Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 1, 2014
Marc Bernstein was a New York state superintendent of schools for two decades. His op-ed Where All the Teachers Are Above Average in the Wall Street Journal this week offered a chilling indictment for one of country’s largest school system.
According to Bernstein, New York State has released its teacher evaluations that ranked 95% of its teachers as “highly effective” or “effective”. Of the remaining, 4% were considered “developing”, with only 1% listed as “ineffective” for the 2012 school year. These percentages are incredible given that over half of New York State’s students in grades 4 through 8 were not proficient in reading or math skills in statewide tests.
How does this huge disconnect between the way New York teachers are graded and the outcomes with students? According to Bernstein, this comes from New York’s poorly formed laws and a school culture that obviates honest teacher evaluations. For example, 60% of teacher evaluation in New York State is subjective, based on classroom observations that must be first agreed upon at the local level with teachers’ unions. 20% of the evaluation should be more objective measurements of math and reading skills, however they too must be agreed upon between local school systems and their teachers’ unions. Adding insult to injury, New York’s largest school system, New York City, was not included in the evaluations because it’s union would not agree to language in their contract concerning the reporting of evaluation data.
Like teachers, school administrators are eligible for lifelong tenure in New York prior to three years of experience. This tenure protects unproductive teachers and administrators and Bernstein suggests removing it for administrators and having tenure review for teachers. Both suggestions are no-brainers, but have little chance of being implemented given the political power of teachers unions.
Our children and greater society will continue to suffer until real competition is injected into America’s public education systems. The sad irony is that the most efficient school systems are located in the larger cities that include a disproportionate amount of minorities and disadvantaged children. The poor education they receive is the largest impediment for these children to succeed in American society.
Posted in Education, Unions | Tagged: administrators, New York, review, state, Teachers, Unions | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 28, 2013
CNNMoney publishes what a “Fear and Greed Index”. This index, which is determined by a combination of seven major stocks and bonds indicators, has reached a record high of 92. As this number gets higher, so too is the level agreed. To put the current 92 into perspective, a number of 50 indicating neutral bias, with the fear level sinking to a low 12 in September 2008.
It is not surprising that equities are currently reaching highs not seen in years. Increasing greed pushes investors to take ever larger risks. As long as the market continues upward, happiness abound. However, at some point the markets became or become a bubble that will deflate causing pain. While this is normal in capitalism, too many now look to the government for bailouts, which then create a feedback loop causing ever larger bubbles.
The Wall Street Journal posted a troubling article last week titled Pensions Bet Big With Private Equity. According to the Journal, some pension funds have morphed into the high risk venture capitalist business. For example, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has $114 billion in assets and has invested a significant portion, $30 billion, in private equity and real estate in the last five years.
The reason for the pension funds risky behavior is government intervention into finance markets. In an effort to stimulate the economy, the Fed pushed interest rates to historic lows where they remain today. These low returns caused pension funds to miss their actuarial return rates requiring either cuts in benefits or an increased infusion of cash by members. Neither action is equitable for the parties involved so they have instead taken the high risk investment approach in an effort to increase returns. This is a very dangerous approach for pension funds, one that has been historically avoided to ensure engineers safety. Should markets take another downturn, the results will be disastrous. It is likely under this scenario that should they look for a government bailout, the funds available from a government that is already so far in debt.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Governmental interventions have consequences.
Posted in economics, Governmental Intervention | Tagged: Fear, Funds, Greed, Investments, Pension, Teachers | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 13, 2012
Last week newsbusters.org published on a horrifying story about child abuse in Los Angeles, California. In one LA public-school alone, the Miramonte Elementary School, an additional four lawsuits have been filed against the Los Angeles Unified School District, bringing the total to 189 claims brought against the school on sexual abuse charges involving 126 students.
The mainstream media has been silent on this growing scandal in Los Angeles. As Blog reader Jim Mahoney said when forwarding in this story: “I can’t believe we haven’t heard about this. I guess if it involves liberal teachers’ union members it isn’t as newsworthy as the Catholic Church.” Another nail in the coffin of the claim that the mainstream media is not biased.
Posted in Mainstream Media | Tagged: Los Angeles, Miramonte Elementary School, Public, School district, schools, Sexual abuse, Teachers | 1 Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 14, 2012
Wall Street Journal on July 10 published an op-ed America Has Too Many Teachers by Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute that concludes America has an excess of teachers. In support of this conclusion Coulson points out that in the past 40 years the public school workforce has increased by 100%, from 3.3 million to 6.4 million. During that same period student enrollment has only increased by 8.5%. Coulson concludes this wastes about $200 billion annually.
Coulson also concludes that the increased spending has not resulted in improved education and quotes statistics from the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress reports. He also debunks the argument that special ed programs have caused the workforce growth since these educators only make up about 5% of the workforce.
Organizations of all types have the natural inclination to self-perpetuate and grow. Private companies that become bloated or grow beyond their means go out of business. Such is not the case in the public sector where governments either have taxing authority and/or the ability to print money. This reality removes any incentive of government organizations to create efficiencies.
Progressives, like President Obama, suggest that hiring more government workers including teachers is the solution to the lengthy economic downturn. This claim is not only unsupported by economic data, but has proven to create inefficiencies and rob a country of its wealth. If hiring government workers were the solution, Greece would be the wealthiest country in the world. Instead, it is bankrupt.
Posted in Education, Government Waste | Tagged: excess workers, public workers, Teachers | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 31, 2011
Discussions relating to the challenges state and municipal governments face often include the cost of education. While most Americans agree that the educational process needs repairs, proposed actions are debated.
Those on the Left often express the belief that the educational system can be improved by throwing more money at it. For example, President Obama suggested including billions more for “public school modernization” in his latest jobs plan. This is in the time-honored Progressive tradition that proffers that any societal ill can be cured by government spending. If only it was so easy!
The main school of thought is that America’s education problems are more systemic that include a breakdown of family and a corrupt philosophy within unions that rewards teachers for years of service, rather than performance. This Blog adheres to this view.
Hall of Fame quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, retired from the NFL (National Football League) in 1978 after 17 terrific years. He has since been an entrepreneur and adviser on small business education. Tarkenton published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal some weeks ago titled What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? that looks into the problems of public education. To make a point, he interposes the method of compensation and promotion for teachers and NFL players saying: “Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. … “. The result of such lunacy is easy to understand. Under such a system the NFL would at best offer a mediocre product that few would be willing to purchase and the league would ultimately disappear.
For those like President Obama who claim that more money can address the problem of education, Tarkenton offers the following statistics in rebuttal:
- Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the Unites States has tripled since 1970.
- America spends more per student than any other Western country except Switzerland.
- Spending on buildings and equipment for schools has doubled since 1989, even after being adjusted for inflation.
Tarkenton correctly concludes that one problem with America’s educational system is the method by which its employees are compensated. Teachers are not rewarded on results or efforts, but merely for years on the job, have little incentive to excel. Worse, poor teachers who have no fear of being terminated for performance continue to teach to the determent of students.
America’s corruptive compensation practices are not only found in public education and the problem is broader than the way unions demand compensation for members. For example, there is rightfully much angst being expressed by the Occupy Wall Street movement relating to Wall Street’s compensation for some of the same executives that helped create the Country’s ongoing financial mess.
The federal government played a role in creating Wall Street’s outrageous compensation packages. First, starting in the late 1990’s, it and the Federal Reserve bailed out Wall Street with historically low interest rates every time the economy slowed down. This led to bubbles and a belief on Wall Street that there was little risk in their increasing risky behavior. Had the government let the recessions occur, i.e. required market corrections, during this ten-year period, Wall Street banks would have had poor profit years that would not only have tempered compensation packages, but more importantly tempered their willingness to make what were outrageously risky investments.
The government’s response to the 2008 financial meltdown was even more outrageous, bailing out the very people who caused the crisis. However, instead of making these capitalist pay the ultimate price for their gross failures, the destruction of their companies, the government bailed them out. That allowed the same executives to retain their jobs with outrageous compensation packages at the expense of the American taxpayer. This grotesque crony capitalism started under the Bush Administration and continues under Obama.
Examples of compensation inequities in America are many. These inequities have intensified in recent years not because of greed or capitalism, but because of peoples’ ability to act on that greed. This increasing ability to act on greed has been enhanced by unnatural market manipulations that range from union demands for government workers, to governmental bailouts of huge banks and companies. Unless these unnatural market manipulations are addressed (stopped) the problem of the inequities will continue. Unfortunately those that govern will instead likely create still more interventions to repair their earlier interventions, which will only exasperate the problems. This madness will continue until a transformational leader emerges with the guts to break the ties between power groups and those that govern.
Posted in Bailouts, Education | Tagged: Bailouts, bankers, Bush, Fed, Federal Reserve, Fran Tarkenton, Greed, Interest Rates, left, NFL, Obama, Occupy Wall Street, public school modernization, Salaries, Teachers, Unions | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on August 28, 2011
Newsradio 620 WTMJ out of Wisconsin reported on the ongoing despicable behavior by public employee unions in the state. Last Friday, Wisconsin’s Governor Walker visited a local school in order to read students. He was not only met by protesters, but also the Vandals. It seems some of the disgruntled unionists superglued locks on school doors in an effort to disrupt the visit.
The local school’s president said the disruptions: “People ought to start acting like adults. You’ve got little kids who have no clue what you’re even talking about, and you make something political when it isn’t, that’s just flat-out wrong.”
The aggressiveness and greed of unions typically blocks reason.
Throughout history manufacturing unions used disruptive and sometimes violent acts to promote goals of increased wages and benefits. Society often turned a blind eye towards these tactics in the mistaken belief that the unions were representing David against Goliath. While in the short run the unions’ tactics helped them obtain increased wages and benefits for members, they also led to the destruction of heavy manufacturing in the United States and the loss of millions of union jobs.
After unions helped destroy major manufacturing in the United States, they turned their focus towards other sources of dues paying members. Without member dues, union bosses could not continue getting paid. Their focus was on the public employees including teachers.
Union strategies for increasing wages and benefits for their public employee members changed little from their earlier manufacturing roots. The threat of strikes and other intimidation forced states and municipalities to acquiesce in demands that were unsustainable in the long run. With local governments now in dire financial conditions, politicians like Governor Walker are forced to say “no more”. This has led to even more aggressive and sometimes desperate union tactics in their attempt to avoid the inevitable.
In the battle between unions and major manufacturers in the United States, management was not without fault. They acquiesced to economically unsound union demands because of shortsightedness. In addition, they did not recognize that manufacturing was moving towards worldwide competition. Those manufacturers that have not since been bailed out, no longer produce goods United States. While a sad resolution, as a way free markets operate.
Public-sector businesses, such as schools, cannot close down like the manufacturers who preceded them. Politicians and bureaucrats, like their short sighted counterparts in heavy manufacturing decades previously, too often acquiesced to unsustainable union demands. Now states and municipalities are running deficits and are forced address the challenges. The required actions will be more painful and difficult than had they been reasonably addressed in real-time.
Certainly the challenges that face America’s educational systems are complex and involve much more than teachers. However, the greed and inappropriate behavior exhibited by some teachers unions do not set appropriate role models for the educational environment.
Posted in Public Employees, Unions | Tagged: Education, Public Employees, Scott Walker, superglued, Teachers, Union, Wisconsin | 2 Comments »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on April 14, 2011
While their school budgets are in the red like many in the United States, Minnesota continues to use taxpayers’ dollars to send teachers to worthless conferences. In this case, the state that elected Jesse the Body Ventura as government and crazy Al Franken as a senator, sent teachers to a “White Privilege Conference”. Here are just a few snippets of the material covered at this “white guilt” love-in:
According to its website, the conference is “built on the premise that the U.S. was started by white people, for white people, and to get participants to understand their biases through a “journey in understanding white supremacy, whiteness, privilege, power and oppression”.
The conference started with a prayer that said: “I want to acknowledge the creative spirits in the world that nurture and sustain us and that connect us to each other and to the plant and animal life around us” and ended with proclaiming that Americans “are completely dependent on U.S. imperialism and war to sustain our daily lives.”
Social justice educator Paul Kivel told the conference that “Our school system has been set up … to perpetuate white supremacy and white privilege. …. Poor and minority students “do not drop out — they are pushed out.”
Forgetting for the moment the outrage of the conference’s content, the educators didn’t learn one item that will benefit their student. These educators heard this same Progressive rubbish from their Leftists professors at college.
The video below is a sad commentary to the teaching profession and to Minnesota’s school boards that approved this taxpayer paid for conference.
Posted in Progressives | Tagged: Leftists, Minnesota, Paul Kivel, Progressives, Teachers, White Privilege Conference | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on March 9, 2011
The video below will be viewed as funny by some and sad by others. Those on the receiving end, teachers unions, will see neither humor nor logic in it. This is understandable as no one wants to give back what they feel is theirs.
While teachers are not blameless it the battle ragging in Madison, Wisconsin, they are also not the direct cause of it. They, like many in all businesses and professions, received gains in the bubble years that could not have occurred during more normal economic times.
Private sector employees were hit quickly after the economic meltdown occurred with job losses and wage and benefits cuts. Public sector employees, especially unionized ones, were shielded from economic realities by incompetent governments and unionized contracts. In addition, the Obama Administration’s Stimulus Package gave funds to the states that allowed them to kick the can do the road a few years. Now, with Stimulus funds running out, the day of reckoning is here.
Peeling back the layers of this economic mess, the culprits behind the “us against them” mentality growing between public sector unions and taxpayers is incompetent government. Beginning decades ago, governments offered public employee unions benefits that were unsustainable in a real economic environment. They also used unrealistic projections to hide the oncoming financial calamities created by the compensation packages offered. In addition, the federal government and Federal Reserve promoted an easy money policy that led to the various bubbles, including housing. When the bubbles popped, an instant calamity was created for states and municipalities, forcing them to go to battle with the public employee unions after decades of acquiescing to their demands.
Now the states are scrambling to balance their budgets, since they cannot print money like Washington. Irrespective of this, it is not reasonable to expect the public employee unions to just rollover. They have watched one special interest group after another being bailed out by the federal government. They demand no less for their group.
It will take a more strategic approach to cutting spending by the states to get buy in from the many constituencies required. This will ultimately have to include participation and pain for all. Unfortunately, the economic problems will have to get worse before the overall public will accept the required sacrifices.
Posted in Government Ineptness, Unions | Tagged: Bailouts, Bubbles, Federal Government, Federal Reserve, Madison, Obama, Stimulus Package, Teachers, Unions, Wisconsin | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 21, 2011
The protests being held in Wisconsin by some public employees and teachers has garnered national attention. The attention is likely because this is an early attempt by a state to bring their costs in line with income; i.e. tax receipts, during a very trying economy.
Many states are reaching the point of insolvency, a problem brought to a head by the worldwide 2008 financial meltdown that substantially reduced tax receipts. However, the initial causes of the states’ financial challenges began much earlier. Through unionization and inept politicians, public employees could hold taxpayers hostage to salary and benefits demands. Threaten to shut down schools and politicians caved in, especially when the true cost of giving into the demands would not be felt until sometime in the future. Well, the future is now.
Wisconsin is the poster child for states’ with problems caused by unsustainable compensation to its employees. That State is facing a $137 million deficit in 2011 that at the current rate will balloon to $3.6 billion by 2013. Its governor, Republican Scott Walker, is attempting to address these shortfalls by cutting costs. A large portion of any states’ cost is the wages and benefits its employees receive. To cut these costs, Walker proposes the following changes Wisconsin public employee benefits:
- Wisconsin taxpayers contribute 99% to its public employee pensions. Walker wants the State’s employees to pay in 5.8%, lower than the national average.
- Wisconsin’s public employees currently pay about 6% of their health care premiums. Walker’s proposal increases that to 12%, about half the national average.
- Walker proposes taking away the State’s employees right to collective bargaining for benefits, not wages. The Governor justifies this action since previous union negotiations required about 15 months. Wisconsin’s new budget will slash the State’s contributions to its local communities immediately. Therefore, the local communities will not have luxury of time for prolonged negotiations.
It is understandable that Wisconsin state employees do not want to give back benefits they now have. Who would? However, more difficult to understand is the rhetoric and vitriol coming from supposedly well educated and professional employees. For example, their comparison of Governor Scott Walker to Hitler is an outrage more expected of the lunatic fringe then from those that teach our children. This and other less than intellectual statements are included in the video below.
The winds of hate and anger within Wisconsin’s state employees are being stoked by outside agitation. National unions are appropriately concerned that should Wisconsin state employee unions be broken, dues from members would substantially decrease. This would negatively impact the salaries of those running the unions.
In addition, the Democrat Party is concerned that any weakening public sector unions will decrease their contributions to the Party, both in terms of money and in the get out the vote efforts. This concern is great enough for President Obama to once again wade into a states’ rights issue and publically announced support for the Wisconsin public employees. How un-presidential! Governor Walker appropriately told to the President that he should focus on balancing the federal government’s budget instead of meddling in Wisconsin’s internal affairs.
There is an old saying that goes: “When someone says it is not about the money, it is always about the money.” If we cannot get civility out of these public employees we should at least expect the truth!
Posted in Unions, Wisconsin | Tagged: collective bargaining, Democrat Party, Govenor, health care premiums, Hitler, Obama, Pensions, Public Employees, Scott Walker, Teachers, Unions, Wisconsin | 1 Comment »