Monday, March 4, 2013

Fiscal Sanity and Teacher Layoffs

I love teachers. In fact, I married one.

I also love owning a home. And we pay local property taxes each year.

We also pay state income taxes and federal income taxes as well.

Local schools are supported by local property taxes, state grants and federal grants.

Still teachers' pensions are underfunded in most states.

In addition, for grades K-12 real per pupil spending in America has doubled the past few decades while student outcomes haven't improved. We spend twice as much and get nothing more for the money spent.

Yet vouchers and school choice for parents and their children are still resisted strenuously by both teachers' unions and the Democratic Party. Yes, change comes hard in public education.

So it comes as no surprise that Education Secretary Arne Duncan tried to use the sequester to rally Americans behind the poor downtrodden teachers and public education spending last week. What is surprising is that he's now backtracking on his comments, having been unable to tie any teacher layoffs to the sequester. Or for that matter, to cite any teacher layoffs at all.

No comment has been forthcoming from Mr. Duncan on whether the hundreds of billions of dollars in pension underfunding or double dipping by 'retired' teachers working part-time while also receiving retirement pay is having any negative effect on local property taxes, state income taxes or proposed future federal spending to support public schools.

I guess he forgot to mention those trivial issues, just as he forgot to talk about why educational outcomes aren't improving while real inflation adjusted dollars spent per child have doubled over time. Or why vouchers shouldn't be encouraged in an effort to improve our public schools and grant parents some control over where their children attend school. Oh well, maybe someday he'll find the time to talk about those issues, too.

Duncan Says He Misspoke on Teachers' Pink Slips has the story:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan (L) and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (R) read the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” to students enrolled in a Head Start program at Rolling Terrace   Elementary School March 1, 2013 in Takoma Park, Md.

"Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday said that he had chosen the wrong words last week when he told reporters that teachers were already receiving pink slips due to the spending cuts mandated by the sequester.

“I want to apologize for not being as clear as I should have been last week,” Mr. Duncan said, flanked by a group of school superintendents. “When I said pink slips, that was probably the wrong word — I should have used ‘job eliminations; positions eliminated.” He added that “when I said impact on teachers, I should have said impact on educators. It’s not just teachers — it’s support staff, guidance counselors; folks who work with special education students.”

    Mr. Duncan’s earlier remarks had prompted questions about whether the Obama administration was overhyping the spending cuts because the Education Department was not able to produce the name of a school district where layoff notices had been delivered as the sequester went into effect. Mr. Duncan’s comments on Monday did little to clear up whether spending cuts by school districts were due to the sequester or other factors, such as state and local budget cuts.

“Can you say precisely this person or this reduction was due to this or that?” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s going to vary story by story due to these cuts with sequester.”

Mr. Duncan pronounced himself “stunned that we are here.” He said “I thought sequester was so painful that there would be no way that we would be in this situation.” At the Education Department itself, “furloughs are a possibility.”"

Summing Up

As the elder President Bush liked to say, "Facts are stubborn things."

Looks to me like President Obama's Education Secretary got caught fibbing.

Oh well, maybe you'll have better luck next time, Mr. Secretary.

Thanks. Bob.

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