Tag: American Jobs Act

Everything You Need to Know About Public School Spending in Less Than 2½ Minutes

Neal McCluskey gutted the President’s new “Save the Teachers” American Jobs Act sales pitch a good while back, as did Andrew Coulson here. Thankfully, it seems a lot of senators agree it’s a bad idea.

Last week, a $35 Billion piece of the president’s new “stimulus” plan, which included $30 Billion to bail out government schools—againwent down in the Senate:

Our public education problem is huge; we’re spending far too much and getting way too little. But most people don’t know the basic details. They still think we need to spend more on education.

So, for all of you who want to get the details but don’t have much time, or have family and friends who need to be introduced to reality, I present to you … Everything you need to know about public school spending in less than 2½ minutes.

Watch it, “like” it, post it on Facebook, email it around, comment, and generally get the word out … because we really do need to get the word out.

Ignore Reality, Sell Jobs Plan

It took them several weeks after introducing the American Jobs Act, but the White House has finally gotten into the numbers behind the Act’s edu-employment parts. A report released yesterday by the Obama administration - “Teacher Jobs at Risk” - tries to paint a picture of truly dire circumstances, which is a pretty easy task when you offer no context for your numbers.

The foundational assumptions, of course, are that more money necessarily equals better education, and less money worse. This so flies in the face of reality – at least according to federal test scores – as to be laughable. Well, laughable were it not for the fact that most people are wholly unaware of the truth, and that has made education a giant albatross around our wallets.

Which brings us to the more specific context-dodging deceptions in this report.

The sweet spot in the report — sweet like chocolate-covered arsenic — is a block on the first page pithily titled, “The American Jobs Act Could Prevent Hundreds of Thousands of Layoffs, and Allow Schools to Rehire Thousands More.”

Sounds great, right?

Sure, unless you consider that the $30 billion the administration intends to spend on this — yes, Virginia, there is a cost side — will have to come from people, either today or in the future. That’s right, it will be taken from human beings who are just as real as education employees, and who probably have lots of important things they would do with the dough if allowed to keep it. And that includes the hated “rich,” who would spend their money or invest it, leading to the “saving or creating” of lots of jobs.

So this isn’t about opposing jobs. It’s about opposing government deciding who does or doesn’t get employed.

But perhaps we are on the verge of education employment Armageddon. The administration’s report, after all, says that 300,000 elementary and secondary jobs were lost between 2008 and 2011, which seems like a big number. The report doesn’t say whether that was net or total, and it is probably a worst-case scenario, but still, that feels huge.

Huge, that is, until you see what it’s out of. In 2008 the total number of school and district employees was 6,318,395. That means a 300,000 loss was just a 4.7 percent trimming — far from humongous. To put that in students-per-employee perspective, using the latest total enrollment estimate such a cut would have taken us from a ratio of 7.9 students per employee in 2008 to about  8.2 to 1 today. In other words, it would have created a student-to-employee situation we haven’t seen since all the way back in…2003.

Oh.

But what if we lost another 280,000, which is the scenario the administration if trying to scare us with for the current school year? Add that to the 300,000 worst-case loss between 2008 and today, and it would be a total edu-jobs loss of 580,000. In percentage terms that would be a 9.2 percent drop since 2008, and in student-per-staffer perspective an uptick to 8.6 kids per employee, a proportion we last saw in just 1998.

That’s regretable, perhaps, but considering the gigantic staffing increases over the decades — a near doubling since 1969 — and stagnant achievement scores, we should probably be asking why we’ve let cuts be so small up to now. And lest we forget: The nation has an over $14 trillion-and-growing debt, which threatens all of us like a gigantic asteroid  hurtling toward Earth. In light of that, using taxpayer dollars to keep public schooling a perpetual jobs factory not only flies in the face of educational logic, it is fiscal and economic lunacy.

The Obama Administration’s edu-jobs plan might work politically — it might be a great weapon for getting votes — but as public policy it is utterly irresponsible.

Jobs Bill Only Makes Political Sense

I can’t look into President Obama’s heart, so I can’t tell you what motives are driving the American Jobs Act. I can, though, tell you this: One look at the facts about American education, and his proposal only makes sense if the goals are to energize union support, and perhaps use spending as some easy shorthand to tell voters that the President cares about kids.

The basic reality is that over the last several decades governments at all levels have conducted ever-bigger education money bombings with no positive academic impact. According to the Digest of Education Statistics, real per-pupil expenditures rose from $5,671 in 1970-71 to $12,922 in 2007-08 (the latest year with available data). On the federal level, between 1970 and 2010 per-pupil spending rose an astonishing 375 percent. Meanwhile, National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for 17-year-olds – essentially, our schools’ “final products” – were almost completely flat. More money did not buy better results.

What did it buy? Exactly what President Obama seems to want to protect: staffing bloat. Between 1969 and 2008 American schools went from having 22.6 students per teacher to 15.3. District administrative staff went from 697.7 students per employee to just 363.3. In total, students per employee dropped from 13.6 to 7.8, all while academic outcomes froze. We got lots of jobs – many unionized – but nothing of educational value.

There is simply no way to look at the data and believe that $30 billion for school staffing will improve education. So it must only be about jobs, and ineffectual jobs at that.

That “ineffectual” part is the economic key. Stimulus supporters argue that paying for any job is good because employed people spend their dollars. But they ignore that the money must come from somewhere, and that somewhere is ultimately taxpayers who would either spend it themselves – including investing in new or existing companies – or put it in banks that would lend it. So the money would be spent one way or another, only taxpayers have huge incentives to employ it much more efficiently than do public schools, if for no other reason than they did the hard work of earning it. In the aggregate, that means we’d be better off just letting taxpayers keep their ducats.

What we’ve tried already supports this. Contrary to what Dan Domenech writes, public schools have gotten oodles of bailout money. The original stimulus included roughly $100 billion for education, the bulk of which went to public K-12 schooling, and in 2010 the President signed legislation giving states another $10 billion to keep school employment rolls engorged. And did unemployment plateau at about 8 percent, as the Obama team projected? You know the answer.

How about fixing dilapidated school buildings? Again, money is not the answer, unless the question is how do you win union friends and influence voters.

As I testified in 2008, for years school districts had been spending more on maintenance and construction than it was estimated they needed to bring all schools into “good overall condition.” Yet conditions seemed to keep getting worse.

What’s the problem? First, districts often put off maintenance so that small problems become bigger. And second, they often spend lavishly on School Mahals, a tendency embodied by L.A. Unified’s $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex.

Of course, building something brand new, equipped with more superfluous lights and whistles than the original starship Enterprise, doesn’t make practical sense if you could keep the old buildings fully functional at a fraction of the cost. But practical and political are totally different animals. Keeping the boiler in good repair simply doesn’t make for politician-aggrandizing, ribbon-cutting photo-ops. But undertaking a big addition or renovation, which Obama’s bill would pay for, absolutely does.

And let’s not forget: All the labor would likely have to be hired at union rates, in keeping with standard federal requirements. So jobs yes, but not more jobs in exchange for market wages.

Ultimately, the President’s bill would do nothing for education and would hurt the economy, because government spending more almost by definition means a nation wasting money.

C/P from the National Journal’sEducation Experts” blog.