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Public School ‘Reformers’ Don’t Reform

(Apologies for font/size problems. It just comes out that way.)

“Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions, but it has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults,” said so-called ‘reformer’ Michelle Rhee, the chancellor over the last 18 months of the Washington, DC public schools.

Which is obvious, and which all sounds fine and dandy, as if she really is a ‘reformer’. Which she is not. Rhee is just another bureaucrat who floated to the top of the DC public school cesspool, but who will make no genuine changes because the teacher unions run the education system, lock, stock and barrel.

So why did Obama talk so much about ‘change’ but he never ran on the idea of reforming one of the most corrupt and underperforming institution in America – our critical public schools?

Answer: Because Obama’s ‘change’ does not refer to his teacher union friends whom the Democrat party showers with money, and who, in return shower the Democrat party with contributions and electoral muscle.

Michelle Rhee is just another Democrat. She got her ‘reformer’ moniker by closing 23 failing DC schools and restructuring 27 others. So big deal. She is the proverbial captain reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Titanic still will go down. Rhee is simply trying to keep it afloat long enough for the teacher unions to figure out how to commandeer the silverware, china and anything else of value.

Rhee is acting as a change agent when she is nothing of the sort. Another of Rhee’s ‘reforms’  is to scrap the union tenure system which often keeps lousy teachers in lifetime positions at ever-escalating salaries. But in exchange for eliminating tenure, Rhee is proposing… get this… a potential doubling of teacher salaries to an average $130,000 a year(!) And remember that teachers work 9 months a year and 35 hours a week.

So even when a so-called ‘reformer’ comes in to fix the public schools, it somehow always ends up costing more and more money. This is Democrat unionization writ large.

It seems that every time a Democrat politician gives a speech, it always includes the phrase “we must raise teacher pay”. This is a sop to their loyal teacher union supporters. But the myth that teachers are underpaid is precisely that… a myth. According to a US Bureau of Labor Statistics study from 2005, the average public school teacher pay was $34.06 an hour, or an annualized salary of $68,000 per year, which in 2008 would top $72,000. That’s solidly at the upper end of middle-class salaries and higher than virtually all other workers at teachers’ skill level in what is known as the ‘professional specialty and technical worker’ class which includes nurses, architects and computer scientists.

Median nationwide public school teacher salaries in 2006 were $48,316 a year for 9 months of work, whereas the median salary for all American workers was roughly the same…. for 12 months work. Meanwhile public school teachers get the best benefit and pension plans of all workers in America, including virtual lifetime job security. And in 15 states including big states like California and New York, they do not even pay into Social Security, which means that their salary is not docked another 6.2% SS tax. So their real median salary in 2006 was 106% of $48K, or the equivalent of about $51,000 in the private sector. For 9 months work.

The Washington DC situation looks like the Big 3 auto bailout in the appropriate urban setting of Democrat-controlled Washington, DC where instead of cars people don’t want to buy we get students that no employer would want to hire, where only 12% of 8th grade students are proficient in reading and 8% in math. These dreadful results come from the currently overpaid DC teachers who are making an average annualized salary of $89,000 ($65,000 for 9 months work) for a job that is often the equivalent of unskilled labor. And all this comes on top of a per-pupil expenditure that is the 3rd highest in America at $13,000 per student!

After all, what does it take to be a public school teacher today in most urban school districts besides being a baby-sitter/police guard? Even in decent school districts, the average teacher attains his/her position through a painstaking trek through mediocrity and pub-ed indoctrination, which requires primarily a willingness to submit.

Fire a bad public school teacher!? Forget it. Last year, the city of New York fired a total of 10 teachers out of 55,000 in the system. New Jersey fired just 47 teachers over 10 years!

Of course there are “good teachers” in the public system. A few of them. But for the most part, public schools are not run “for the kids”. That is only the rhetoric they use to keep their funding pumped up artificially high. They are run “for the union”. Period.

Once upon a time, the public schools in America were places of learning. But no more. The radical unionization of the educational system has produced only failure. In other words, as the system has moved farther and father left into total socialist monopoly, it has spiraled down into disaster, as any rational economist will explain always happens when socialism is instituted in any enterprise from local government to national welfare.

Arnold Kling an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute reported in January 2007 that 88% of all American kids attend public schools. He also noted that the schools in his home of Montgomery County, Maryland – one of the richest per capita counties in America that is populated overwhelmingly by government workers from Washington, DC – had 137,798 students, 21,840 employees, and a $1.98 billion budget with 89% of that budget going to employee compensation.

Average salary per employee – $89,686!

For 9 months of work per year.

With the number of students divided by the number of employees, however, Kling found a ratio of 6.3 students per employee. But since everyone knows that average classes in public schools are anywhere from 20 to 30 students in a place like Montgomery, the obvious culprit in the persistently skyrocketing cost of public education is in the bureaucratic tactic of hiring more and more non-teachers to pad out payrolls. Kling’s example: When No Child Left Behind was instituted the Montgomery Country schools hired a group of NCLB testing coordinators.

The same is happening in our left-wing universities. From 1975 until 1985, college enrollments in America grew by almost 10%, while average support staffs increased by up to 60%. In 2002, administrative costs were consuming 50% of the annual budgets of most colleges and universities. That number was 27% in 1950 and 19% in 1930.

And with Montgomery County public school salaries of almost $90,000 per year, those jobs obviously are going to be awarded to chosen Democrat party/union loyalists as they are everywhere in American public education. This is why the public schools are getting worse and worse at the same time that they are getting more and more money, because they are strictly political/union institutions, not educational ones. Meanwhile, the public ed bureaucracy does everything it can to thwart options like vouchers, charter schools and even parent-chosen home schooling.

Naturally while Obama and his rich Democrat friends have supported public education and the teacher unions wholeheartedly, those schools are not trusted with the president-elect’s own children. Obama’s daughters will attend tony Sidwell Friends, a private school in WashingtonDC. 

So the president-elect will never be able to experience the bliss of chancellor Michelle Rhee’s so-called reform program, which will chug merrily along into oblivion nibbling away at the fringes of the public education blob while the teacher union juggernaut rolls on with the blessings of the Democrat party that supports it, and that it supports in return in every way possible.

Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more common sense.

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