The Last Stand of the 300… Thousand
posted at 5:00 am on August 17, 2010 by Mike Antonucci
After the money starts to filter in, the truth starts to filter out.
The edujobs bill passed and was signed into law. The money will soon be on its way to school districts across the country. What we’re hearing now is only of interest for future reference, yet it’s worth memorializing because we certainly have not heard the last of these claims and arguments.
For months we heard about the potential loss of 300,000 education employee jobs (some commentators upgraded this claim to 300,000 teacher jobs). Only now, after the deed is done, are we discovering that this number was soft, to put it generously.
Over the summer, EIA posted a lot of anecdotal evidence that the claims were inflated. And the evidence had to be anecdotal because, as it turns out, quite a few states had no evidence at all.
“But the hard fact is that no one knows how many Colorado teachers – or other school employees – have lost or will lose their jobs this school year because of budget cuts.
“‘There are no hard numbers,’ said Deborah Fallin, director of public relations for the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. Neither the CEA, the Colorado Association of School Boards nor the Colorado Association of School Executives have compiled any numbers. The Colorado Department of Education also hasn’t done so.”
The Colorado School Finance Project did the legwork and came up with a total of 1,825 jobs affected by budget cuts. But even that figure includes “layoffs, attrition, position freezes and other staffing actions in multiple job classifications so it does not give any direct indication of teaching positions lost.”
“As U.S. Sen. Patty Murray put it on the floor of the Senate last week: ‘That means 3,000 teachers in Washington state who are right now in limbo, who are spending this summer not knowing if they’ll return to a classroom or a pink slip in the fall.’
“Problem is, there aren’t 3,000 teachers in Washington state facing layoffs. Not even close.
“A survey of districts conducted by the state Professional Educators Standards Board found that just 445 teachers statewide received reduction-in-force letters last spring.”
“Alaska’s allocation comes despite a healthy revenue surplus this year that has allowed the state to actually increase school funding.
“A press release from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Anchorage, said the Ed Jobs bill will ‘address gaps in education funding by providing $23.5 million to Alaska School Districts preventing imminent layoffs of educators.’
“A Begich spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, said she couldn’t identify where in Alaska those layoffs might be happening.
“‘The National Education Association told us that teachers in Alaska would be affected,’ she said.”
When asked about the estimates by USA Today‘s Greg Toppo last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave this response:
“Well, we always said 300,000 was the high end. We always said between 100,000 and 300,000. We had a broad range there, as you know Greg, because this was a moving target. And we think this number is fairly solid, and this is based upon actual – you know the need and cuts we’re seeing around the country. And, we think this is a good – again, nothing can be absolutely firm. We think this is a good estimate of the potential cuts that can be saved with these funds.”
Duncan went on to say, “So, I think the reality, Greg, is the vast majority of districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them you know are through you know fat, through flesh, and into bone.”
I’m not sure to what reality Duncan is referring, but I suspect he’s applying the Adam Savage Doctrine. Not only can’t that statement be backed by any empirical evidence, but it’s the opposite of what the empirical evidence – generated by the U.S. Department of Education, mind you – tells us.
The edujobs bill sustains the cycle of the past decade for one more year. Just as with last year’s stimulus bill, new teachers will be hired with this funding, requiring a bailout next year to avoid laying them off. The curtain will rise on this political theater once again.