Friday, September 14, 2012
This past week, 25,000 teachers walked off the job in Chicago in a strike over benefits and teacher evaluations. The Chicago Teachers Union had asked for a 30% pay increase, despite the fact that the District faces a $700 million current deficit and a projected deficit of $3 billion over the next three years. The Chicago School Board countered with a 16% increase over 4 years and implementation of a new teacher evaluation system. Here is what you should know about this situation: Chicago teachers make an average of $71,000 per year BEFORE benefits and work one of the country's shortest school days. "So what?" you say, as long as the children in they system are learning and progressing. About that... According to the U.S. Department of Education, 79% of 8th graders in the Chicago public school system are not grade level proficient in reading; 80% are not grade level proficient in math. It would seem to me that if teachers in a particular school district are some of the highest paid in the country, the results would be significantly better than these. Of a particular concern to the Teachers Union representing the Chicago teachers is a more comprehensive evaluation of individual teachers. The school board proposed to make student performance count for 40% of a teacher's annual evaluation. The Union has said no. So the Union wants no consideration of student performance in teacher evaluations and a pay increase that will break the bank of the school board. Let me be very clear about this: I highly respect good teachers that dedicate their lives to imparting wisdom and improving the educational experience of their students. But the sad fact is that we have a public sector union representing the teachers that cares nothing about that. They are willing to strike for unrealistic salary demands and have no regard for educational experience of their students. If we are going to improve public sector education in the U.S., this has to change.
"Always leave them wanting more"- my approach to paying bills.
Last Friday, the unemployment numbers were released, and has been the case over the past several years, there was no movement as unemployment remains intractably over 8% of the work force (frequent readers know that is the nominal, or U-2 rate. Real unemployment, or U-6, remains around 15%). Here is some insight about those number that were released last Friday: work force participation (WFP) fell to a 31 year low. Simply put, the number of people in the work environment is lower than it has been in over 3 decades. Why is this important? Particularly troubling is the level of participation in the work force of those in the 22-55 age bracket. Typically, those in the younger part of this bracket are getting married, buying and furnishing houses, and starting families. All of those activities are good for the economy, and they typically occur when those people of that age are employed. Oh yeah, they pay a lot of taxes that help support our entitlement programs. However, as many in this group have dropped out of the work environment and have stopped looking for jobs at all, those potential dollars that they would earn and spend are not circulating through the economy, and they are not paying taxes that would support the current level of entitlement spending by Washington. If we are going to change the direction of our economy and become fiscally healthy again, we are going to have to change the policies that create impediments to job growth, especially for those in this age group.
I have a super talented friend that can read Braille with his eyes closed.
Gas prices soaring. The economy struggling. America in a funk, her might diminished. The Obama presidency? Well, yes. But it was also the Jimmy Carter presidency of the late 70's. After four years of mis-management and ineptitude, Carter and the failed policies of the Democrats were rejected by voters. Why bring this up? Because today we are hearing that America is the source of trouble and problems all over the world. We are in a national funk. Unbelievably, our economy is about as screwed up as it was during the Carter years. And to solve all our problems? More government control and higher taxes. History has proven all those negatives and "solutions" to be wrong. After a painful series of steps to get our economy moving, Ronald Reagan got federal government out of the way of the business community and lowered taxes. In the process, he unleashed one of the greatest periods of economic growth and personal prosperity in the history of our country. He lowered taxes and guess what? Tax revenues to the government went up. Why? Because the economy grew dramatically. Pride in our nation, its people, and our defense of freedom around the world soared. There was no apology about being a "city on a hill, a beacon of freedom for the world." It is easy to look at our economy and the political mess that is Washington and get discouraged. But history- recent history- has shown that our country and our people can and will do great things if given the opportunity. And that is what the November election is about. The choices are simple. We can choose to be wards of the state and never achieve greatness. Or we can do what was done to Carter and his inept management of this country and choose to once again embrace the fact that what makes our country great is you and me. And we don't have to apologize for that.
I tried to draw a picture using invisible ink, but all I drew was a blank.
And that, my friends, is my view.