Sunday, April 14, 2013

More Government Spending To Hire More Teachers? ... For What?

President Obama recommends the hiring of more public school teachers, and his recently submitted budget proposes that government spending be increased by another $12.5 billion to do so. It's not a good idea.

Government spends enough money already. More than enough, in fact, and it has done so for a very long time now. Too long.

While the debate is about federal taxes these days, that isn't the real problem and hasn't been. The real problem we have is all about government spending too much. And whether it's at the local, state or federal level, government spending is money that's not available to individuals in the private sector to do with as they wish.

And whether that government spending is matched by taxes, borrowings or an inflated currency, it still amounts to an economy that is growing less than it otherwise would. Some government spending is good and necessary, of course, but the more government spends, the more wasteful it becomes and the weaker the economy is as a result. It's really that simple.

So spending more to hire additional teachers simply amounts to government 'consumption' and doesn't result in the production of additional goods and services in the economy. In other words, the economy receives no economic benefit and the private sector is left with fewer resources to save and invest relative to the government's take.

In sum, more government spending equals a slower economy, fewer jobs, less income, higher deficits and government debt, and then----- more government spending to stimulate the economy. It's a vicious circle, and the circle has been unbroken for far too long now.

So why do we keep doing it? Because it sounds good, I guess, even though it's the wrong thing to do to create sustainable jobs and grow the economy over time.

Since implementing such a hiring initiative paid for by taxpayers would create more votes for the Democrats and add more dues to the coffers of the teachers unions, I completely understand the motivation and logic behind the president's proposal.

But what about the facts? Why not let the taxpayers save their money to save and invest as they deem appropriate and also improve the educational outcomes at the same time?

Is such a thing possible? Of course, it is. In fact, it would be a slam dunk if done properly and with the long term best interests of the students, teachers and taxpayers in mind instead of serving the short term demands of the politicians and the teachers unions.

Is It the Test or the Teacher? says this about the overly abundant supply of teachers already in our employ:

"President Obama's new budget includes $12.5 billion to "prevent additional teacher layoffs and hire teachers." But has anyone in the White House stopped to consider whether public education is already overstaffed?

"Since 1970, the public school workforce has roughly doubled—to 6.4 million from 3.3 million—and two-thirds of those new hires are teachers or teachers' aides," wrote Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute in The Wall Street Journal last year. "Over the same period, enrollment rose by a tepid 8.5%. Employment has thus grown 11 times faster than enrollment."

In some states over the past decade, public education hiring has increased even while student enrollment has fallen. Of course, none of this matters to teachers unions and liberals who see public education, first and foremost, as a jobs program for adults. And those are the folks that the White House is aiming to please.

Still, hiring teachers without regard for the actual education needs of students is problematic, and not just in terms of misallocating resources. The Atlanta cheating scandal, in which dozens of educators have been indicted for allegedly falsifying standardized exams, has led to a debate over testing requirements. But the scandal could also be a byproduct of who goes into teaching.

It's long been known that our education schools tend to be populated by our lowest-achieving students. A 2011 investigation found that more than 700 teachers in Georgia failed at least one portion of the state's certification test, and nearly 60 teachers failed the test more than 10 times. Would you want your child taught by someone who failed the certification test five times, let alone 10?
Perhaps we should be debating the quality of classroom instruction instead of the merits of standardized tests. Perhaps the country has not only too many teachers but too many bad ones."

Summing Up

Which matters more, quality or quantity?

And should we insist on high quality before adding to the quantity?

As a matter of fact, yes, we should.

What if we reduced the number of teachers by 50% and then increased the pay of each remaining teacher by 50%?

We'd save 25% of the total dollars being spent currently and end up with a better educated student population. And that's because we'd also get a higher quality teacher in the classroom.

Competition, incentives, selectivity, and rewards work to bring about better results.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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