Sunday, February 27, 2011

Indentured Servant Etiquette

The Orwellian opera that is taking place regarding Unions, collective bargaining rights, and paying a fair share is sheer farce.

A few weeks ago the Region 19 Board of Education met with Bryan Hurlbert, Tony Guglielmo, and other state representatives. It was a sobering meeting involving the potential loss of traditionally dependable funds. To a man, these elected officials declared that whatever budget cuts, restraints, and adjustments had to be made WILL BE A SHARED SACRIFICE. For sure. No. Two. Ways. About. It. Uh-uh. A reporter from the Chronicle was there - look it up.

I drove home that night assured that the last thing that would ever be considered short of being threatened with the End Days would be "Shared" sacrifice. Not a one of these guys had the decency to be honest. Not one. It was a WikiLeaks moment. Everybody pretended that the big lie was going to magically be realized because we all clicked our heels together to suspend reality and didn't want to piss off the political greeters in the room.

A few days ago, Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer pulled back the curtain on the scam. He writes:
While "shared sacrifice" lately has been the governor's slogan, on Monday it seemed that municipal employees and particularly teachers would escape sacrifice. Not only would the governor maintain current levels of teacher salary reimbursements (euphemized as "aid to local education") but in raising the sales tax he would give municipalities a small cut of the new revenue, most of which also will be paid in raises to teachers, which is where such "aid" and the liquidation of student services have gone for years.

Asked to quantify the sacrifice he would seek from the state employee unions, Malloy answered, "More than you think," elaborating that he'd be negotiating "very aggressively." Apparently for the first time he even threatened layoffs. He said his budget would be built on concessions from the unions, and if they didn't cooperate there would be either "a shredding of the safety net" for the poor or "thousands of people unemployed." Is the governor ready for a fight or at least a game of chicken with this unpopular but powerful group to give political cover to his tax increases?

Other than the hope that many of the infirm and indigent elderly could be diverted from nursing homes to less expensive care, the governor and his aides did not offer any big ideas about changing premises in state government. The touted agency consolidations, which will produce only trivial savings, are only a pretense of structural change.

But government in Connecticut being as ravenous as it is ineffectual, Malloy may be given credit just for trying to freeze it at current spending levels while the private economy collapses underneath it. And while no net tax increase can be good, no one in authority in state government before Malloy has concretely proposed to repeal many of the nonsensical sales tax exemptions, like those for haircuts and car washes.

And of course since the election campaign produced no big thinking, not much big thinking could have been expected from Malloy in the three months since. Staffing the new administration and assembling a budget that would simply feed the machine of government for another year is probably all any governor elected in such circumstances could do.


Really, why must teachers always be treated like royalty and everyone else like peasants? Why is so much expensive public policy merely remedial, never getting at the cause of Connecticut's decline, from the high school courses taught to most students in the state university and community college systems, to the coddling and encouraging of fatherlessness done by the Department of Children and Families, to the pouring of money into the cities, which only disintegrate the more that is done in the name of helping them? Why is Connecticut government's only inviolable service not Malloy's vaunted "social safety net" but the provision of pensions to public employees?

What Powell fails to mention is that this is business as usual. In the past decade when America was attacked and jobs began to evaporate teachers and government officials never missed a raise. In 2008, when the financial world collapsed and Americans lost jobs, pensions, basic work place considerations, government workers and the education industry rarely if ever missed a raise. In fact, it is widely reported that they - like the billionaires they vilify pulled far away and ahead of the private sector taxpayer.

Sacrifice, humility, and frugal lifestyle habits cannot be taught by those who never experience the necessity.

For those who are private sector citizens who either have jobs or fixed incomes or who are poor, they will become the indentured servants to this new entitlement class of government and education employee. These entitled, unionized elite have become accustomed to a lifestyle fuelled by an endless supply of taxpayer funny money and they will not be denied.

Make no mistake about it, indentured servitude is where all of this is going but the story doesn't end there.

In Wisconsin, RI, and other places some politicians are doing what is necessary to avert catastrophe. They are taking on the self-insulated public service unions by firing teachers, freezing the automatic pilot cost increases of government, and otherwise attempted to halt or reverse the fiscal crisis this situation represents.

Twenty years ago, achieving and maintaining a balanced budget was the bromide that politicians correctly identified as a practice that could avoid the situation we find ourselves in today. Predictably, not a one of them actually operated that way and we are where we are. Along the way, the public sector special interests self-insulated themselves with pension guarantees and perks that will effectively make slaves of the rest of us.

So as a Democrat, a Liberal, and a private sector employee I find an insulting humor in the rhetoric being used by public sector unions to misrepresent and obfuscate the situation this country and most states are in.

There is no "teacher bashing" as Diane Ravitch and others would have you believe. The citizens paying taxes have a right to say, "this is what we can afford and no more". Do teachers really believe they can starve the community they "serve" and expect the starving to be grateful?

There is no "union busting" going on when decades of negotiations never result in "shared sacrifice", improved quality of government services, the economy of technological innovation, vibrant educational pedagogies, or rich, innovative programs that save money, right-size government, and return on taxpayers investment.

It is not the union being busted, it is the bully being taken to task. Unions that engage in anti-societal behaviors have no right to complain about being dissolved. America needs unions and workers rights to organize but the result cannot be soft terrorist organisations who care not a whit for everyone's Union - the United States of America.

Taxpayers are having their backs broken while unions claim that political chaffeurs making over $90k per year with benefits coming out their ears are essential employees (see: Rick Green here).

The rhetoric of the unions is industrial revolution redux and there is a lot of knee-jerk sentiment this generates. But the truth of the matter is that only shared sacrifice by all will get us out of this mess. Anything else is ham-fisted greed thinly disguised by disingenuous and wholly expedient claims of representing working families, the poor, and workers rights. The truth is that the unions are creating a class society in which the poor will get poorer, the working class will work for them first, and workers rights in the private sector will be those of servants indentured to paying the benefits of government and education's employees.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What Parents Across America Need to Know

A new special interest group has emerged to join the misguided education conflict. It's called Parents Across America and on it's home page is a posting that explains; Why I Am Not A Defender Of The ‘Status Quo’ In Education. The post is written by a fellow blogger, Sue Peters. She says,
Help bring parents’ voices to the education debate and support progressive, positive, constructive education reforms that work.

In her writing she gets some things right but mostly she repeats 20th century teacher union platitudes and political talking points (see: Diane Ravitch's tweets). And while she "calls" for desirable changes, most of the remedies she suggests are precisely the prescription that got us where we are - at the doorstep of a public education system that is corrupt, intellectually bankrupt, and disingenuous in it's complicity.

Here's the response I submitted;
With all due respect, the status quo as you call it, is a far different phenomenon than what you describe.

You are absolutely correct in asserting that NCLB and it's perverse successor, RTTT, are educational abominations. But if it takes a village to raise a child then it took a nation of complicit, selfish, and ruthless special interest groups to so totally undermine the public schools of this country. And this includes teacher's unions.

Schools cannot mask this nation's rising caste system. The gaps that schools measure is the speed at which the rich have moved away from what is left of the middle class and the growing lower classes. To believe test scores is to believe the children of wealth are smart and gifted and that the children of poverty all have irresponsible parents and teachers who should be fired. But even that is not enough.

Nothing is left to chance in this brave new classroom. Grades need to be shaved to ensure that the children of privilege will make competition for entry into the good colleges and Universities a sure thing rather than a true comparison of worthiness. This system is not broken, it is finely tuned. It is intentional. It is sugar-coated with Orwellian goodness to disguise the ugly truth.

The fact of the matter is that teacher bashing is a natural political reaction by parents and tax-payers who are oblivious to the paradox that education policy has become. Like cult followers they are being promised something that the system is precisely designed to prevent - that is the opportunity of all children to realize their true potential. That idea is anathema.

And that idea is anathema because teachers unions have become self-absorbed with every issue except that which are healthy for children. Today, education lawyers consume every bit of intellectual oxygen with tread-worn, industrial revolution policies that prevent teachers from teaching in the name of workplace and employment entitlements. And enough is never enough when it comes to salaries and benefits.

The children's issues are treated as throw-away, sentimental platitudes used for political gaming. The platitudes are noble and the execution non-existent.

Privatised schools are not a panacea but the quality of education they represent is a breath of fresh air to those of us who do care about kids and education and teaching innovation.

The best thing parents can do is demand a end to the lies of class-size, funding, and federal control of schools. Demand an end to standardized testing regimes. Demand that every public school do it's best to increase the size of the so-called education gap so that we can know how good all schools can be.

The best things teachers can do is to stop whining and propose through their unions new workplace rules that allow innovative teaching and curriculum reform. Demand that your professional peers be held expeditiously accountable to termination if need be. And demand that schools exercise the best practices teaching can offer instead of the meager practices that still exist despite retarded education policy, brain-dead administrators, and a teacher's union that is better suited for day labourers than professionals.