The Eternal Stimulus

Only now, as the edujobs bill has overcome its largest obstacle in the Senate, are people beginning to ask questions about how this is all going to work.

The Texas constitution may keep that state from receiving $800 million.

Nebraska is in line to receive about $59 million, even though Jess Wolf, president of the Nebraska State Education Association, said, “We haven’t lost a lot of teachers at this point, (but we’re) certainly fearful that we might.”

I can’t say I’ve read every statement about the edujobs bill, but I certainly don’t recall anyone saying the money was needed to reduce fear.

Maryland should receive about $179 million, yet the Washington Post notes, “officials have no estimate of layoffs for the school year that begins in a few weeks.” The Baltimore Sun reported “most of [the state’s] school systems are not planning to lay off teachers,” and that several were hiring new ones.

The money can be used to increase teacher salaries, which will be good news in Wisconsin, where education employees are scraping by this year with average compensation increases of only 3.75 percent, instead of the average 4.13 percent they’ve enjoyed since 1993.

Even before the Senate vote, the “yo-yo effect” of pink-slipping then rehiring teachers continued.

In California, 82 Santa Cruz teachers were called back and in Vallejo a total of  58 teachers had their layoff notices rescinded, leaving only 20-30 still out. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, teaching positions will likely be safe for the fall.

Politico reports on grousing from House Democrats, stating that “some of their vulnerable members will feel like they have to walk the plank, yet again, on a politically unpopular economic-stimulus agenda, while reminding voters of their failure to handle routine budget work this year.”

What’s a measly $10 billion out of nearly $700 billion in annual spending on public education anyway? Well, it’s the notion that the people who are drowning in the ocean are bailing out the people in the lifeboats.

A few weeks ago, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government ginned up a neat little report, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, on the nation’s job situation. Figure 1 is a depiction of the change in employment since the start of the current recession. The blue, yellow and green lines are the public sector. The red line is the private sector.


There’s more. After 30 months of recession, local government education employment (the category where most teachers and support employees reside) has yet to approach a one percent decline.

Of the 35 states for which we have data, 13 lost jobs in the education sector from the spring of 2009 to the spring of 2010. Mississippi was unchanged. The other 21 states had education employment increases – including New Jersey, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

It is highly likely that many of the teachers who were laid off this year – whose jobs we are now trying to save – were only hired because of last year’s stimulus money. They are essentially wards of the federal government. If this is the road to economic recovery, then we should simply hire as teachers all of the nation’s unemployed.

After such a huge victory in the Senate, you might think the teachers’ unions would be content to get out with the $10 billion, but they’re already raising the specter of perpetual bailouts. Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, said the additional money only allows districts to delay the inevitable for a year because revenues are not suddenly going to rebound anytime soon.

The federal government is now firmly in the business of hiring and paying your local school teachers according to the flawed and self-interested projections of district administrators and teachers’ unions. It won’t be so easy to go back.