Friday, February 19, 2010

Can't be said enough.

If you are a State employee or a member of the teachers union you are a part of the problem and not part of the solution you are a factor in bankrupting America, your state and your town. It is time for you to go to your union heads and demand that you work together as a union to switch from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan before you all lose your retirements because America will have no choice but to not pay out these unsustainable pensions.

The following piece appeared on the American Thinker.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

February 19, 2010
News from the public employee front
Ed Lasky
As cities and states face increasing prospects of bankruptcy, who is looking out for the public good ?

Not teachers' unions - the bedrock of the Democratic party and a major beneficiary of the so-called stimulus bill that channeled hundreds of billions of dollars to cities and states so they could meet their payroll and pension obligations. The newly -elected Republican governor of New Jersey owns up to the problem and wants to meet it head on.

Governor Chris Christie:

"Make no mistake about it, pensions and benefits are the major driver of our spending increases at all levels of government -- state, county, municipal and school board. . . . We don't have that money -- you know it and I know it. What has been done to our citizens by offering a pension system we cannot afford and health benefits that are 41% more expensive than the average Fortune 500 company's costs is the truly unfair part of this equation" -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, describing the state's fiscal crisis by highlighting the case of one New Jersey teacher due to receive retirement benefits of $1.6 million after contributing only $62,000 into the retirement system.

This is what a leader does. He looks at the problem and deals with it head on. He does not look away from the problem or pass the buck. The buck (and that is a taxpayer buck) stops at his desk.

Conversely his predecessor, Jon Corzine, Democratic and Wall Street fat cat, was in bed with the public employees unions - literally and figuratively. He had a long-time affair with Carla Katz, president of the Communication Workers of America, a union that represented nearly half of all New Jersey state employees. The union endorsed him.

When Carla and Jon broke up, he rewarded her with millions of dollars. Apparently, that was not enough. A few years later, Katz was fired and expelled from the union for financial shenanigans involving the misuse of union funds. The sordid tale was symbolic of the incestuous relationship between many Democrats and public employee unions

This is not just a problem in New Jersey. The problem of sky-high salary and pension and health benefits flowing to members of public unions is an albatross around taxpayers' necks. But Governor Christie is not alone in being strong enough to want to stop the massive bleeding of the budget.

There is this Reaganesque tale:

A school superintendent in Rhode Island is trying to fix an abysmally bad school system.

Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring. The teachers' union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000. ... The school superintendent has responded to the union's stubbornness by firing every teacher and administrator at the school.

But wait! It gets better! From an email from someone who seems to know the district:

Teacher salaries at the high school average $72-78k. Apparently 50% of the students at the school are failing all of their classes, and the graduation rate is also under 50%. In an effort to turn the school around, the superintendent requested some changes be made whereby the school day would be slightly extended, teachers would perform some extra tutoring, etc.

Here is my nominee for Education Secretary : that superintendent who gave us all an education in that one act.

Reagan solidified his image as a strong leader very early in his Presidency (1981). His reputation did not hinge on any actions involving the Soviet Union ("Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall" was years in the future). Instead, the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) broke the law and went on strike, imperiling our nation's aviation system. After fair warning, Reagan fired them. He dealt with the problem by using supervisors and other replacements. The previous controllers were never to be hired again. Reagan was a leader.

There is potential here for new governors and politicians running for public office. There is a revolt brewing out there - in case one hasn't noticed. The people are sick of taxes and bloated budgets. The people are increasingly learning about the rotten deals that their politicians have signed with public employee unions. They know that their childrens' futures and their own retirements are being threatened by the obligation to pay these gold-plated pension and health benefits. They want them broken and then fixed.

I think the Rhode Island teachers' behavior was shameful. Aren't they public servants? Don't they supposedly serve the public? My son's junior high school requires all students to take an absurd course called "Common Good" that supposedly teaches them how to develop a devotion to the community.

Maybe the Rhode Island teachers need to take this remedial course. They have some time on their hands now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is Your Child's School Spying on Your Family

The following piece appears in a number of places. Surprisingly the first place I found it was on the Daily Kos.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

School disciplines student for inappropriate...
by b00g13p0p

Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 08:27:11 AM PST


OK, you say, what else is new?

What's new here is that the "inappropriate behavior" took place outside of school hours, at home, possibly in the student's bedroom.

Wait! It gets better. Or worse, depending on your perspective.

High schools (at least) in the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania have been monitoring their student's behavior at home, often in the privacy of their bedrooms, without anyone's knowledge.

b00g13p0p's diary :: ::
Since this is so utterly mind-boggling, right off the top here's a link to the class action lawsuit [PDF] filed on Feburary 11, 2010, on behalf of the high school student who was the target of disciplinary action by his high school for "inappropriate behavior" that took place outside of school hours, off school grounds, at his home, and probably in his bedroom.

All other students of the District in a similar position have been added as a class to the lawsuit.

How did this happen?

The School District was monitoring student's activities at any time, without the student's or the parents' knowledge or permission, through the webcam included in the School District-issued laptop computers that students took home with them.

How do we know this?

... The issue came to light when the Robbins's child was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.

The exact nature of the "inappropriate behavior" was not specified, thankfully, and does not matter.

To my mind, the implications of this are staggering, and I don't feel I'm being melodramatic.

How many kids leave their laptops -- and I don't give one good flying f*ck that this laptop came from the School District -- powered up and on a desk or a bed almost full-time when they're at home?

When they're getting dressed, when they're on the phone, when they're hanging out with their buds, when their parents or siblings are in their bedroom?

Speaking only for myself, I hope this School District gets sued into extinction because of this, and after that I hope that every District administrator and staff member, and every single School Board member who had any knowledge of this is fired by whatever husk is left of the District, and is sued into lifetime poverty.

This data point follows on the article at Open Left: "ReThink Interview: Cevin Soling, director of 'The War On Kids'"

The gist of that article is the undocument war on the civil rights of children in America's public schools, and the larger issue of how American children are wildly mis-served by an educational "industry" that's principally focused on pacifying children into mindless thoughtlessness.

- bp

Be sure to visit the Daily Kos website to see the great links associated with the story.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

W.A.S.P. Never Cease to Amaze

Fantabulous I hope to see more of this in the future.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

The following piece appears at Business

Unionized Rhode Island Teachers Refuse To Work 25 Minutes More Per Day, So Town Fires All Of Them
Henry Blodget

Go ahead and sleep. I make way more than your Dad.
A school superintendent in Rhode Island is trying to fix an abysmally bad school system.
Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring. The teachers' union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000. This exemplifies a nationwide trend in which public sector workers make far more than their private-sector counterparts (with better benefits).

The school superintendent has responded to the union's stubbornness by firing every teacher and administrator at the school.

A sign of things to come?

Mish Shedlock has the details at Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis:

Central Falls Rhode Island Fires Every High School Teacher
Here is an interesting email from "Jason" regarding high schools in Central Falls Rhode Island. Jason writes:

Hi Mish,

As I'm sure you're aware, Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Central Falls is one of the poorest towns in the state. It looks like the pictures everyone's seen of Detroit or Flint. There are lots of boarded up windows, abandoned buildings, decrepit factories with broken windows, etc. It's an absolutely depressed community. According to Wikipedia, the median income in the town is $22k.

Teacher salaries at the high school average $72-78k. Apparently 50% of the students at the school are failing all of their classes, and the graduation rate is also under 50%. In an effort to turn the school around, the superintendent requested some changes be made whereby the school day would be slightly extended, teachers would perform some extra tutoring, etc.

The union balked and refused the terms, so now she is firing the entire teaching staff of the high school and replacing them. This is yet another example of unions digging their own graves by refusing to negotiate or accept reasonable terms. Sentiment is on the side of the superintendent, at least among the folks I have discussed the issue with.

With that backdrop, please consider Central Falls to fire every high school teacher.

The teachers didn’t blink.

Under threat of losing their jobs if they didn’t go along with extra work for not a lot of extra pay, the Central Falls Teachers’ Union refused Friday morning to accept a reform plan for one of the worst-performing high schools in the state.

The superintendent didn’t blink either.

After learning of the union’s position, School Supt. Frances Gallo notified the state that she was switching to an alternative she was hoping to avoid: firing the entire staff at Central Falls High School. In total, about 100 teachers, administrators and assistants will lose their jobs.

Gallo blamed the union’s “callous disregard” for the situation, saying union leaders “knew full well what would happen” if they rejected the six conditions Gallo said were crucial to improving the school. The conditions are adding 25 minutes to the school day, providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, eating lunch with students once a week, submitting to more rigorous evaluations, attending weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participating in two weeks of training in the summer.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Those Who Voted for the Children are Suckers

It was never for the children and those who voted for the children are suckers and took the intelligent voters down with them. Public schools were hijacked long ago by the people who work in them, they have hijacked them and made them their own entitlement programs. The following piece appears on the American Thinker.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

Taxpayers: Eat your hearts out, suckers
By Ed Lasky

A looming problem has received far too little coverage from a liberal-dominated media: the power of public pensions to destroy our nation's finances and ransack our wallets.

For many years, government workers have enjoyed munificent benefits: relatively high salaries for lenient work demands; gold-plated retirement benefits that allow most of them to "retire" at a young age with very high pensions and generous health care benefits. Days off for holidays that few of us would even recognize.

All courtesy of us: the lowly taxpayer toiling away at jobs that may vanish at a moment's notice and that certainly don't guarantee the value of any retirement package. Not true for the ever-expanding ranks of government workers.

A recent Forbes magazine article highlights the absurd benefits that public sector workers enjoy on the job and off the job when they retire. The article, describing the leisurely life of retired government employees, could be lifted from the pages of Travel and Leisure magazine. The poster boy for the problem? A retired 42 year old policeman lollygagging on a beach, comfortable with his $2 million pension.

But there are more tales from across our land: a fireman who can be "retired" at 55, collect a pension and still collect a salary while keeping the job he "retired" from (don't ask about the logic-this is the government); a thirty eight year old teacher in New Jersey earning twice the state ‘s average income who works 10 months a year and barely contributes to a pension that will allow early retirement with quite the golden nest egg; California prison guards earning $300,000 a year.

In my own area, the superintendent of a small, suburban school district earns -- well, makes -- over $400,000 a year and has a slew of benefits to boot (medical care during his retirement, 100% comped for him and his family) . Remember that story when teachers' unions decry low salaries.

These anecdotal stories of staggering benefits received by the government worker elites are companied by reams of statistics that display the ticking time bomb of government salaries and golden parachutes. Forbes notes:

In public-sector America things just get better and better. The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector's $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%.

Four in five public-sector workers have lifetime pensions, versus only one in five in the private sector.

Those pensions are guaranteed by state law, regardless of how pension investments fare, because you, the taxpayer, guarantee them with your tax dollars. It is the law, made by our legislators or incorporated in state constitutions.

The problem is national in scope and severity. Often public sector employees claim early retirement for disabilities -- and sometimes find loopholes to claim disabilities when none in fact exist -- and they are able to work in other jobs. Pensions are often boosted by goosing final years' salaries that are used to determine lifetime pension levels. The practice is called "spiking" and recently prompted criticism of a California fire chief who, three days before announcing his retirement (at the grand old age of 51, no less), had his salary suddenly increased so as to boost his annual pension to $241,000. The practice is unfair because employees or employers contribute to pensions based on salaries. When a salary is boosted around retirement, a shortfall is created between what a pension system has collected for an employee and what it must pay out for his lifetime.

Cooking the books to goose public pensions? What astute fiscal management! This problem is exacerbated by the fact that politicians use faulty and overly optimistic projections about future investment returns to justify high pension payouts. Politicians can run but they cannot hide for too long even if they rely on Stupid Debt Tricks to disguise the problems.

Remember the scandals over welfare queens and executive salaries? These are dwarfed by the ticking time bomb of inflated government salaries and crippling pension obligations for us to pay off in our taxes.

Already, communities are declaring bankruptcy, done in by skyrocketing public employee salaries and pension costs. We have only glimpsed the future and it is colored red-in more ways than one. As government revenues sink and government obligations rise, the red ink will spread across the nation; as will steps by Democrats to take our savings. We are only at Act One of this tragedy to come.

How bad is the problem?

This "Hidden Pension Fiasco" will cost us over one trillion dollars. Barack Obama and fellow traveling Democrats will hoist this problem on our shoulders via tax hikes yet to come. This trillion will be to benefit government workers, a key Democrat constituency, who know who butter their bread at our expense. Forbes:

"The tax hikes you face [to fully fund public pensions] will have a much more tangible impact on your financial life than anything a Social Security fix will entail," says Alicia Munnell, who runs Boston College's retirement center..

Government employees could care less about how well the investments backing their pensions fare, since they are guaranteed. Nor do they care who invests them. But we should. Pension funds are often turned over to politically connected firms, who may know the right people, but not the right way to invest. Our once and former car czar, Steven Rattner, is embroiled in what looks like a classic pay-to-play scandal involving politically connected investment boutiques being rewarded by politicians with deals to invest government pensions.

Money can be spread around by the pension fund managers to help politicians win campaigns. If their returns come up short, well, who cares? The taxpayers pay the price.

Why do government workers enjoy such sweet deals? They determine their own benefit packages, for one. But another fact plays a role: their powerful union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which can devote its resources -- money, votes, volunteer labor during campaigns -- to help elect Democrats win elections. The quid pro quo is sweetheart contracts that reward union members, and punish us, for the rest of their lives.

This is disgraceful.

Our money should not fund dream retirement packages for government workers. Government workers should not lead lives insulated from the risks and travails most of the public must bear. Are politicians too in hock to public unions to care that we may go in hock to fulfill their absurd deals?

Who will stop them?

Some far-sighted people are responding to this crisis in the making. These include an activist group seeking to publicize the problem websites that publicize the problem; even apostates who feel they have unjustly benefited and are outraged at ways public employees milk taxpayers. .

Even a legendary auto union leader, Barry Bluestone, sees risks of taxpayer revulsion leading to taxpayer revolt. How fitting that his op-ed (A Future for Public Unions) ran in the Boston Globe, home of the original Tea Party. Bluestone warns that the future of public unions is in jeopardy should they follow the practices that helped wreck the American-owned auto industry. He looks back at how auto unions often:

... insisted on job classifications and work rules that undermined efficiency and compromised the industry's competitiveness.

He sees history repeating itself:

Will public-sector unions follow the same path? Nationwide, these unions represent over 35 percent of federal, state, and local employees, roughly the same as in 1980. Over the years, they have won improved wages and benefits for their members. Yet the leaders of many of these unions, particularly in Massachusetts, seem to be setting the stage for the same kind of deterioration we see in unions like the UAW.

Teachers unions refuse to make changes in work practices that could help improve the chances of children succeeding in school. Police unions fight against lowering the cost of details at construction sites. The MBTA union and others representing transport workers lobby vociferously against reforming the state's transportation system. Municipal unions refuse to permit their local communities to join the Group Insurance Commission that would save their towns millions without compromising the quality of their members' medical care.

As a result, between 2000 and 2008, the price of state and local public services has increased by 41 percent nationally compared with 27 percent in private services. Even in the face of the worst fiscal crisis in decades, many state and local union leaders refuse to consider a wage freeze that could help preserve more of their members' jobs.

Bluestone notes that citizens and ultimately their elected representatives, will object to tax increases to pay for bloated union contracts and poor public service. Bluestone does not address the public pension time bomb that will only make our problems worse.

Of course, the key point is the need to make our elected representatives themselves pay for the steps they have taken over the years to enrich public unions at our expense. That is the only type of payback they understand: our votes. They should not come as cheaply or carelessly as they have in the past. They have cost us too much already.

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This Belongs in the No Poop Sherlock File

Schools that accepted stimulus funds now have big budget holes. I pointed out months ago that this would happen if schools slept with the devil and used mortgaged money from the very children they are educating. Schools are supposedly filled with bright Superintendents, respectable school administrators and responsible school boards so why would they accept the stimulus funds in the first place? Greed not need. Budget holes are a result of greed and not need and our public schools are filled with greedy people. Thank you to the Croydon School Board members who did not grab the dangled carrot put out by Newport last Fall, thank you Croydon School Board Members for rejecting the stimulus funds.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

The following piece appears on the My Way News website.

Schools face big budget holes as stimulus runs out
Feb 14, 2:54 PM (ET)


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The nation's public schools are falling under severe financial stress as states slash education spending and drain federal stimulus money that staved off deep classroom cuts and widespread job losses.

School districts have already suffered big budget cuts since the recession began two years ago, but experts say the cash crunch will get a lot worse as states run out of stimulus dollars.

The result in many hard-hit districts: more teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, smaller paychecks, fewer electives and extracurricular activities, and decimated summer school programs.

The situation is particularly ugly in California, where school districts are preparing for mass layoffs and swelling class sizes as the state grapples with another massive budget shortfall.

The crisis concerns parents like Michelle Parker in San Francisco, where the school district is preparing to lay off hundreds of school employees and raise class sizes because it faces a $113 million budget deficit over next two years.

"I'm worried they're not going to have the quality education that's going to make them competitive in a global society," said Parker, who has three kids in district elementary schools.

Around the country, state governments are cutting money for schools as they grapple with huge budget gaps triggered by high unemployment, sluggish retail sales and falling real estate prices. A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 41 states face midyear budget shortfalls totaling $35 billion.

"The states are facing a dismal financial picture," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy.
The Obama administration's $787 billion federal stimulus package provided roughly $100 billion for education, including $54 billion to stabilize state budgets. In October the White House said the stimulus created or saved 250,000 education jobs.

But many states have used most of their stimulus money, leaving little to cushion budget cuts in the coming fiscal year.

Experts say the looming cuts could weaken the nation's public schools, worsen unemployment, undermine President Obama's education goals and widen the achievement gap between students in rich and poor districts.

Wealthier communities are filling school budget gaps with local tax increases and aggressive fundraising, but could worsen inequality and undermine the larger system for paying for public schools, said John Rogers, who heads the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

In Michigan, which has the nation's highest unemployment rate, school districts lost 2 percent of their state money this year
and could lose another 4 percent next year because of a projected government shortfall of $1.6 billion. Most of more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money is gone.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm has proposed an incentive program to entice about 39,000 public school employees to retire, but that plan has been criticized by the state's largest teachers union.

"Our districts don't know what the next step is," said Don Wotruba, deputy director with the Michigan Association of School Boards.

In Washington state, school districts that lost $1.7 billion in state money over the past two years are bracing for another round of cuts as lawmakers try to plug a $2.8 billion state deficit.

Seattle Public Schools, the state's largest district, plans to lay off nonunion staff, freeze hiring, create more efficient bus routes and increase class sizes further to close an expected budget shortfall of $24 million.

In Florida, public schools are being squeezed by state budget cuts and an unexpected increase in student enrollment, including an influx of Haitian students in the aftermath of Haiti's devastating earthquake.

Districts have been coping by closing schools during breaks, cutting energy costs and changing transportation routes, but the next round of cuts is expected to hit classrooms.

"We're at a point now where you just can't stretch that rubber band any further," said Bill Montford, CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

In California, school districts have already laid off thousands of teachers, increased class sizes and slashed academic programs.

But state officials are warning the worst is yet to come because the state has already handed out most of its $6 billion in stimulus money.

Per-pupil spending for K-12 schools fell 4 percent last year and would be slashed another 8 percent under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for 2010-2011, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

"It's cataclysmic. It hasn't been seen since the Great Depression," said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "Now you're talking about sizable layoffs and further increases in class sizes."

More districts are expected to look like Vallejo City Unified School District, which has laid off most of its middle school guidance counselors and no longer offers music or art in elementary school. Last year it laid off 60 of its 860 teachers and raised K-3 class sizes from 20 to 28 students, and officials are considering more layoffs and even bigger class sizes this year, said Christal Watts, who heads the teachers union.

Lori Peck, a first-grade teacher at Vallejo's Patterson Elementary School, said the larger class size means she can no longer give her students the individual attention they need.

"I feel like my class in general is further behind where they should be," Peck said. "My concern is they don't reach the standards by the end of the year."

In San Francisco, Superintendent Carlos Garcia said he's worried the cuts will reverse the district's progress in narrowing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian classmates.

"These cuts hurt some of our poorest and neediest kids," Garcia said. "The decisions that school boards and superintendents have to make pretty much go against the grain of everything we believe in."
Associated Press Writers Tim Martin in Lansing, Mich., Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle, and Christine Armario in Miami contributed to this story.