Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Teachers in the Stimulus Plan

The president claimed that school districts are laying off teachers in droves, and therefore we need to allocate federal stimulus money to save those jobs. The problem is, the statistics do not bear him out (what a surprise). The Bureau of Labor Statisticsshows a 16% increase in the number of elementary and secondary teaches in the last 10 years. Yet this is in an era of declining birthrates. The US birthrate hit an all time low in 2010 (the latest year for which we have statistics) and has been steadily declining for the last 12 years. This is significant because the number of teachers is tied to the number of students, and is not an indicator of a healthy market. The fact that the number of teachers (supply) is rising while the number of students (demand) is dropping is a sign of an unbalanced business model. If proper corrections were made, the number of teachers should be dropping.

Rockwood school district, as part of their community budget discussions last fall went to great lengths to show that the student population, around 22,000, has not changed significantly in the last 15 years and no increase is predicted for the next five. The extra staffing that was identified was in the administration, not the classroom teachers. Cuts were proposed in those areas.

Some school districts have developed the habit of laying off teachers at the end of the year and not rehiring them until their enrollment period has closed and they know exactly how many students they will have. While an unnerving way of doing things for the teachers, the result is that most of the teachers are re-hired the next fall. So the "droves" leaving is not an accurate statement.

It is irresponsible for a district to hire more teachers when the number of students has not increased. It is similarly irresponsible to retain teachers when the number of students has decreased. With the rise in charter schools and homeschooling, the number of students in public schools is decreasing. But since the number of students is a relatively static amount, the need for teachers is merely shifting between public and charter and private.

The bigger question that should be asked is, "How is providing federal dollars for teachers an economic stimulus?" Teachers do not participate in a corporate system that generates a profit. School districts do not pay corporate taxes. They do not add to the economy other than in the sales tax they pay on products they purchase in order to operate. The amount of products they purchase is tied to the number of students they educate, not the number of teachers they employ, (e.g. if they employ more teachers, they do not order more text books.) Keeping teachers in positions where they are not needed through federal spending would be like the government employing travel agents who were losing their jobs to book-yourself internet sites in the 90's. It just perpetuates their dependence rather than encouraging them to get training in the up and coming market sectors.

Instead, the President proposes artificial means to add employees to a market that is not changing, is not a profit generator - yet (see posts on for profit charters), and which must charge customers who do not actively use their services in order to operate (i.e. property taxes). How is this model a positive to the national economy? If, as the President says, this money is an investment, and most investors want a return on their dollar, how does this poor business model return anything to its investors?

Looking at this investment, the enormous loans to the solar manufacturer Solyndra who just went bankrupt, and the bailout of GE (who in 2009 opted to purchase turbine parts from China rather than a US company, even when that company agreed to match China's pricing thus forcing the closing of the US plant and the laying off of 302 workers) we should start questioning the wisdom of our current investment advisor, this administration.

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