Reason TV: Strikeburger in Paradise

posted at 2:55 pm on May 27, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

With much of the national focus on education and compensation falling on New Jersey and Governor Chris Christie, Reason TV takes a look at a standoff on the opposite end of the country.  South Orange County, California is a wealthy area with plenty of good schools, but even those districts have to meet a budget, and the school board has already had one recall over mismanagement in the past decade.  With the economic collapse, state funding has been seriously reduced, and the Capistrano Unified School District has to find ways to get its budget balanced.  Eighty-five percent of that budget goes to employee compensation, and that made it the most logical target for savings — but the teachers disagreed and went on strike rather than agree to an across-the-board pay cut:

In April 2010, 2,200 teachers went on strike for three days after the school board imposed a 10 percent pay cut. The children who attended school during the strike had to walk past their teachers who, instead of preparing for class, were marching in front of the school with picket signs reading “It’s not about the money” and “We’d rather be teaching.”

Some parents honked in support of the union as they drove by. Other parents were frustrated by union members who were unwilling to work out a compromise with a district that is facing a $34 million budget deficit. Lots of parents talked about using the strike as “a teaching moment.”

It takes about six and a half minutes before we get to the actual bone of contention.  A 10% salary cut for teachers making an average of over $80,000 per year is certainly significant, but the union intended to flex its muscles over another issue entirely: charter schools.  The CUSD board supports the idea of competition, which would have imposed a free-market solution on the education monopoly.  The teachers union calls this an attempt to “destroy public education,” and one of the teachers says that the walkout was an example to her students of how to “stand up to bullies.”  Now the union has decided to launch a recall effort against two board members, hoping to replace them with union sympathizers.

This looks like a situation complicated by managerial incompetence from the previous board as well as a union more interested in job security than in allocation of funding.  The other option here would have been to lay off ten percent of the teachers rather than ask for pay cuts, but that would have still meant a loss to the union.  The public purse is not bottomless, and in hard economic times, it’s even more difficult to find funding.

That brings us to another story today about teachers and funding.  Remember when the Obama administration claimed to have “saved or created” hundreds of thousands of teachers’ jobs through Porkulus last year?  They’re suddenly expiring, and want more federal bailout money:

Senior congressional Democrats and the Obama administration scrambled Wednesday to line up support for $23 billion in federal aid to avert an estimated 100,000 or more school layoffs in a brutal year for education budgets coast to coast.

As early as Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee expects to take up a bill that couples the school funding with spending for the Afghanistan war — a measure that has bipartisan support. But a parallel push in the Senate stalled this week after a leading proponent concluded that he couldn’t muster enough votes to surmount Republican opposition.

“We desperately need Congress to act — to recognize the emergency for what it is,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. “We have to keep hundreds of thousands of teachers teaching.”

Republicans and some Democrats say the government can’t afford an extension of last year’s economic stimulus that would add to the federal deficit. The stimulus law kept many school budgets afloat with $49 billion in direct aid to states and billions of dollars more for various programs. But the stimulus funding is trailing off before state and local tax revenue can recover from the recession.

Skeptics of a new education jobs fund point out that the teaching force in recent years has grown faster than enrollment, with schools adding instructional coaches and reducing class sizes.

“Giving states another $23 billion in federal education money simply throws more money into taxpayer-funded bailouts when we should be discussing why we aren’t seeing the results we need from the billions in federal dollars that are already being spent,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

In the first place, the problem is that states have used these federal grants to put off making necessary cuts to government bureaucracies.  They get money earmarked for teachers and first responders from the federal government, which then gets to play hero for supposedly saving these jobs.  Then the states shift money away from those programs in order to shield other employees from budget-cutting that should have taken place years ago.

Boehner is right in both the short and long term.  Massive increases in federal funding over the last few decades have produced very little in the way of systemic improvements in the system.  In the immediate sense, the Porkulus dollars that supposedly “saved” these jobs did nothing of the sort.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to “save” them again.

It’s time to start encouraging competition in the education system rather than enlarging subsidies to the failing bureaucracies — and it’s also time to force states to make better decisions about how they spend their own money, where taxpayers can hold them accountable, rather than pick the pockets of taxpayers who get no say on how those monies are spent on the state and local level.


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B-b-but we teach because we love it.

John the Libertarian on May 27, 2010 at 3:01 PM

Professionals who make a manager’s salary, don’t strike.

There’s the teachable moment.

MNHawk on May 27, 2010 at 3:03 PM

When someone says, “It’s not about the money,” it is about money.

WashJeff on May 27, 2010 at 3:04 PM

I hope everyone is stopping by the pawn shop on their way home every day. I can’t wait.

SirGawain on May 27, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Yeah, we had a bunch of “saved” jobs in Arizona also. We didn’t right size when we had a chance, so now we have a nice new 1% sales tax to pay for those jobs.

azkenreid on May 27, 2010 at 3:05 PM

I would guess that many of the parents that honked in support of the teachers’ union have contested their property tax bill in the last few years.

WashJeff on May 27, 2010 at 3:05 PM

“We are not in it for the money”

Vouchers would solve soo many problems.

seven on May 27, 2010 at 3:06 PM

My dislike for teacher’s unions started in 7th grade when my history teacher refused to strike and his fellow teachers tried to use concrete around his classroom doors to keep him out. Or in, if he’d been in there. They can be reckless and mafia-like. And very childish.

NTWR on May 27, 2010 at 3:06 PM

I’m qualified to teach high school, maybe I should head out to California. I looks like there could be some job openings soon.

Tommy_G on May 27, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Yeah, we had a bunch of “saved” jobs in Arizona also. We didn’t right size when we had a chance, so now we have a nice new 1% sales tax to pay for those jobs.

azkenreid on May 27, 2010 at 3:05 PM

If families operated like government:

My family had more money going out than coming in, so I gave myself a 5% raise.

WashJeff on May 27, 2010 at 3:07 PM

The stupidest people in college become teachers. They sure do have a lot of power for being so stupid.

PrezHussein on May 27, 2010 at 3:11 PM

I live in Murrieta, CA and our district had a $24 million shortfall for next year. The teachers have agreed to take two days off for the end of this year, which means tomorrow starts our Memorial Day 4 day weekend, and 5 extra days off next year without pay. A student came in during the debate at the School Board and said that the teachers need to compromise like the rest of us. We have a boatload of foreclosures and people trying to get modified mortgages payments who will not be able to pay extra property taxes. The well is dry and just like the 20+% of people getting laid off in the region, they need to be “a part of the community” they say they love and support by educating our children. If they didn’t want to get laid off, they need to agree to the 5% pay cut via this furlough days.

They agreed. I’m glad I live in an area where teachers are more compromising and understanding and helpful than where they’re just out to game the system and care only about themselves.

Sultry Beauty on May 27, 2010 at 3:12 PM

I’m sure “the children” care about your defined benefit packages, your overly-generous-for-9-months-work salary and your free health benefits while their dads and moms are laid off or taking pay cuts.

I’m sure this is all just “for the children.”

Teachers want to be (and think they are) “special.” That they’re a protected industry that should never feel the effects of the economy or of real life in America. And if they do, why, that’s somehow YOUR fault and they need more of your money. They need it more than you do, you see, because they only teach “for the love of it.” That’s why they need guaranteed, non-merit-based 6% pay increases each year. For 9 months work.

Because they’re just better than you and are more important than, say, soldiers in the military. Teaching is “harder” than that, you fascists. It’s the world’s hardest job, or something. That’s why most of the drunken idiots I knew in high school (or the popular crowd girls with C averages) went on to become public school teachers. Becuase they were actually “smarter” than everyone and “more important.”

These ingrate leeches teachers need a lesson in reality.

This is why Gov. Christie is so awesome – he’s the first politician in a LOOOOONG time getting in their faces (firmly, but with class) and telling them that while their hard work is appreciated, the nonstop union-driven gravy train is over. It’s not “the government’s money.” It’s private citizens’ money.

Good Lt on May 27, 2010 at 3:12 PM

They should have forced the cuts in the retirement equations. A little easier to plan for a 10% reduction in benefits than to take an 8K a year cut in the shorts.

And I am all for charter schools

Bradky on May 27, 2010 at 3:14 PM

What should be readily apparent to anyone half way sentient is that unions are out for only one thing, unions. The SEIU transported by public school buses (By the way, isnt that misappropration? Oh well never mind they were using to bus ACORN all over for the One’s rallies in 08 anyways) and given t5he cover of legitimacy and protection of a police escort, ie;the Fraternal Order-union.

What we are witnessing is an attempted hostile take over of the by union/syndicalist forces. If it is irrational to finance wahabbist terrorists through oil, is not the same true of syndicalist thugs with tax-payer money?

Archimedes on May 27, 2010 at 3:14 PM

They’re suddenly expiring, and want more federal bailout money:

Targeted, timely, and temporary (TM)

DrSteve on May 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Most teachers work a 210 contract during the school year. By my calculations, if the average salary is $80,000, (that sounds a bit high but…), that teacher is making $380 a day. That’s about $47 an hour for an 8 hour day. I know that teachers claim to work more than 8 hour days with taking papes home to grade, writing plans, calling parents, etc…etc… So let’s give them an average of an additional two hours a day, (there have to be days when they don’t do anything at home and days where they may do more). That’s still $38 an hour. Not bad work! As a matter of fact, I know it’s not bad work. I did it for 37 years. The unionized teacher is a robot, claiming to work for the kids but really working for personal advancement and liberal political causes. Gouge the public…make them pay more taxes so that I can get my raise. See how hard I work. I deserve it.

sdd on May 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM

I will say there are probably some administrators they could lose without anyone noticing. Are those folks NEA?

DrSteve on May 27, 2010 at 3:16 PM

“When someone says, “It’s not about the money,” it is about money.”

BINGO!

Fuzzlenutter on May 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Good Lt on May 27, 2010 at 3:12 PM

Well written, let me add one personnel observation. Where I was in college, the Education Majors had the highest GPAs but the lowest SATs

Tommy_G on May 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM

The stupidest people in college become teachers. They sure do have a lot of power for being so stupid.

PrezHussein on May 27, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Actually, the stupidest people are those who make generalizations.

sdd on May 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM

They do it because they love getting paid $81-$98K a year + bennies.

If you “would rather be teaching” then get you taxpayer-fed, whiny asses off the picket line, tighten your belts, and get back to work!

catmman on May 27, 2010 at 3:21 PM

The unions are scared of the charter schools because they know that once public schools get competition a lot of the students are going to be going elsewhere. I pray for a charter school to open around me before my son gets of high school age.

search4truth on May 27, 2010 at 3:28 PM

$83,000? If only I could get that much. I get just over half of her compensation and I teach college kids chemistry at a state 4-year university (granted, it’s not CA). So I get kids from high schools with teachers who get paid far more than I do, and I have to correct all the mistakes those Education majors have been filling their brains with for the past 4 years.

And, no, I don’t get summers off. I get paid an extra $5,000 to teach over the summer, and that puts me about $25-30,000 behind in annual salary. And I have a Ph.D. In science.

If anyone needs a synthetic organic chemist in an industrial setting, drop me a line.

Nethicus on May 27, 2010 at 3:29 PM

“It’s not about the money” and “We’d rather be teaching.”

Well, it certainly isn’t about telling the truth so … color me surprised!

ya2daup on May 27, 2010 at 3:31 PM

azkenreid on May 27, 2010 at 3:05 PM

And in three years we’ll be right back in the middle of the dung pile. This sales tax only delays paying the piper. Wanna bet we have a vote in three years to extend the sales tax indefinitely for the kids.

chemman on May 27, 2010 at 3:33 PM

All of these people are avowed anti-American communists.
News flash! You are glorified daycare workers and nothing more.

Here is how to fix this whole thing.
1. Eliminate the school boards and have each curriculum developed by the principal with parental input at the school.
2. Outlaw the unions.
3. Cut pay by 75%
4. Allow laymen to become teachers without benefit of a college diploma. If you can pass the test, you should be allowed to teach.

epluribusunum on May 27, 2010 at 3:34 PM

This is one of the best examples of why the Department of Education should be abolished. It was a political sop to Jimmy Carter’s union pals to begin with, and it has done nothing to improve education. It has only sucked up taxpayer dollars and complicated school funding and curriculum decisions. Return education decisions to the states where they rightfully belong, and let states decide whether they want charter schools or not. Better yet, let the taxpayers decide by providing vouchers and letting them pick the schools for their children.

College Prof on May 27, 2010 at 3:42 PM

sdd on May 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Well said SDD!

I taught middle school for 2 years and got out. I didn’t teach for the money and my salary and benefits provided a nice living for a college grad in 1993. Never joined the Union, spent that money on clothes instead! The Union teachers drove me crazy with the attitude that the Union could do so much for them. When I pointed out we were on a district wide pay scale with a 3% increase every year (pretty much guaranteed), full benefits, and only worked around 210 days (with 11 paid days off) a year and didn’t need someone to negotiate stuff for me they would reply, “But if you get sued…” My response, “If I get sued for doing my job and the district doesn’t back me up, I will sue the district right back.” It helps that my hubby is an attorney, but still.

IMO, the first jobs to go should be at the Administration level with teachers being the last on the chopping block. I would be surprised if that is what is happening though.

truetexan on May 27, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Greedy lemmings being led by the nose by greedy union thug democrats. If it’s not about the money, then why were all the teachers picketing about paycuts? It’s ONLY about the money. It always is.

roninacreage on May 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Eliminate all the cafeterias and food prep workers. There’s no reason kids can’t bring a sack lunch. Install self serve vending machines for drinks and snacks at a hefty profit to the district.

roninacreage on May 27, 2010 at 3:54 PM

These people wouldn’t amount to chum in the shark-infested waters of the real job market.

Maybe that’s just 10 months (almost 11!) of unemployment talking. Got a call on a potential 1 to 3 year contract today though, hooray for that!

TexasDan on May 27, 2010 at 3:58 PM

I will say there are probably some administrators they could lose without anyone noticing.

Back around 2000, those of us who worked for the Postal Service were told that District was going to reduce management personnel by 25%. When I left the USPS at the end of 2008, we still couldn’t tell. There was absolutely no difference.

oldleprechaun on May 27, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Back around 2000, those of us who worked for the Postal Service were told that District was going to reduce management personnel by 25%. When I left the USPS at the end of 2008, we still couldn’t tell. There was absolutely no difference.

It was a weight loss program.

percysunshine on May 27, 2010 at 4:12 PM

The stupidest people in college become teachers. They sure do have a lot of power for being so stupid.

PrezHussein on May 27, 2010 at 3:11 PM

One of the more idiotic generalizations I’ve seen in some time. My wife happens to be a teacher and was a 3.42-4.0 student throughout college. She did better in college than I did. I would ask that you either retract your moronic statement or apologize for it, but those people who make those kinds of generalizations are typically too stupid to see that they can offend others, not all of them are dense, but you might fit into that category.

Torch on May 27, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Oops. Accidental understrike.

percysunshine on May 27, 2010 at 4:13 PM

“This is one of the best examples of why the Department of Education should be abolished.” College Prof on May 27, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Tha’s it, in spades!!! An utterly useless money-pit of a bureaucracy that continously produces disastrous results.

Bob in VA on May 27, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Spoiled brats…signs saying “I would rather teach”, well then teach.
$80,000, and that is not including benefits, is a good chunk of change. If both parents teach, $160,000 with a lifetime of retirement, pretty good gig.
Cut 10% of salary, cut 10% of benefits, and they are still overpaid.
BTW, their cost of living has dropped substantially in the past couple of years. They always use the excuse “Orange county is expensive to live in homes are so expensive, so we need higher wages”…well their homes are about 30% less then a couple of years ago, so that argument (notice) isn’t used any longer.
They should have fired all the teachers, and rehired them at a new rate…I guarantee they would have signed at $60,000 year and fewer benefits.
During the interim, schools out, and they catch up during summer…as if their is a difference in weather in So. Cal.

right2bright on May 27, 2010 at 4:23 PM

The stupidest people in college become teachers. They sure do have a lot of power for being so stupid.

PrezHussein on May 27, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Actually, the stupidest people are those who make generalizations.

sdd on May 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Here you go

Dr. Thomas Sowell addresses the issue in his book “Inside American Education.” In 1980-81, students majoring in education scored lower on both the verbal and math portions of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) than students majoring in any other subject. Only 7 percent of high-school seniors with SAT scores in the top 20 percent, and 13 percent in the next quintile, chose to major in education. At the other end of the academic spectrum, more than half of those with SAT scores in the lowest 20 percent chose education as a major. Eighty-five percent of high SAT-scoring students who actually become teachers leave after a brief career.

Education majors remain at the bottom of the academic barrel after four years of college. The National Institute of Education conducted a study of student performance on examinations (LSAT, GMAT and GRE) to gain entrance to graduate schools. Of 25 different undergraduate study areas, students whose undergraduate major was education scored at the bottom or at best second from the bottom.

RadClown on May 27, 2010 at 4:37 PM

The union says the school board is trying to “destroy public educaton”.How do you detroy something that doesn’t work to begin with?

DDT on May 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Break the public schools monopoly: support a tax credit for private school choice!

AshleyTKing on May 27, 2010 at 4:56 PM

So let me get this straight. Your pay would have gone from $80,000 a year to $72,000 a year.

For nine months work.

Cry me a freakin’ river!

CurtZHP on May 27, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Screw them. Teachers in the private sector make less money and do a better job. Everyone else in the real world, without trust-fund style retirement pensions, are hurting too. A lot of people have seen their salaries get cut and they don’t get 3 months off a year.

joeindc44 on May 27, 2010 at 5:09 PM

No sympathy for these teachers. The economy is hard for everyone right now. They can take with the paycut, or they can take some colleagues being out of work. Deal with it.

That said, I do want to defend teachers on the nine months’ work argument. Many teachers start working a week or two before the kids start classes, and they finish up a week or two after the kids start classes. They often have work days when the kids aren’t in classes. During the school year, they typically work quite a few more than 40 hours a week. During the summer, they sometimes teach summer school, and most have to earn continuing education credits, often at their own expense.

I’ll admit that I’ve not done a hard number crunch on this, but I’d be willing to bet that the average teacher puts in pretty close to the same number of hours in a year as someone working a standard 40-hour-a-week job.

mathdoc on May 27, 2010 at 5:17 PM

B-b-but we teach because we love it.

John the Libertarian on May 27, 2010 at 3:01 PM

Yeah…that’s the ticket. If they are anything like the teachers in my old school they race the busses out of the parking lot. Refuse to coach any of the athletic teams because an extra $100.00 a pay period is not enough.

I lost faith in my teaches when they would spend more time in class telling us to make sure our parents voted yes on the budget then they would teaching.

cobrakai99 on May 27, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Torch on May 27, 2010 at 4:12 PM

High scores in teaching college will forever be unimpressive.

If you tell us she got those in chemical engineering, well, that’s different.

I think the generalization is apt, and borne out by the “general” behavior of the teacher population.

TexasDan on May 27, 2010 at 6:11 PM

IMO, the first jobs to go should be at the Administration level with teachers being the last on the chopping block. I would be surprised if that is what is happening though.

truetexan on May 27, 2010 at 3:42 PM

The teachers unions would never allow that, administration is where they go for the last couple years to pad their pension level.

agmartin on May 27, 2010 at 6:24 PM


The teachers union calls this an attempt to “destroy public education,”

No, the union has already done that.

GarandFan on May 27, 2010 at 6:30 PM

The one problem with throwing around $80,000 as a salary like that, is it has no context. The $95,000 a year I made in San Jose didn’t go as far as the $60,000 in Fresno, because of cost of living differences. You can bet everything in this posh community costs more than it does in Watts or Compton.

$500,000 in one place is an 1100 squarefoot home on 1/16th of an acre, but 3500 square feet on 5 acres someplace else.

Don’t agree with the teachers here though. They’d rather work at 100% of their salary and cost 10% of their comrades their job then work at 90% of it and have everybody stay employed. Then they will get more kids in their classroom and whine about classroom sizes. And the cycle continues.

The real reason the school budget is broke: 10 years of service for lifetime healthcare coverage. 30 years of service, as early as 51/52 years old, and lifetime salary averaged for last 3 years. So now you have people with an average of 25 years of pay for sitting at home reading books and watching soap operas. Some go out and start businesses to make even more money, since they are still young. Eventually, you have more people living 25 years off of pensions than the people working the 30 years to get them. It’s called: unsustainable.

PastorJon on May 27, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Also, union protection breeds laziness. Those that truly care about the kids work really hard. But there are plenty happy to dole out the minimum curriculuum and requirements and scoot along . . . . Automatic step increases until top step, health care, 30 years to lifetime pension, and not able to be fired after one year of service. Work really hard for a year to be excellent, get tenure, drop back into coast mode.

School districts even have special offices for teachers who do a bad job in the classroom after they have tenure (which Arnold tried to change, unsuccessfully). There are huge offices with teachers doing nothing (at least they have to show up) because they can’t be fired but the district doesn’t want them in the classroom due to poor performance. I’ve been to one, seen it with my own eyes. Those “teachers” will come in every day with their sudoku books until the pension starts rolling in . . .

PastorJon on May 27, 2010 at 6:51 PM

RadClown on May 27, 2010 at 4:37 PM

So you put your trust in statistical evaluation accumulated by…dare I say it? A teacher. A PhD. at the end of his name is not an indication of excessive intelligence. I’ve seen some pretty damn stupid PhD’s before.

As a matter of fact there are some pretty damn stupid people who’ve posted on this thread. I’ve done a study that proves that anyone who uses the screen name RadClown has an IQ at or near 70. You are stupid…aren’t you?

sdd on May 27, 2010 at 8:20 PM

Professionals do not belong to unions.

proconstitution on May 28, 2010 at 2:14 PM