Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wisconsin: Union Collapse = Education Reforms

There was an interesting article the other day about what is happening in Wisconsin now that the teachers’ unions have lost their iron grip on schools. This article was made all the more interesting by a laughable article in The Economist which tried to explain why any cuts in education would be catastrophic.

The Economist is one of those liberals rags which hides behind claims of sanity, but somehow never quite comes through. For example, they claim to favor cuts in union benefits, but they just can’t find a single cut they ever approve of. This time, they're worried that "cuts" in state budgets could destroy American education. But these aren't really cuts, The Economist is using standard liberal sleight of hand to call decreases in projected increases "cuts." In other words, many of these “cuts” don’t actually result in less money being spent, they just eliminate planned increases. Nevertheless, The Economist claims these “cuts” will result in a parade of horribles. But check out this list:

1. “Baseball may be cut to keep football going.”

2. "Latin will be even rarer -- and forget about adding Mandarin this year.”

3. “Some school are now charging fees for certain classes or activities, a startling trend that violates some basic ideas about what public schools are supposed to do. . . Elementary-school teachers ask their pupils to buy school supplies; high-school students sell cupcakes and wash cars to raise money for the prom. Parents may supplement a child’s education with extra services—a tutor, a week at lacrosse camp, a second-hand car, a new silver trumpet rather than the borrowed cornet, glottal with generations of spit.”
Oh.... my.... God!!! How will the public ever survive? Ok, let’s start with some of the most obvious responses. First, Title IX has caused most sports to be abandoned, not budget cuts, but The Economist thinks Title IX is a good thing. Secondly, kids have always paid for their own supplies. That's the American public school system. Sometimes, they even had to pay for their own books. Students have always paid for their own proms. Tutors and something as bizarre as “lacrosse camp” have never been provided by public schools. And no school on the planet has ever provided students with new cars. Also, dear Economist musical instruments are cleaned before they are sold, i.e. they don’t come with generations of spit in them.

How retarded does someone need to be to make these arguments?

Well, a lot. See The Economist even acknowledges in its article that recent studies (even by leftists) have shown that more money simply does not equate to improved achievement, yet The Economist still illogically argues that these "cuts" will hurt students. How does that make sense? That’s like conceding water does not cause cancer, but then arguing that letting people drink water will lead to more cancer! What's more, The Economist actually suggests that "cutting" this funding will undermine democracy. How? The only "evidence" they cite is that Noah Webster advocated public education. That's nonsense.

Next, The Economist argues that these cuts are upsetting kindergarteners in Michigan, who are sending “emotional letters” to evil Republicans. So what? Never mind that these kindergartners can’t have any idea what they are talking about and that it’s shameless for liberal teachers to use them as political props, but the mere fact that people are upset tells us nothing about whether a law is good or not. Even a law banning serial killing will upset someone.

Finally, The Economist assures us that “classes will be more crowded, school-bus rides longer.” That sounds believable right?

Well, that’s where Wisconsin comes into this. With the union contracts broken Wisconsin schools are suddenly finding they have freedom to arrange their schools in ways that are best for the students. When the Wisconsin bill was signed, the Democrats and their fellow travelers in the media predicted catastrophe. . . just like The Economist. But not only did that not happen, things are looking up dramatically.

Consider the Kaukauna School District. This district has 4,200 students and 400 employees. They have a $400,000 deficit to fill. To fix this, they made the following changes, which turned that $400,000 deficit into a $1.2 million surplus:
1. Teachers will now be required to pay 12.6% of the cost of their medical coverage instead of 10%. And they will need to contribute 5.8% of their salary to their pensions. Other than this, teacher’s salaries will remain the same, with a current top of $85,000 a year plus $35,000 in benefits for 184 days worked.

2. What’s more, something interesting has happened. Under the union contract, schools were required to obtain health insurance for teachers from a company owned by the teacher’s union. That company, the WEA Trust, had just notified Kaukauna that it would face significant premium hikes this year. Now that Kaukauna suddenly has the right to shop around for other providers, the WEA Trust has magically reversed its position and is offering to match the lowest bid Kaukauna can find rather than raising rates. Imagine that! (Frankly, if they can match the lowest bid, then the attempt to impose a premium hike should be looked at as a violation of Wisconsin’s False Claims Act.)

3. They also eliminated the rule that allowed teachers to work only 37.5 hours a week -- they will now work 40. And teachers will be required to work 6 of 7 periods a day instead of 5 of 7. This will result in more classes being offered, more one-on-one time for troubled students, and class sizes will fall from 31 to 26 in high school and 26 to 23 in elementary school.
So much for everything The Economist claimed.

In any event, it’s clear the world did not end and education did not perish. Wisconsin schools are about to improve and will do so for less money because the unions were broken. And the fact The Economist is left arguing that students will be forced to buy unwashable used trumpets tells us how intellectually hollow the arguments of the left have become.


Unknown said...

Andrew: These people live in a Keynesian cocoon. Facts and logic can't deter them from their course of spend, spend, spend, and to hell with the result. God bless Wisconsin. Something that palpably obvious and sensible will never happen here in California.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think Wisconsin is showing a lot of people what is possible when you free things up for people to arrange their affairs for the best interests of everyone rather than just one group.

Tennessee Jed said...

great article, Andrew. It's funny, but everytime I ever see anything about "The Economist," I think of Katie Couric and her snarky words with Sarah Palin.

That said, this one seems to really go over the cliff when it comes to making stupid assertions. Thanks for pointing that out.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, There was a time The Economist was actually reputable. But those days are long gone. At this point, it's mostly pointless liberal rag like Time. The only reason I get it still is habit and because there's nowhere else to get foreign news.

In terms of their arguments, as ridiculous as they are, this is the kind of stuff liberal argue now. It's really bottom of the barrel stuff. But that's what liberalism has become.

I'm just glad this information is getting out and people can see what breaking a union can achieve with even minimal pain.

CrispyRice said...

Wait... you DIDN'T get a car from your HS when you became a senior?? Ohh... umm... gee... awkward...


No really, this is good news to hear about Wisconsin. It'd be great if other states follow suit.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, LOL! Nope. I went to one of them thar "poor" schools that couldn't afford to give us all new cars. So sad.

Yeah, this is good news and hopefully the importance of this will sink. Hopefully, people will realize how easily reform could go if the unions aren't standing in the way of even simple things like this.

And that union health thing is borderline fraud!

T-Rav said...

A high school gives its seniors CARS when they graduate??!! WHAT THE @#%$?!?! What is this, Oprah Winfrey High or something?

Okay, here's how cuts work, if the school is functioning properly. You don't go after your core curriculum and stuff, you cut out the frills, like some field trips and so on. Are field trips fun? Heck yes. Are they necessary to having a good education? Um, no. You cut the superfluous stuff, like "learning Mandarin." (The Cantonese dialect is so much more lyrical anyway.) You don't do something that's going to actually impact the kids' ability to get a decent education. But again, that's if things are functioning properly.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, T-Rav.... you're being too rational. That's how cuts would work if you wanted them to succeed. But if you want them to be unpopular, it is better to cut core classes which parents like and a few frills the students the like. That way you punish people for demanding cuts. Grrrr.

In terms of the cuts they identified, they truly have a skewed view of the American school system as every single thing they identify is actually an extracurricular activity which students/parents have always paid for by themselves.

What I find insane is the idea that somehow parents will now have to buy "used" instruments for their kids and that will somehow destroy democracy. Who knew democracy was so fragile?

In the end, this is the kind of article that should easily discredit anything The Economist has to say about education hereafter.

DUQ said...

Andrew, This should be a beacon to school reformers everywhere. I wonder how this will affect the next elections in Wisconsin? Will voters realize how corrupt the school unions have been or will they still fall for the union line that these are horrible cuts?

AndrewPrice said...

Good question DUQ. I have no idea how voters will respond. IF they hear stories like this, then they will turn out in favor of the Republicans as they will see that the unions have been standing in the way of fixing problems and have been selfishly trying to protect their own spoils -- not standing in the way tyranny. If they don't hear about this, then I don't know, I guess it depends on what other information is put out there. Don't expect the unions to be fair or truthful.

Ed said...

Excellent article Andrew! "The Economist" has become a joke, just like liberalism.

How stunning is it that for decades all we heard about was class size, class size, class size, and here it's being done for less money just because they were able to take away one perk in the union contract.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Conservatives have always understood that unions stand in the way of reform and typically hurt the company and the customers to protect their own interests. In this case, those customers are students and the company are taxpayers. This Wisconsin thing shows that all of the union talk of disaster coming is a total lie. And the fact they would continue to complain about cuts affecting education when the evidence is clear (both from studies and practice) that money does not equate to education quality, shows that they know they are lying to the public to protect the spoils they've gotten under the law.

Ed said...

Andrew, Unions don't care about customers or companies. They would rather destroy a company than not get their demands met. Teachers unions definitely don't care about students. They only care about getting more money and more benefits for their members and they are going to say whatever they think they need to say to pull that.

Ed said...

T_Rav, What do you mean field trips aren't educational? Where else can you get real world experience like a trip to the candy museum or an abandoned mine museum - something we did when I was in grade school. Lol!

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that's right. I keep forgetting, I went to a school with teachers and administrators who actually cared about educating the children and weren't union hacks. Thanks for reminding me.

Ed, you must have had much more interesting field trips than we did. We did visit this hotel in Colorado once, with "Redrum" or something scrawled on the walls, but...actually, I'd rather not talk about it.

patti said...

andrew: if i remember correctly, back in the day, if one wanted to take a field trip in high school, those participating had to cough up gas/bus/driver monies. we never had an issue with paying our way.

as one who homeschooled a kiddo ALL 12 years (whew), i can tell you that the public school system had nothing on us. matter of fact, had we opted for public school, our kiddo would have been gypped.

oh, and i had a teacher tell me that they needed the summer off because folks have no idea how hard their job is during those nine months. i'm sure it's a union mantra.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, So true. We paid for our own field trips and often had to cover the gas for the school bus (or parents who took us). We paid for after school activities. We even had to buy books at one point.

In terms of home schooling v. public schools, I know there are some bad home schoolers (I personally know a couple), but by and large, home schooling seems to be turning out much better kids all around. Bravo on your decision on how to raise your kiddo! :-)

I've heard that from teachers too and let me tell you, it sounds pretty darn stupid when they say something like that to a lawyer. My work hours until recently were 11-12 hours a day, seven days a week.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, You visited that hotel too! LOL! I have fond memories of that visit, though I never could get the blood out of my backpack! ;-)

On the administrators, ours seemed to care a good deal for our education. . . right until I hit 10th grade. Then we suddenly had a noticeable change. Soon the school was more concerned with getting everyone on the same level rather than educating everyone and got big into race issues (in a town with almost no minority population at the time and no racial problems). Things kept getting worse and worse in fact and some of my favorite teachers even quit because they said it wasn't worth dealing with the school system anymore.

It probably won't surprise you to learn the guy they brought in as Superintendent of the district at that point (for $250,000 a year mind you) was a massive liberal. Bastard.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Unions care only about getting power. They don't care about anything else. They don't even care about their membership. That's been shown time and again and if the Democrats weren't in the unions' pocket, they would see it too.

Candy museum? Where did you go to school? Hershey, PA or Candyland, CA?

T-Rav said...

Patti, all I can say is, if those teachers thought they could take those three months off and not worry about school stuff at all, well, that explains a lot. None of the teachers I knew ever simply dropped what they were doing from May through August.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, no superintendent anywhere deserves a $250,000 a year salary. It's an arduous job, but come on.

On the hotel visit, that tends to happen when you get freak tidal waves of blood washing down the hallway. Frankly, I just don't think that place was built to code :-)

StanH said...

This is great stuff Andrew, and further exposes the blatant hypocrisy, and stupidity of the left. As Lawhawk stated, Keynesian economics never, ever works, you’ll notice that the Paul Krugman’s of the world are saying the problem is we haven’t spent enough money. I believe I heard a number tossed around today, that Barry needs to spend another $1.3Trillion and that would buy a 5% unemployment rate…HUH! These people are dangerous and need to be relegated to the nearest booby-hatch for a frontal lobotomy and daily thorazine shots to be certain that the only thing coming out of their mouths is slobber.

I agree with Patti, we used to fund our own fieldtrips, don’t give’em any ideas about a new car at graduation, I can see and hear it now, “look at little Pedro, his parents are undocumented workers, how can we expect Pedro to do jobs that Americans won’t do if he doesn’t have a new GM car.” The list goes on.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Not built to code! LOL! I think we just found the legal sequel to The Shining.... Shining II: Wrongful Death. :-)

Even worse, the $250,000 a year was in the late 1980s when salaries were a lot lower. And that guy totally messed things up. I'm not kidding when I say that I know teachers who quit because they got sick of it all. The guy was angry, divisive and didn't care at all about education.

Somebody should have fragged him with a lunchbox.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Thanks!

I have heard that idea that Obama just didn't spend enough and I am frankly stunned. He spent the equivalent of the South Korean economy, which employs 50 million people, and he managed to create no jobs with it. And yet the left still hasn't learned. Unbelievable. It really does prove that liberalism is mental condition.

On field trips, yep, we paid for those ourselves. "Public school" never meant totally free. Even some classes (like chemistry) had lab fees. I think it really shows how desperate the left has become if they think these arguments will mean anything to average people.

T-Rav said...

Andrew and Stan, on that note, the Weekly Standard recently mentioned a study by the White House's Council of Economic Advisors--three economists hand-picked by Obama--which found that the stimulus, thus far, has cost $278,000 per job: $666 billion (weird number to come up in a thread that just mentioned The Shining) for 2.4 million jobs. No word on whether those jobs were "saved" or "created."

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I saw that too. Now think about this. They could just as easily have hired 7.8 million people to watch television for $91,000 a year and they would have done three times better at "creating jobs."

And those people probably would have been better at "stimulating" the economy -- especially if you made them watch the Home Shopping Channel for 8 hours a day.

How sad is that?

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