March 31, 2011
school district is laying
off 52 employees. The Houston
90 staffers, mostly literacy coaches, go. Government schools in Jefferson County, Colorado
212 layoffs. The immense school district in Clark County, Nevada,
reduce salaries by 8 percent and pink-slip 2,500 employees.
several years, but educrats are finally being forced to confront the economic
and fiscal realities of the Great Recession. The Obama administration’s
“stimulus” kitty is nearly depleted, and state governments are rolling back
subsidies. School boards and superintendents have no choice but to target
personnel costs, the biggest expense in their budgets.
rhetoric, never subtle, is increasingly shrill: If there really are funding
gaps, then the answer is simple. Raise
taxes on the rich. We do a helluva job teaching America’s children. Public
schools are essential investments in our future, and cutbacks of any
kind would be devastating.
tell a different story.
from just the last decade -- going back to the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s would be
too depressing -- and you’ll see how desperately the education monopoly needs a
The U.S. Census Bureau (USCB)
generates an annual record of state- and local-government employment.
Between 1999 and 2009, the number
of teachers grew by 17.7 percent, from 4.06 million to 4.78 million.
Non-instructional employees fared better, rising from 1.72 million to 2.11
million, a hike of 22.3 percent.
note, enrollment rose between 1999 and 2009. Correct -- according to the U.S.
Department of Education’s National
Center for Education
Statistics, in 2009, the pupil population was 5.9 percent higher than a decade
words, overall government-school employment grew 3.3 times faster than
enrollment. Labor efficiency, it seems, is unachievable for “professional
Wait, it gets
scarier. Adjusted for inflation, monthly wages for the average educrat during
the period soared from $2,863 to $3,847. That’s growth of 34.4 percent,
progress that wasn’t matched by broad measures of national economic well-being
such as the average wage, median wage, and median household income. Even worse,
the USCB’s figure tracks “salaries, wages, fees, commissions, bonuses, or
awards paid to employees during the pay period” -- not all compensation,
such as healthcare and pensions. Throw in benefits, and the disparity is
Were all the
new hires and pay hikes worth it? You be the judge. Reading proficiency for 17-year-olds, as
measured by the National
Assessment of Educational Progress, is stagnant. So is aptitude in math.
Graduates who leave government’s secondary schools are unprepared for higher
education. The Cato Institute’s
Neal McCluskey found that “only about 58 percent of bachelor’s seekers
finish their programs within six years, if at all,” and “[l]iteracy levels
among people with degrees are low and falling.”
compensation. Poor performance. And increasingly, waste and misconduct. As Armand
Fusco, Ed.D. has documented, government schools have a serious corruption
problem. Inept oversight by local and state officials contributes to dodgy
expenditures and outright fraud. A recent audit of Seattle Public Schools
found that it “spent
$280,000 for work that wasn’t done or didn’t benefit the district and paid $1.5
million for questionable services.” Teachers aren’t blameless, either. All-too-common
sex scandals grab headlines, but inappropriate behavior takes other forms.
The school board in Mobile,
approved a social-media policy, after a male teacher conveyed disparaging
comments about his colleagues to a female student through Facebook.
the arrival of cavernous government deficits, clear-thinking analysts concluded
that government schools operate for the enrichment of employees, not the
edification of pupils. The education monopoly siphons ever-higher amounts of
tax revenue, fails to produce competent students, and lacks accountability
measures that are standard in the private sector.
cut costs. Meaningful reforms, including transparency measures, charter
schools, and limits on the scope of collective bargaining, show promise. But
the ultimate answer to the nation’s education quandary remains a return to the
private sector -- charitable support for low-income families, tuition for the
parents who can afford it. Unbearable property-tax burdens would vanish. State
spending would fall. And the $70.9 billion boondoggle that is the U.S.
Department of Education? Gone.
No longer insulated
from the economic carnage that has impacted tens of millions of households,
teachers and school administrators are enraged. They’re staging protests,
lobbying legislatures, and threatening lawsuits. Yet it’s the people who pay
the bills who deserve to be angry. Looted by an education system that promises
much, delivers little, and charges an unaffordable price, taxpayers should have
no pity for newly unemployed educrats.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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