Friday, April 01, 2016

Chicago Teachers Throw Students Under the Bus

Friday is April Fools' Day, but the theatrics being staged by unionized teachers in Chicago is no joke. A dispute over new contract provisions has prompted city educators to schedule a walkout at week’s end. For purely selfish reasons, parents will need to make alternative arrangements for nearly 400,000 students while union leaders works to assuage their demands. According to The Daily Signal’s Leah Jessen, “In a contract offered in January, the district sought to phase out a 7-percent pension payment that the school district pays toward a teacher’s required 9-percent pension. The union did not accept the offer.” That’s too bad, because a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided.

Let’s be clear: Chicago teachers already enjoy undue privileges. A report by Illinois Policy Institute’s Ted Dabrowski notes, “According to a 2014 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, Chicago teachers receive the highest lifetime earnings when compared with teachers in the 10 largest school districts in the nation. Those high salaries end up costing CPS twice — first in large payroll costs, then again in higher pension costs.” Some additional facts:

The accrued benefits for all members of the CTPF [Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund] have grown by 400 percent since 1987. That’s an annual rate of 6.1 percent a year, more than twice the rate of inflation and far faster than the growth in incomes of the taxpayers who pay for those pensions. … Not only do Chicagoans already pay more in taxes and fees than residents in any other major Illinois city, they’ve just been hit with a record property-tax and fee increase of more than $700 million annually.
More importantly, these prodigious salaries and higher benefits have not helped students. Heritage Foundation research associate Mary Clare Reim says that “Chicago spends almost $20,000 per student in the public school system, yet students' academic achievements are subpar.” Furthermore, the city suffers a $1.1 billion education budget shortfall. “The city needs to get its fiscal house in order before artificially raising wages for teachers,” Reim rightly adds.

This isn’t the first time Chicago teachers have played this ruse. A Illinois Policy Institute press release adds, “In 2012, teachers walked out of the classroom for more than a week to demand unaffordable salary and benefit increases. Now, the CPS budget is in worse shape, but CTU is exploiting the needs of students to demand even further concessions.”

Violent thugs aren’t the only thing plaguing Chicago. So are greedy and entitled educators who demand increasingly more but with no accountability. Many Democrats argue that keeping troublemakers in schools keeps them out of trouble in the streets. Too bad they aren’t making that possible.


Definitely No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

There is now virtually no area free of the government’s tentacles, and that includes the kitchen. From forcing restaurants to disclose the number of calories in their dishes, to regulating how many ounces of soda can be offered to patrons at any given time, the regulatory state has a more powerful say in what foods and beverages you can or cannot ingest. (Awfully strange considering how often conservatives are accused of invading women’s privacy when it comes to their bodies.) Well, here’s something else to chew on: If the Department of Agriculture gets its way, schools that are deemed nutritionally delinquent could face millions of dollars in fines thanks to Michelle Obama. The Washington Free Beacon reports:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama. The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains. A West Virginia preschool teacher was threatened with fines for violating the rules by rewarding her students with candy for good behavior in June 2015. The teacher ultimately did not have to pay, but the school had to develop a “corrective action plan” with training on the policies. The government now seeks to make fines enforceable by regulation. Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs.

The proposed rule unwittingly notes, “It is important to note that the statutory scheme only anticipates assessments be established in instances of severe mismanagement of a program, disregard of a program requirement of which the program operator had been informed, or failure to correct repeated violations [emphasis original].” Except everyone — even children running lemonade stands — knows that the government exceeds its authority all the time. So it’s hardly difficult to see the additional problems this would create.

Of course, more students could opt to bring their own lunches. But that raises another question: At what point will the government begin regulating those too? The bottom line is that Michelle Obama, or any first lady for that matter, is not an elected lawmaker. Which means they shouldn’t get to force policies on the rest of us — under threat of legal correction, no less.


Australia: Federal Labor party clueless about schools

Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and Kate Ellis have today demonstrated that Labor either don't have the faintest idea of how our school education system is structured in Australia or that they are hell-bent on telling lies all the way to the election. 

"Malcolm Turnbull has today said that he will abandon school education in this country." - Bill Shorten, Transcript – Press Conference, 30/3/16

Fact: The Commonwealth doesn't run any schools or employ any teachers. States and territories run 100 per cent of government schools in Australia.

"It [school funding] is a core responsibility of the federal government." - Chris Bowen, Transcript – Press Conference, 30/3/16

Fact: In 2013-14 the Commonwealth provides just 13 per cent of the average per student funding in a government school. School funding is a core function of the states and territories, who provide 87 per cent of funding. (Source: 2016 Report on Government Services)

"We don't want to see the system broken down into each state and territory having totally different systems, totally different funding models." - Kate Ellis, Transcript – Press Conference, 30/3/16

Fact: States and territories do run different systems and apply different funding models. For example, 2013-14 per student funding for government schools in Victoria was less than $12,000 but in Western Australia was more than $17,500 for government schools. (Source: 2016 Report on Government Services)

Labor love a system where accountability is blurred and the buck can always be passed from one level of government to another. 

Labor’s implementation of the Gonski model resulted in 27 different funding arrangements with government and non-government sectors, resulting in different payment levels depending on the deal they could get out of Bill Shorten on the eve of the 2013 election.

However, Australians deserve better than a further blurring of the lines in school education and the pretence that funding is the only thing that matters. 

The Turnbull Government wants to deliver clarity, accountability and the incentive for our school systems to innovate and be their absolute best rather than being strangled by multiple levels of government bureaucracy.

Press release from Senator Birmingham

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