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Friday, May 14, 2010

One gadfly's endorsements for New Paltz school board

Since I've been paying attention to how transparent the candidates have been during this School Board election, I almost didn't stop to consider which candidates I want to vote for.  I am not a big fan of politics, but since I've been vocal about how consistently bad the coverage of this race has been, I might as well offer an opinion.

It's really not that easy to get a sense of people from the sound bites they issue. I have to assume that the three candidates that haven't served on the board have no clue what they're getting into, and that the three who been around the District are good at saying what they think people want to hear.  All in all, though, I've made my choices and offer my thinking:

Candidates I don't support

  • Michael Swigart.  Mike's very forthright, and I really appreciate understanding his positions.  I trust him to say what he's actually going to do, and his plans involve increasing class size, which I believe is the wrong approach.  Cutting teachers is not the way to cut the fat from the budget.  Mike is also a fan of building new, and I believe he's probably going to redouble the efforts to do so.  The renovation project did go through as it was proposed, but keeping the middle school where it is continues to be a big priority for a lot of people.  He was a lone voice calling for a full district building analysis for a long time, and this is an idea which is gaining ground.
  • Edgar Rodriguez, and not because his lawsuit.  Edgar is promoting this idea of dropping twelfth grade, when finding ways to educate our kids better in the time we have makes more sense than just booting them out earlier.  I'm actually a big supporter of kids leaving school when they've gotten all the education they can handle, but this idea abdicates the responsibility we have towards education.
Candidates I do support
  • MaryAnn Tozzi, who will bring the blue-collar perspective that the Board needs.  She's got a kid in the district but also has a tax bill to pay.
  • Dominick Profaci, who is the only candidate in a long time to point out what the real problem is - tying school funding to property values.  He believes the BOE should be trying to change that, and I couldn't agree more.  We don't need property tax reform, though, we need property tax abolition.  Our present system punishes people for wanting to stay in the homes and pits lifelong residents against their grandchildren in a struggle over limited resources.  There's got to be a better way.
The other two candidates simply didn't move either way.  Juliet Coxum's reported desire to have the board set up "ad hoc community committees with community members to help them make decisions that affect the schools" sounds like a lot of bureaucratic busywork to me.  Bob Rich has a track record in building consensus for capital projects.  Neither one elicits a strong opinion from me, though.

31 comments:

Martin McPhillips said...

I'm not going to get into Edgar's persistent "diversity" angle and his reflexive accusations of racism. I'm willing to look past that in order to credit him for standing up against the rest of the board on the Middle School renovation question. I think that took a lot of guts, and even though he didn't get everything right, he did a lot to expose the School District's shell game. I don't yet know whether I will vote for him, because it would go against my "don't vote for any of them" policy.

I will vote "No" on the budget, because that will shave the increase in taxes from 3% to 2%, and while that's a small saving, it is what is available in the "more" or "more more" choice the School District offers the taxpayers every year.

And it's the message I think that voters should be sending. There should not be any tax increase proposed at all, and I don't care what all the other school districts are doing. They are not my business.

I saw a lot of Michael Swigart when he was previously on the board and I think he's a very decent guy. Can't imagine why he would want to get back on the board. If it's a commitment to service he's after he should run for supervisor (if he lives in New Paltz, of course). There would be no greater service to the town than taking that job away from the current supervisor.

Bottom line: I don't think that any of the candidates will make any difference (despite my acknowledgment of Edgar's individual fortitude on the bond question), and I attribute that to the nature of the board and the District, not to them personally. But perhaps Edgar should be rewarded, if he really wants another term, for putting up with the personal abuse and showing such great concern for taxpayers.

Otherwise, it's vote "No" on the budget and move on from there. The School District is a political machine caught in a public employee union and state education bureaucracy power loop; it's a fossilized institution managed by carefully groomed interchangeable parts with out-of-date ideas that are updated regularly to maintain their out-of-dateness, to keep that shimmering for the marks in the community.

Some parents manage their kids through the situation magnificently and get them on into university and life. I think that they are the exceptions, who would do well anywhere. I wish all the parents and kids well, but recommend that they keep a cold eye on this operation and and arm's length from it and not take it for granted that this is necessarily what good education consists of.

And despite all that, a word of congratulation to the three hardworking kids who finished at the top of the senior class this year. That's still a hard won achievement and must be fully credited to them and their parents. Good work.

Terence said...

The idea of Swigart for Supervisor is intriguing. I don't know enough about the man professionally, but I think about the prefab bath house and community center and wonder if (and how) they would be different if he'd been at the helm. I look at the Rosendale community center in comparison and weep - no doubt it cost a bit more, but buildings are like cutlery in that they should be built to last instead of bought off the discount rack.

I completely agree that Edgar's willingness to stand apart is a plus for him, and I'm more confident now than ever that his "reflexive accusations of racism" are a minus. One of his supporters told me that he'd been threatened with having funding pulled from his pet projects if he didn't quiet down, a typical political ploy. However, since Edgar's primary issue is diversity, this supporter interpreted that as a racist attack. I pointed out the likelihood that he would have gotten the same threat if his passion was, for example, the girl's volley ball team or school gardens, but the supporter didn't respond. I'd like there to be a watchdog against racism, homophobia and the like; since Edgar sees it whether or not it exists he isn't suited for that role.

I appreciate your consistent support of a smaller school budget, Martin, but I think you're being a bit harsh on the present Board. They proposed a smaller budget and were told by the public in no uncertain terms that it was too small. The message the voters send on election day may be the one you want, but the message the board gets when they ask for comment is often different. I don't know how I would work that out myself.

I wholeheartedly concur that unions and state government are part of the problem. My teacher wife isn't thrilled by it, but I think we need to start by getting rid of tenure. Tenure is a tool teachers cling to because their unions have brainwashed them into thinking that they would all be fired without it. It, and the ridiculous notion that someone should be required to join a union to work in a particular profession, protect those unions far more than it protects teachers. In a country where education is compulsory I don't see why we need tenure - without it the job market would finally allow the good teachers to rise to the top and the bad ones to move on to the corporate training department they belong in.

kt tobin flusser said...

"threatened with having funding pulled from his pet projects" - wow, I feel so left out, did not know we had those. Please can you say ridic? If so, say it. Please.

I'm voting for Dominick Profaci and Bob Rich, and yes on the budget and buses.

Martin McPhillips said...

The school board had suffficient input from the February vote not to have that overridden by a group of School District boosters showing up at a meeting to tell them "you must not cut!"

But I'm not "hard" on the school board, I just don't think it counts for much. It's a secondary institution that labors under the pretense that it governs the School District. What it does is nibble at the outer margins and otherwise follow directives from elsewhere.

I'm not going for the full discourse on that topic right now.

I'd like to add again that I don't generally comment on the personalities on the school board because there's nothing personal about the issue or the process.

And I only take note of Edgar because he surprised me and because he took such abuse for his position.

KT reminds me that there is also a school bus purchase proposition on the ballot on Tuesday. I'll vote "No" on that as well.

The only thing available to voters in this community vis a vis the School District's political machine is that annual "No" vote, along with the occasional "No" vote for something like the Middle School bond.

Given that New York State is no further than the midpoint in its fiscal collapse and the School District political machine is already getting, via its budget, lost state aid from local taxpayers, voters are in for a siege of "look we're trimming but we have to charge you more because we lost all this aid." In other words, what the union power can't get out of bankrupt Albany they'll get out of financially strapped local taxpayers.

Call it the back-up plan. I don't think that anyone could even get close to the school board if the union so much as imagined they had looked in that direction. So this is not going to be about the school board, not in the near future, which is the future most concerning to people being whipsawed by taxes.

I would hope for five steady years of "No" votes on budgets. Perhaps that will force a different approach to "contractual obligations" when those come up for renewal. I'm not exactly clear on how that works, however, and it might be the case that the fix is in place in Albany as to what local boards can get back. In any case, it wouldn't surprise me.

But Albany is itself in a prolonged crash and as it slides down into ruin I expect that we'll see more attempts by the union power to get legislators to force local taxpayers to bear burdens the state created for itself on behalf of the unions.

As for this continuing specualtion about "property tax reform," there's nothing to reform it too. All that you have to know is that the union nomenklatura will stop at nothing to get what it wants.

kt tobin flusser said...

1. point of information - a rollover budget would have included a 12.5% increase in the tax levy. nearly 10 points was cut from that to get to the 2.95% proposal.

2. martin, you say edgar "took such abuse for his position". that was not my experience. please elaborate, provide evidence.

Martin McPhillips said...

Well, I don't know what you mean by a "rollover budget," but the proposed budget and the contingency budget (which takes effect if the proposed budget is defeated) are both higher than the current year's budget.

Due to the general unwatchability of the board meetings, I only saw one or two incidents of other board members more or less breaking with comity to reprimand Edgar, and one board member came to this blog and discoursed on how Edgar was having a difficult time psychologically. And it's my impression that incidents like that are what prompted Edgar to make his unfortunate and inexcusable charge of "racism."

Martin McPhillips said...

O.K., I'll take a stab at the meaning of "rollover budget," having thought about it for a few moments. That's the budget that represents the price tag for all the current "contractual obligations" and programs, etc. moving forward at full momentum into the next year without anything added or anything taken away. Is that correct?

kt tobin flusser said...

@martin - correct, that is what a rollover budget would have been - if we kept spending status quo given all the contractual and mandated obligations.

freeman has a not so bad overview of the cuts here: http://www.dailyfreeman.com/articles/2010/05/16/news/doc4bef79b75fee9798386313.txt

kt tobin flusser said...

@martin - "breaking of comity" is a pretty regular thing on boards (whether you/i think that is ok or not...) & further, "breaking of comity" is abuse? (your word)

that said, i'm gonna pass on continuing the debate on edgar. to do so means we'd also have to talk about - to put it in proper context - how patrick has been treated. and don. and steve. and me. and all of us. by ourselves and the public. and the press.

and those of us that read you here and elsewhere know that you think our personalities mean zilch. so, i'm gonna table this for now. maybe on wednesday i'll feel differently.

Martin McPhillips said...

I don't think that your personalities are zilch; I think that to get into individual personalities -- as in "Mr. X enlightens us this way, or Ms. Y avoids discussing B, or Trustee Z is an obnoxious obstructionist" -- is pointless and a waste of time. It would be to bark up the wrong tree.

The School District is a political machine in the form of a self-concerned bureaucracy and the board is window dressing.

As far as Edgar being abused, my impression is that his resistance to what was an obvious case of groupthink on the Middle School matter resulted in predictable criticism and derogation. In other words, despite his regretable reaction (I don't think that the other board members are racists, in any way, shape, or form), he was not just reacting to phantoms on the wall.

I also do not think that Edgar's resistance, though welcomed by taxpayers, was the reason the bond was defeated. Conditions were ripe for it, and the attitudes of the other board members had much more effect on voters than did Edgar's.

blog said...

Thanks for this post, Terence. I've been thinking a lot about who to vote for.

I can't bring myself to vote for MaryAnn Tozzi because she specifically stated in the NPT that she thinks Maria Rice's salary isn't the problem, when I of course think super high salaries at the top are exactly (part of) the problem. I know she works for her, but man, what brownnosing.

Profaci's views on school tax are encouraging, though I really have to ask myself if I can trust an uber-capitalist (he works as a financial analyst) to help run the school district...though I admit that's my own radical lefty bias and he might be great.

I spoke with Coxum's husband yesterday and he had absolutely no information on her positions on key issues, and the flier he gave me had no contact info.

I posted a few questions re: condoms/sex ed in schools and DARE (my pet issues) on Bob Rich's Facebook wall, and not only was my post not answered, it was actually removed.

I had a good talk with Edgar yesterday at the PO and while I applaud him for being firm in his positions and taking a stance...I have a hunch his opinions are not entirely reality-based. He stated to me that he thinks it's possible to not cut anything and also not increase the budget at all. I am far from an expert, but that seems...weird. Perhaps I should ask him for details before I slander him all over the internet, however. He's a hard worker and I'm sure he has them. The info he gave me yesterday, however, doesn't seem to square with him also wanting to cut 12th grade...

Just my .02.

blog said...

PS: sorry that my name is "blog" on blogspot now. It's because I changed the address of my blog, and it now starts with blog. Ugh, the ugliness!

-Lagusta

Terence said...

Lagusta - I hadn't seen that comment of Tozzi's, and it's not one I can agree with. Maria Rice is a phenomenal administrator, but if she and her staff were cut back to $150k a year we'd easily be able to save a ton of teachers. I'm thinking you don't buy the argument that we have to pay those insane salaries to get qualified people any more than I do. I'd rather see a half dozen teachers and a superintendent who only makes about three times a comfortable living wage than no teachers and a super who makes more than the governor.

Sorry about the unexpected consequence of moving your blog to a subdomain. Maybe there's a way to comment other than using OpenID or whatnot that will show your name?

Terence said...

Oh, and I don't know your views on DARE and I'm curious.

Dominick Profaci said...

Thanks for the endorsement Mr. Ward. I noticed that most of the commentary here was about Edgar and the confusion about his true motives. One of the major reasons I am running for school board is this issue. I have sat in on a number of BOE meetings over the past number of months and the common thread that I noticed is the dissention between this group of members. It is OK to have your own beliefs and to voice your opinions and scratch deeper than the surface on issues. In fact, that is the responsibility of each BOE member; but in the end this group needs to work to build consensus and feel strongly about what they are presenting to the community. Having an individual that says "NO" in every open forum for all topics does not breed a unified group, and more importantly does not create and build the trust of the community. We have a daunting task ahead of us, as a community, with regards to continually increasing operating and capital budgets and keeping it affordable. To even have a fair shot of doing the proper due diligence and cost-benefit on each, we need to have a BOE that can work together as a team. I have worked on teams as a professional engineer and I know the importance of camaraderie in order to achieve a common task. For this reason, I believe a change is warranted and is a major reason why I am running.

Additionally, I am far from an uber-capitalist. My profession as a financial advisor (not analyst) is an extension of my background as an engineer. It is about helping individuals meet their financial goals. Most all my clients are middle income people that would typically not get the face to face and individualized attention that I and my firm provide them; while other firms are more focused on high net worth clients. This was the reason I decided to work with them. I find my new career very rewarding, as I find solutions to meeting my client's long term financial needs.

Another comment I have heard is that it may be better to have someone on the board that already has BOE experience. There are pros and cons to everything. A major benefit of having someone new like me on the board is that it brings in a fresh perspective and "fresh set of eyes". I am a quick study and have reviewed operating and capital budgets for projects all over the US and Canada. I bring substantial real world experience. I believe in balancing the cost-benefit of each issue with the philosophy of what we are trying to achieve. In this case, providing the highest level of education for our children to allow them to be competitive moving forward, while keeping it affordable for the community. Property based school taxes is one issue we need to take on as BOE and as a community.

All these reasons are why I decided to run for BOE and why I feel I should be elected. I hope this has helped those of you out there that don't know me. In any event, please go out and vote on May 18th. Please keep in mind both the short and long term needs of our community in making your decisions. I believe we need to build a group that can work together to get us back on track.

Thanks for your consideration.

Dominick Profaci

Martin McPhillips said...

I've decided to write a play: "The Ice Is Thick on Lake Normative This Winter," or "How Can We Keep Everything the Way It Is Without Changing Anything."

But, alas, it will probably join my other great unwritten works on their imaginary shelf. Works like "Loathsome Pastels" and "The Decline of Personal Adventure."

George said...

I'm not sure what special insight Martin has into the minds of district voters (beyonf his own) but it's bad policy to presume, as he suggests, "well they voted against the middle school so we can ignore anyone who doesn't want to see deep cuts to teachers and programs." That was a building bond. This is the operating budget. They're separate votes for a reason and I know of at least two "boosters" who spoke against deep cuts, but also voted against the middle school project. I trust that most voters are willing to consider different proposals on their merits and not, like Martin, cast knee-jerk votes whether its for or against everything the district puts before them. I guess when Martin says he wants the district to listen to the community, he really means the part of the community that agrees with him. Everyone else's motives are selfish and suspect, be they teachers, administrators, board members, or taxpaying parents who are more concerned with trying to improve the district than with trying to punish it. According to Martin's brand of "reasoning", voters are supremely wise when they reject district proposals, but regrettably duped by its political propaganda when they approve a budget or renovation bond as they have so many times in the past and hopefully will again tomorrow.

George said...

And I'll add that, while I don't know who I'm voting for, I know I will not vote for whoever is endorsed by Unite Our District, that group of phonies that pretended to have students best interests at heart when opposing the middle school proposal, saying they wanted to focus instead on funding programs and teachers only to advocate a budget that would have resulted in deep cuts to both.

Martin McPhillips said...

"According to Martin's brand of "reasoning", voters are supremely wise when they reject district proposals, but regrettably duped by its political propaganda when they approve a budget or renovation bond..."

Yup, that is my brand of reaoning.

My baseline assumption is that the School District is overfunded by about one third, and that the budgets that got it there were run up on the back of the real estate boom while no one was willing to notice or say "No."

That's how average teacher's salaries, pro-rated for twelve months (they work ten), managed to get to about double the mean income of local residents. Credit the teachers union for knowing how to work their advantages for what they are worth.

It's time to say "No" and keep saying "No," probably for at least five years.

Now, that's just where I stand on budgets and budget votes. My views on public education per se are way more radical than that -- although radical only in the sense that they depart radically from the status quo of public education; they are otherwise anchored in common sense -- and I'm way more interested in students having successful lives than to keep giving nodding approval to this expensive and fossilized School District.

Martin McPhillips said...

Here's a YouTube readers here might already have seen. It's not a joke. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Revenue actually produced it...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ybcu2itqvEQ&feature=player_embedded

George said...

Thanks for that distracting video, which adds nothing to the conversation. And while you admire yourself in the mirror as some self-styled radical, some of us hard-working tax payers have to try and make the most of a bad situation and try and get our kids some kind of worthwhile education in the process. Perhaps you deserve some credit for admitting you're a hypocrite, but that doesn't make me any bigger a fan of your hypocrisy. Five years of NO will gut the school system, drive away families and teachers and shrink an already pathetic tax base even further. But if it would help you make your point, Martin, I guess it would all be worth it.

Martin McPhillips said...

I think the video is great, and right on point. Not a distraction at all (and besides, George, anyone can skip right over anything on the internet, especially in the comments section of a blog).

That video is the clever state bureacrats from Pennsylvania having a good laugh at the expense of beleaguered taxpayers. Maybe you didn't get their joke.

Anyway, my views on the School District are consistent and there's no hypocrisy involved with them at all.

I do not have a rosy view of public education, but if taken on par, I don't think that not substantially growing the New Paltz School District budget for five years will have any of the dire effects you describe. Although, I do think that if the District has its way, the tax base will indeed grow, eventually (since we're still in this prolonged downturn), as middle income families are forced elsewhere and replaced by a better class of taxpayer.

As I pointed out, I'm hoping for five years of "No" votes on budgets because I want the School District to be forced to bring itself into a more affordable range. Recall that I think it is overfunded by a third.

I don't think that annualized teacher salaries should average (before the big benefit packages are counted) about twice the local median income. That doesn't mean that I don't like or appreciate teachers, just that their union has priced them out of the "market." (Market is in quotes because there is no real market for a compulsory product paid for with compulsory taxation.)

blog said...

Dominick, thanks so much for your info! I have to admit that I hear the words "financial advisor at Edward Jones" and my radical hackles go up. This is a personal defect and is, I suspect, why my lovely small business is always skating on the line between red and black. : )

And Terence: yep, I'm for salary caps, for sure. No one should make more than 5x what the lowest paid employee makes, etc. I'll just never believe anyone can work 5x harder than a janitor, you know? Regardless of how much they paid for school, but that's a whole other issue. Moving money-grubbing Americans to a place where they can understand that fairness is more important than owning everything they can get their chubby paws on is, again, yet another issue.

Basically all of society has to change before anyone will accept my beliefs on what school superintendents should get paid. Alas.

My views on DARE, before the soup on the stove boils over: proven ineffective, completely idiotic. Everyone just laughs at it. KT mentioned to me that she believes it will be phased out next year though, so perhaps it's a non-issue. Condoms and age -appropriate sex ed are, however, an issue that we should be talking more about. I'm behind on my newspapers and am going to be doing a cramming session tonight, but I don't believe any candidates have yet brought up this? Is everyone in the world afraid to admit that kids have sex and do drugs and need to be taught the truth about both?

lagusta

George said...

Martin, the medium income data includes thousands of SUNY students earning nothing or waiting tables for tips, so while that helps you present your distorted picture of how rich teachers are getting, it's less than accurate in terms of how teachers fit in in terms of earning to the local workforce. As for "compulsory taxation," is there any other kind?

Martin McPhillips said...

You might have a point there, George, but I've never gotten a straight answer on whether or not students are actually counted in that way. If it's census data, then I have doubts that they are recorded as residents of New Paltz as opposed to their home towns. Maybe it's a question that cannot be reliably answered.

Also, people working at jobs where they rely on tips are still residents who pay property taxes either directly, if they own, or indirectly if they rent. Perhaps we should just not count all of the people who earn below the median and "re-norm" the income stats so that teachers making an annualized average salary (pro-rated to 12 months from the ten they work and get paid for) of roughly $84,000, before benefits are added.

But I'm not trying to "distort" anything. If you can throw accurate light on the median income data, be my guest.

And "compulsory taxation" is somewhat redundant, but there is a difference between a property tax, which you have to pay or they take your property away, and a consumption tax, which you only have to pay if you buy something that is taxed. One you can't avoid, the other you can, by curbing your purchases.

Martin McPhillips said...

The last sentence in paragraph two in my comment above should end with the phrase, "...can appear not to be making that much relative to the median."

Steve Greenfield said...

Oh Martin, poor, suffering Martin. You're not trying to distort anything, but you're creating an artificial salary for teachers by adding two months to their work schedule, and then adding two month's worth of pay that the taxpayers don't actually pay them? Awesome.

You also can't learn anything about whether they're paid too much by comparing their salaries to the median. You have to compare them to salaries of people with equal education, profressional responsibilities, minimum qualifications for the job, and work experience. Otherwise you're creating another artificial comparison to compound your first one. But don't let methodological errors get in the way of your point, because otherwise you're point might fall. Keep on going. There are at least a couple of hundred million people in America who don't know you're making methodological errors on such a scale (not to mention how many believe that scientific accuracy is a left-wing conspiracy) and therefore will find what you say highly convincing.

Yes, the low-income young adults are included in the census income figures. But their comparitively lower expenses are not. This is not an impoverished town. Our raw numbers are similar to Ellenville, but drive over there and you'll see the difference. And you're a big free-market guy, so surely you know that rent rates here, like anywhere else, are primarily a function of the vacancy rate, not property tax rates. If we took apartments totally off the property tax rolls and made landlords pay nothing, the rent would stay exactly the same, except the windfall would go to the landlords and not towards a share of public services. That's because with everything fully rented, there's no competitive incentive for anyone to lower rent -- they're not competing for customers, rather, customers are competing for space. Micro 101, Martin. If you love capitalism, invest a little of yourself in learning how it works.

As for what teachers make, and whether or not it's justified, here's what teachers make: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU

Martin McPhillips said...

I'm pro-rating the salaries for 12 months to show what the comparable pay rate is to people who actually work 12 months instead of 10.

That makes the pro-rated annual average pay for New Paltz public school teachers about $84,000. That's before the benefits package is added. It's not clear to me what the total packages are worth. That's not one of the easier numbers to pluck out of the school budget and I haven't even tried. I don't see anyone all that eager to talk about it. Maybe you can tell me, given your position, what the average price tag is for the benefits, including pension contributions.

I'm guessing that benefits brings the pro-rated 12-month average compensation up over $100,000.

The actual average salary for ten months is just above $70,000 before benefits. I'm guessing that the actual ten month total compensation is up over $90,000.

As far as comparable education and experience goes, or any other set of factors, there are all sorts of comparisons you can make, but I'll leave that up to the individual taxpayers and voters to decide: they're the ones who are paying for it, after all. I think that they will know what they think about it, if they have an idea what the prices are.

Also, there's the matter of lifetime job security after three years, including a generous pension package that lets you retire, what, as young as 50?

So, there are no real market forces here, and nothing that can really measure what these jobs are worth in the marketplace vis a vis other jobs. It's not like comparing eye surgeons with dermatologists with physical therapists.

There are plenty of PhDs with excellent training in their fields who are eking out a living as adjuncts at universities.

So, the only "methodological error" here is that there is no real functioning market for the teachers' services. And, the long-term growth of spending on public education has increased enormously here and elsewhere. I don't blame taxpayers for being uninterested in paying more every year, and I certainly have no problem not liking it either.

Martin McPhillips said...

Made it to the polls today and exercised my franchise:

"No" on the budget.

"No" on the purchase of school buses.

And, in a break with policy (which is to not vote for anyone in the school board election), I voted for Edgar.

But that's the last time.

George said...

Martin, the problem with being an ideologue is that it's so damn hard to let go of the pillars of that particular faith, even when they're crumbling beneath you. No "market" for teachers? First off, there are plenty of private schools, not to mention all of the other school districts that compete for better-qualified teachers. There are also other fields that teachers could go into. I realize we're talking here about education, but can I assume that when considering firefighter or police salaries, you'd also look at their prorated salaries? I'm not sure about NP, but some cops do three on and three off which means they only work half the year! Should we cut their salaries in half? At least we should double what they make when comparing, right? Not every job is 9-5, M-F, year-round. How about landscapers who make $30K, but don't work during the winter. They're richer than they know because their prorated salaries are in the $40s, right? Fortunately, in the end, most voters applied a different brand of reasoning when voting for the budget. I'll assume that whereas before the vote you were confidant in their wisdom, now that they've let you down by approving the budget you'll dismiss them as misguided fools.

Martin McPhillips said...

George, there is no real market for teachers if teachers jobs are protected by a lifetime tenure system. That's just for starters.

A real market would allow a school district to constantly shuffle staff, offer short or long-term contracts to individual teachers, locking up good ones with multi-year contracts, would allow hiring of non-teacher education mill teachers. Basically, a real market would allow a school district to put together teaching staffs on a year to year basis, and also give teachers the ability to shop their services around.

And the districts would certainly not be locked into a system of ever-increasing contractual obligations.

Much of the rules that govern the situation are the result of powerful teacher union rent-seeking in Albany, so if and until the bankruptcy really settles in up there, I wouldn't expect too much loosening of the fix that's in. In the meantime, the unions will proceed apace to make sure that the school finance burdens the state carries are shifted to local taxpayers.

They might fail, but I wouldn't bet against them merely on the principle that it's wrong.