Tag Archives: American Federation of Teachers

Education Secretary Betsy Devos scores a victory against public sector union

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos
Secretary of Education Betsy Devos

Although you would never know it from the mainstream news media, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos is doing her best to advance a taxpayer-friendly agenda in education policy.

Here’s the latest from the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank:

In a noteworthy development, DeVos’s team this month radically revamped the collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) that governs the 3,900 employees at the U.S. Department of Education. The new CBA, between the Department and Council 252 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), includes big changes from the 2013 agreement negotiated under the Obama administration.

The new agreement doesn’t address compensation or benefits, of course, since those are governed by federal law, but it does include a raft of sensible, taxpayer-friendly changes.

The new CBA eliminates the set-aside of “official time” for union business. Under the old agreement, designated union representatives were free to work on union business during normal, government hours — all on the taxpayers’ dime. The old CBA stipulated that “no fewer than 75” (!) union stewards across the country could work up to 40 hours a year on “official time,” while another three union officers would devote 100 percent of their time to union business. Henceforth, union business will be done on union time, rather than on the taxpayers’.

Under the old agreement, department employees were given only a solitary 48-hour window each year in which they could opt out of union membership; miss that, and they were automatically enrolled. Henceforth, employees who wish to be in the union each year will be free to do so, and they will have an extended period in which to enroll — but they will have to actively choose to join.

The revamped accord also removes the requirements for “pre-decisional consultation.” Under the previous CBA, the department was required to consult the union before every agency-wide decision that could be construed as affecting the work of employees (such as transferring employees from one office to another, or even shifting employees from one project to another within the same office). Now, the department needs only notify the union of such decisions.

Under the new CBA, the union will be charged “fair-market rent” for the use of government office space and federally furnished equipment to conduct union business. Under the Obama-era accord, taxpayers were required to provide space and equipment to the union free of charge.

More generally, the new agreement removes a number of provisions that added burdensome procedural directives above and beyond statutory requirements when it came to things such as telework and grievance procedures.

If there is one thing I expected from Betsy Devos, it’s taxpayer-friendly education policy.

Unfortunately, the Republican party didn’t help her very much in that massive $1.3 Billion spending bill that they passed, with Democrat support. Betsy wants to cut federal spending on education, and return control of education policy to the states and municipalities. But the GOP just gave the Department of Education a bigger budget. We really need to switch out some of these big government Republicans for authentic conservatives.

New study: total compensation of public school teachers is 52% greater than fair market value

Whenever advocates of greater spending on education try to argue that teachers are not paid enough, they always compare teachers to other workers to other workers in terms of years spent in college. On that view, a software engineer with 6 years of college (B.S. and M.S. in computer science) is the same as an English teacher with 6 years of “Education college” (B.Ed and M.Ed in education). But is the ability to write code to perform real-time commercial transactions in a distributed database environment really deserving of the same total compensation as teaching 6-year olds how to read Dr. Seuss books? Is the supply of each skill set the same? Is the demand for each skill set the same? What should the price of each kind of labor be?

Let’s see what this new study from the American Enterprise Institute says.

Excerpt:

The teaching profession is crucial to America’s society and economy, but public-school teachers should receive compensation that is neither higher nor lower than market rates. Do teachers currently receive the proper level of compensation? Standard analytical approaches to this question compare teacher salaries to the salaries of similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers, and then add the value of employer contributions toward fringe benefits. These simple comparisons would indicate that public-school teachers are undercompensated. However, comparing teachers to non-teachers presents special challenges not accounted for in the existing literature.

First, formal educational attainment, such as a degree acquired or years of education completed, is not a good proxy for the earnings potential of school teachers. Public-school teachers earn less in wages on average than non-teachers with the same level of education, but teacher skills generally lag behind those of other workers with similar “paper” qualifications.

Here’s what the study shows:

  • The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
  • Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private- school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
  • Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.
  • Pension programs for public-school teachers are significantly more generous than the typical private sector retirement plan, but this generosity is hidden by public-sector accounting practices that allow lower employer contributions than a private-sector plan promising the same retirement benefits.
  • Most teachers accrue generous retiree health benefits as they work, but retiree health care is excluded from Bureau of Labor Statistics benefits data and thus frequently overlooked. While rarely offered in the private sector, retiree health coverage for teachers is worth roughly an additional 10 percent of wages.
  • Job security for teachers is considerably greater than in comparable professions. Using a model to calculate the welfare value of job security, we find that job security for typical teachers is worth about an extra 1 percent of wages, rising to 8.6 percent when considering that extra job security protects a premium paid in terms of salaries and benefits.

And they conclude:

We conclude that public-school teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year.

Well, maybe teachers are overpaid – but that would be OK if they were somehow super intelligent and productive.

Are teachers intelligent?

CBS Moneywatch explains what the research shows about teachers.

Excerpt:

Research over the years has indicated that education majors, who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades.   Some of academic evidence documenting easy A’s for future teachers goes back more than 50 years!

The latest damning report on the ease of majoring in education comes from research at the University of Missouri, my alma mater.  The study, conducted by economist Cory Koedel shows that education majors receive “substantially higher” grades than students in every other department.

Koedel examined the grades earned by undergraduates during the 2007-2008 school year at three large state universities that include sizable education programs — University of Missouri, Miami (OH) University and Indiana University.  The researcher compared the grades earned by education majors with the grades earned by students in 12 other majors including biology, economics, English, history, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and sociology.

Education majors enjoyed grade point averages that were .5 to .8 grade points higher than students in the other college majors. At the University of Missouri, for instance, the average education major has a 3.80 GPA versus 2.99 GPA (science, math, econ majors), 3.12 GPA (social science majors) and 3.16 GPA (humanities majors).

So it is easy for teachers with lower SAT scores to get much higher grades than other applicants to non-teaching programs with much higher SAT scores. It doesn’t sound like the smartest people go to teachers college. Nor does it sound as if they learn anything very challenging when they are there.

Are teachers doing a good job of teaching useful skills?

CNN sheds some light on how well teachers perform.

Excerpt:

Last week, the College Board dealt parents, teachers and the education world a serious blow. According to its latest test results, “SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.”

The reading scores, which stand at 497, are noticeably lower than just six years ago, when they stood at 508. And it’s just the second time in the last 20 years that reading scores have dropped so precipitously in a single year.

[…]The 2011 budget for the Department of Education is estimated to top $70 billion, while overall spending on public elementary and secondary education is about $600 billion a year. By comparison, in 1972, before the Department of Education even existed, SAT critical reading scores for college-bound seniors were above 525, more than 20 points higher than they are today, while today’s math scores are only slightly better than in 1972.

So, not only are these highly-paid teachers less intelligent (on average) than other college applicants, but they also fail to educate our children properly. And we are forced to pay them, through taxes, regardless of how they perform. Our children who are suffering from this failed monopoly.

Do teacher unions improve teacher quality?

And do you know who protects bad teachers from being fired, and prevents good teachers from being paid more?

This is why we need to abolish the federal Department of Education and teacher unions. Why are we paying these people ridiculous salaries and benefits to fail our children?

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Teacher union memo reveals agenda to undermine parents

From the Washington Examiner.

Excerpt:

American Federation of Teachers officials have disavowed an internal report after it was posted on the union’s website following its annual conference, embedded on each of its 19 pages with the union’s logo and signed by a union official.

The report, titled “How Connecticut Defused the Parent Trigger,” was replaced on AFT’s website with a note saying “we have received complaints about these materials and have removed them because they do not represent AFT’s position.”

Education activist RiShawn Biddle copied the report before it was removed from the AFT website. The report describes in detail AFT’s strategy for subverting school reform legislation in Connecticut, a strategy that relied greatly on deceiving legislators and interested parents.

The Parent Trigger proposal originated in California and was adopted by education reformers in Connecticut last year. The proposal empowers a majority of parents with children attending a persistently failing school to force education officials to either close it, convert it to a charter school or replace its staff.

The union was blindsided when thousands of minority parents thronged in the Connecticut capitol to support the measure. Many of them expressed concern that their state’s public schools posted the biggest gap in the country on standardized test scores between minority and Caucasian students.

But where California teachers unions lobbied to block the bill in their state legislature and state education department, AFT’s Connecticut affiliate began an offensive that ultimately neutered the bill.

And, according to the now-disavowed report, they succeeded because the proposal’s “name is a misnomer,” since school governance councils “are advisory and do not have true governing authority.”

The bill approved by Connecticut legislators allows the councils of elected community members only to advise school officials rather than empowering them to force needed reforms.

[…]The report also makes clear AFT officials must be hoping Biddle’s discovery does not become more widely known because it destroys the union’s carefully erected image as reform-minded partners who love to “collaborate” with parents and communities.Though the union’s biggest concern is not serving children or parents, it cannot have the public aware of this, or that its strategy includes the “absence of charter school and parent groups from the table” during political shenanigans that simultaneously target lawmakers with lobbying pressure while appearing to “[discuss] shared concerns” with parent and reform groups.

The union says it learned from past “mistakes” to avoid “inflammatory rhetoric” and the appearance of “saying ‘no.'” So, instead, it preaches “collaboration” and “allowing teachers to have a voice,” while working behind the scenes to make sure no one but the union does.

Read the whole thing, and consider homeschooling.

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