Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are paying attention. Democrats in Washington are turning up the heat on the GOP as they push for quick passage of the “mini” $35 billion union jobs bailout. True to Alinsky form, Team Obama is spinning more emo-narratives centered on saving teachers from layoffs. At a Save the Teachers and Children! press conference yesterday, Senate Dems poured it on thick for their Big Labor pals. So did Joe Biden, who schmoozed it up with a class of fourth graders before turning on the fear-mongering spigot. Ignoring the billions in taxpayer dollars that he’s redistributed to the National Education Association’s pet causes over the last three years, the campaigner-in-chief took to the classroom to bemoan that “We have a tendency to say great things about how important education is in the abstract, but we don’t always put our money where our mouth is.”
As I spotlighted last week, President Obama’s marquee jobless teacher/poster boy for the union jobs bailout is a Boston educator who is NOT jobless. And all the little lies serve the larger Obama fraud of endless Keynesian intervention as a “cure” — which I’ve hit on again in my new column this week. Copy, clip, and save this companion chart (h/t Veronique de Rugy) for a ready reality check:
Update: Reid’s priorities laid bare. “It’s very clear that private sector jobs have been doing just fine, it’s the public sector jobs where we’ve lost huge numbers, and that’s what this legislation is all about,” Reid said on the Senate floor.”
Listen to what this responsible teacher has to say: When funds run out “you end up fiscally going off a cliff,” said Iowa Rep. Jeremy Taylor, R-Sioux City, vice chairman of the Iowa House Education Committee. “I don’t think it’s a wise idea for our state to be budgeting based on that one-time money, and I say that as both a legislator and a teacher.
The EduJobs III Bailout
by Michelle Malkin
One of my son’s Suzuki violin teachers had a wise twist on an old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try something else.” The corollary? “When you do succeed, don’t stop. Do it again.” The White House could use some remedial Suzuki lessons in economics. They’ve got everything completely bass-ackward.
In February 2009, President Obama signed the trillion-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Nearly $115 billion was earmarked for education. The stimulator-in-chief’s crack team of Ivy League economists predicted the law would hold the jobless rate under 8.5 percent.
The actual unemployment rate in October 2009 skyrocketed to a whopping 10.2 percent.
In August 2010, President Obama went back to the well. With deep-pocketed public employee unions by his side, he lobbied hard for the so-called “EduJobs” bill — $26 billion more to bail out bankrupt states, school districts and public hospitals. Nearly half went to teachers, whose unions raked in an estimated $50 million in rank-and-file dues as a result. Obama’s economists had promised the jobless rate would be down to 7.9 percent by then.
The actual unemployment rate in August 2010 was 9.6 percent.
Now, after the Senate rejected President Rerun’s latest half-trillion-dollar stimulus proposal, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are pushing for a “mini” $30 billion union jobs package for teachers (with $5 billion to mollify police and firefighters unions). In addition to funding fantastical green school construction jobs (earmarked for unionized-only contractors in an industry that is 85 percent nonunion), the EduJobs III bill will purportedly “save” 400,000 education jobs at an average cost of nearly $80,000 per job. Those will be paid for with a 0.5 percent surtax on millionaires. The job-savings estimates come from the same economic wunderkinds who predicted the jobless rate today would be 7.1 percent.
The actual unemployment rate reported this month is 9.1 percent. While the White House decries layoffs, the inconvenient truth is that the EduJobs III union payoff is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions laid off in the private sector. According to official government statistics, the share of the eligible population now holding a job has sunk to 58.1 percent, the lowest since July 1983. (Moreover, as education investigative reporter Mike Antonucci and others have noted, the White House teacher layoff math is more statistical chicanery.)
So, where did all the original EduJobs money go? One survey by the Center on Education Policy found that much of the cash went to bolster fringe benefits and administrative staff. The Fordham Institute’s education analyst Chris Tessone noted: “T here is no reason to expect anything but business as usual from another round of subsidies. … More subsidies just protect the status quo at great expense to taxpayers.”
While strapped, reckless-spending school districts bemoan the edge of the federal “funding cliff,” another chunk of the EduJobs money went to states that didn’t even need it — and had kept their teacher payrolls full through responsible fiscal stewardship. As education journalist Chris Moody reported last summer, states including North Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alaska whose budgets are in the black received tens of millions in superfluous school subsidies. “Arkansas,” Moody found, “has a fully funded teaching staff for the coming year, but the state will still receive up to $91 million for teaching jobs.”
In Alaska, school districts had already made hiring decisions for teachers and apportioned the children in each class based upon those numbers. Nevertheless, to fulfill their teachers union-pandering mission, Obama showered the state with $24 million under the bill — money that a state education bureaucrat acknowledged “probably would not go to adding new teachers.”
Other states, such as Illinois and West Virginia, raked in hundreds of millions more in EduJobs dough even though they hadn’t yet burned through 2009 education stimulus money. In fact, a total of 20 states and the District of Columbia have spent less than 5 percent of their allotments, according to Education Week magazine.
An Obama education official helpfully suggested that the unneeded money be spent on “on-campus therapists” instead.
Many other school districts failed to heed warnings against binging on full-time hiring sprees with temporary funding. Education Week reported this spring that the New Hanover County (N.C.) school district used $4.8 million in short-term EduJobs money to fund 88 teaching positions, in addition to more than 100 classroom slots funded with 2009 stimulus tax dollars. Obama and the Democrats blame meanie Republicans for the fiscal emergencies these districts now face.
But who devoured the Beltway candy instead of eating their peas? Washington rewards bloated school pensions, Taj Mahal construction outlays and chronic local education budget shortfalls by pouring more money down their sinkholes.
Instead of incentivizing fixes, politicians — dependent on teachers union campaign contributions and human shield photo-ops — incentivize more failure.
The solution to this vicious cycle of profligacy? It’s elementary: Try something else.
Related must-read from Neal McCluskey, who further deconstructs the White House teacher layoff math:
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.
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.