Tag: public employees

Obama vs. Romney on Public School Jobs

In a high-profile presser on the economy last Friday, President Obama’s central proposal was to hire more public employees. Then, in his weekly address, he argued that hiring more public school teachers would allow the U.S. to educate its way to prosperity. His Republican presidential rival, Governor Romney, has recommended precisely the opposite: reducing the size of government to boost private sector job growth–and he, too, mentions public school teachers. So… who’s right?

First, let’s look at public school employment and student enrollment over time.

As the chart makes clear, enrollment is only up 8.5% since 1970, whereas employment is up 96.2%. In other words, the public school workforce has grown 11 times faster than enrollment over the past 40 years. What difference does that make in economic terms? If we went back to the staff-to-student ratio we had in 1970, we’d be saving… $210 billion… annually.

Wait a minute, though! Research by economist Rick Hanushek and others has found that improved student achievement boosts economic growth. So if the 2.9 million extra public school employees we’ve hired since 1970 have improved achievement substantially, we might well be coming out ahead economically. So let’s look at those numbers…

Uh oh. Despite hiring nearly 3 million more people and spending a resulting $210 billion more every year, achievement near the end of high school has stagnated in math and reading and actually declined slightly in science since 1970. This chart also shows the cost of sending a student all the way through the K-12 system–the total cost per pupil of each graduating class from 1970 to the present. As you can see, on a per pupil basis, a K-12 education has gone from about $55,000 to about $150,000 in real, inflation-adjusted terms.

The implications of these charts are tragic: the public school monopoly is warehousing 3 million people in jobs that appear to have done nothing to improve student learning. Our K-12 government school system simply does not know how to harness the skills of our education workforce, and so is preventing these people from contributing to our economy while consuming massive quantities of tax dollars. So what would hiring even more people into that system do for our economy…

The Perks of Local Government

The Washington Examiner reports:

Six of [the Washington-area mass transit system] Metro’s top executives are assigned agency-owned vehicles that they can drive home, the transit system acknowledged Tuesday, one day after saying none of them had take-home vehicles.

That is in addition to the 116 Metro employees who receive take-home vehicles, including 88 managers and superintendents, first reported by The Washington Examiner.

I wonder if executives and managers at automobile companies get free subway passes?

TSA Unionizing

Worst news I’ve heard lately, via The New York Times:

Seeking to end a debate that has brewed for nearly a decade, the director of the Transportation Security Administration announced on Friday that a union would be allowed to bargain over working conditions on behalf of the nation’s 45,000 airport security officers, although certain issues like pay will not be subject to negotiation.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has proposed an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill that would prohibit TSA workers from collective bargaining. Wicker’s proposal doesn’t go far enough. At the least, the decision to halt privatization of airport security should be reversed. Ideally, the TSA would be scrapped or reduced to merely inspecting the performance of airport security provided by the airports, not the government.

I doubt that allegations of TSA screener abuse are going to be dealt with better in a unionized workplace. I’m reminded of Sal Culosi’s murder. The Fairfax, Virginia SWAT officer that had a negligent discharge into Culosi’s chest at point blank range received a slap on the wrist, which was too much for the police union. And he killed a compliant suspect in an unnecessary SWAT raid. It seems a safe bet that your complaint about a pat-down gone too far will face additional resistance from TSA unions standing up for that agency’s bad apples.

From the Public-Employee-Tenure Files

Why are public-sector managers often reluctant to fire errant employees, even when the stakes of misbehavior are high? One reason is fear of outcomes like that in Aurora, CO, where a civil service commission has just ordered reinstatement and back pay for an officer terminated from the police force after he “allegedly kneed a female suspect in the face while she was handcuffed and on the ground,” to quote the Denver Post, and then failed to report her injuries even though she was bleeding profusely. The police chief said he considered the incident an “egregious” use of excessive force, and the woman, whose orbital (eye-socket) bone was broken, won $85,000 in a settlement with the city.

That was not good enough for the civil service panel considering the officer’s firing, which said excessive force had not been proved to its satisfaction. It did find that the officer had violated a number of department policies — he should have reported the woman’s injuries, for example — but said termination was too severe a penalty; instead, it said, he should be docked 160 hours of pay and made to undergo training. The docking of pay seems to be of a somewhat notional variety, however, given that the commission ordered him awarded back pay for the salary he would have earned had he not been dismissed in June 2010 (the underlying incident took place in February 2009).

So there you have it. Municipal taxpayers get to pay both ways — to defend against allegations that there was excessive force, and that there wasn’t. Public managers are sent the message that it’s unsafe for them to manage. Aurora residents nervous about possible encounters with the local constabulary are given fresh reason to be nervous. Is it any wonder long-overdue reform of government-employee tenure keeps returning to the national agenda?