I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, December 6, 2010

Normalizing the Defunding of Education

Bruce Baker Twitter-points (hey, I invented a verb!) to this article from the LA Times questioning the reasons behind seniority-based layoffs.

Bruce neatly dispenses with the notion that the LAT's vaunted Value Added Modeling (VAM)-based approach is appropriate for high-stakes decision making like who gets laid off. So I need not comment on that.

I'll also skip past the disturbing bias that pervades this sorry excuse for journalism. I've dealt before with the complete lack of ethics the LAT has shown in this entire affair - an affair of their own creation.

Instead, let's focus on how the LAT completely refuses to question the premise of the entire article:
The issue has gained momentum as tens of thousands of teachers nationally have been dismissed without regard to their abilities and research has established that veteran instructors on average are no better or worse than their less experienced colleagues.

From Washington state to Arizona to Rhode Island, seniority-based cuts have turned some young teachers against their own unions and fueled efforts — mostly unsuccessful thus far — to revise seniority rules. In California, two bills failed this year in part because of opposition from the California Teachers Assn.

At L.A. Unified, outgoing Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said he believes it is time to consider other factors besides seniority during cutbacks, including performance measures such as attendance and parental feedback. He said he favors capping the number of layoffs at a single campus — an approach similar to that proposed in a pending legal settlement involving Liechty and other schools. [emphasis mine]
Um, excuse me for pointing this out, but:


Where in this article is there any questioning of why the students of LA should have to suffer from fewer dollars allocated to their education just because they happen to be going to school during the Great Recession?

What does it say about us as a society that we can continue to find plenty of money to fight wars of choice that have no clear end in sight while simultaneously accepting cuts in education with a yawn?

What does it say about our commitment to democracy when the very wealthiest are richer than they've ever been while teachers are laid off by the thousands?

Talk like this is normalizing the defunding of education, and it should not go unchallenged. In fact, I would argue that any discussion of VAM or merit pay or charter schools or unionization or pension reform or whatever should always start by challenging the notion that we have to cut that amount of money available to our schools.

Because, as I've pointed out before, the 'formers keep giving away the endgame. The LAT makes quite clear where they want this to head:
Far fewer teachers would be laid off if the district were to base the cuts on performance rather than seniority. The least experienced teachers also are the lowest-paid, so more must be laid off to meet budgetary targets. An estimated 25% more teachers would have kept their jobs if L.A. Unified had based its cuts on teachers' records in improving test scores.
Translation: Keep the CHEAPER teachers. They're just as good as the more expensive ones.

Well, what happens when the word gets out that you will never make more teaching in your first few years than you will in your last few? Does that sound like a career for the best and the brightest?

Oh, you want to keep paying them more as long as they're good? Great! But you want a great teacher in every classroom, right?

So where are you going to get the money for that?

Folks, when it comes to the 'formers, we're really down to two choices:

A) They haven't thought this through.

B) They are willing to throw up incoherent arguments to mask their real agenda: cutting funding for education.

If anyone has an alternative theory, let's hear it.


Anonymous said...

Plainly and obviously, California and Arizona in particular have been on a drunken spending spree in education! Didn't you know that?


Ooops. Crap... the data show something totally different, with both lagging well behind and not even experiencing that supposed spending bubble we hear of?

But, we know they've dramatically increased their teacher ranks... stupidly and inefficiently reducing class size - which everyone knows doesn't work? Wait, ... crap... the data don't support that either.


Actually, Arizona in particular has seen increases in pupil to teacher ratios for decades now as they have starved their system of funding. Hey, what wrong with a little more starvation in the name of fiscal austerity?

After all, perhaps they've put up as much effort as they possibly can?


Taxed themselves to death, eh? Well... crap... the data don't support that either. Well then screw the data. Cut, Cut, Cut... it's absolutely necessary. It's reformy. It's our only choice!

Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprised that even after 3 decades in which real per-pupil spending doubled, Bruce Baker can still find something to spin the opposite way.

Duke said...

A source, a source, my kingdom for a source!

Anon, tell us where that comes from.