

When considering the ratio of students who dramatically excel in athletics which is very low it seems the lions share of money should always go to academics.

Academics will be the job creator,will be the research engines,will bring on new inventions and in general educate the nation, all so our nations economy will keep trucking along.

Do teachers deserve to make real good pay? Absolutely!! After all we expect them to introduce material that will make our children think, become productive....... and we expect teachers to sit with our children for several months a year. Yes this deserves excellent pay.

Once the teachers sit with our children and provide them tools it is up to we parents to make all of that work.

George Will and his obsession with unions plus trying to demoralize our teachers is old and moldy. Folks it takes good pay to keep local economies moving. Teachers at all levels are very very important to our economies.

Notice the Kansas legislature has not done well over the last 21 years at creating a strong Kansas economy. The very few that support all levels of education should be given a raise and the rest should be fired.

Notice the majority of local,state and federal politicians from Kansas are never ready to push and support education. It ain't nothing but a lip service program!!! Republicans are out to lunch.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 11 months ago

Jonas, I've never needed to fixate on anything when you post because when you do you are such an obvious embarrassment to yourself that it's a case of res ipsa loquitur, which happened the last time I kicked your butt on this forum.

And weeslicket, since your're naive enough to cite anything promulgated by the KSDE, a self-serving spend-like-there's-no-tomorrow advocacy group if there ever was one, you need to spend some time in the trenches in public education (not in school administration, please) to find out what's really going on. Are you in any way personally involved in public education? Your cop-out dodge re USD 497's elimination of biology as a graduation requirement is flat-out wrong. I told you once before to look it up. If you yourself are a product of outcomes-based education, you probably don't know how.

weeslicket 7 years, 11 months ago

yawn. being angry and talking nasty to people does not change these facts, mr. cato. please refute the facts provided in the links.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 11 months ago

Weeslicket, nothing in the two links you provided refutes what I said.

Any teacher who gives a damn knows exactly what I'm talking about. Many of them have witnessed this process first-hand. The worst example of "outcomes-based education" yet inflicted on American public education is "No Child Left Behind," which has accelerated the dumbing-down process considerably. The federal government needs to get out of public education altogether; schools of education should be abolished; anyone with a college degree, especially a liberal arts degree, from an accredited college or university should be able to teach after having furnished suitable proof of character; students who don't want to learn should be expelled; and teachers should be allowed to teach without undue interference from central office administrators and the federal government.

weeslicket 7 years, 11 months ago

mr. cato, please consider the following: 1. the facts in the links are the facts as they presently exist. being able to acknowledge these facts won't kill you. 2. as a teacher who has given a damn, and has witnessed this process first-hand, for 25 years, i know exactly what i am talking about.
i know exactly what i am talking about. 3. i don't expect statements 1 and 2, either singly or combined, to change your world-view.
but posting in a more civil tone would be appreciated.

deskboy04 7 years, 11 months ago

Look up George Will and see where he went to school. Interesting...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

The problems in KCMO have more to do with suburban sprawl and white flight than with deficiencies in "education."

George Lippencott 7 years, 11 months ago

Why federal money? Teachers are paid at the local level. If someone wants more teachers they can just tax themselves. Why must we in Kansas pay more federal taxes for teachers in California after increasing our own taxes to pay for them here.?

volunteer 7 years, 11 months ago

It is irritating to read of teachers "feeding at the trough." (Perhaps excluding Johnson County teachers; they seem well-cared for)

There will always be troglydytes who believe anyone paid by taxes is a pig feeding from the trough. These folks should be ignored by those who value public education.

However...it is also irritating how Uncle Sam wants to control the local function of financing schools. (10th Amendment anyone?) The last two Presidents of our country (and Congress? No Child?) seemed to want to grab control of the schools. Even public TV's Charlie Rose encourages guests to espouse this belief. (merit pay for k-12 teachers seems to be Charlie's pet belief)

Most teachers I know belong to NEA for the protection from incompetant administrators, for a fair shake during negotiations, and for the insurance from weirdo parents itching to sue anyone who reprimands darling Jimmy.

Not for any liberal agenda the George Will wackos are imagining.

How many people believe that if George Will were a public schoolteacher he would not be a member of the local NEA chapter? Methinks he doth protest too much.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 11 months ago

Weeslicket, I'll say it again: Whatever appears in the links you cited doesn't refute what I said.

The fact that public education has been dumbed down over the last 50 years is not something for which I blame teachers, and nothing I've said here takes that position. If you read what I said, I advocate greater freedom for teachers being able to be let alone to teach. I also advocate making it clear to those both inside and outside of public education that teachers are not, nor should they ever be expected to be, social workers.

On the other hand, if you are a teacher in the public school system and agree with the ridiculous notion that "everyone is an A-student" and support "No Child Left Behind" and outcomes-based education, then you're part of the problem and I can assure you that we'll continue to do battle.

If you don't mind my asking, do you teach in a public school system?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

"The fact that public education has been dumbed down over the last 50 years"

Could you give us some documentation of this "fact?"

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 11 months ago

Volunteer, while you know "Most teachers I know belong to NEA for the protection from incompetant administrators, for a fair shake during negotiations, and for the insurance from weirdo parents itching to sue anyone who reprimands darling Jimmy. " I know teachersho join to pretect their owns jobs because they are crappy teachers. The use the union to keep their jobs safe from the big bad administrators.

Corey Williams 7 years, 11 months ago



"The use the union..."

Yep. School failed you, huh?

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