Monday, July 04, 2005

"I don't care where the money comes from"

Didn't this teacher ever learn that money doesn't come out of nothing?
Teachers Union Eyes $40K Starting Salary

The typical starting salary for teachers should be $40,000, the head of the country's largest education union said Sunday, pledging a renewed fight for higher pay....

NEA president Reg Weaver, speaking to reporters at the union's annual meeting, said his officers will work with their state and local chapters to lobby state leaders and school boards.

Weaver, poised to begin his second three-year term as the union's president, said higher pay for veteran teachers and classroom aides will also be a political priority for the NEA. No cost for the ideas was given, but they would likely require hundreds of millions of dollars or more.

"The issue is where the money is going to come from," Weaver said. "And to respond to that, my answer is I don't care. I don't care where the money comes from. Because when this country thinks and decides that something is important, they find the money."
Why not pay start new teachers at $100,000? How about a $10 per hour minimum wage? Can't society afford that, too?

Those who advocate raising minimum wages (of which teacher pay is one form) are guided by this irrational notion that society can simply absorb the cost. Requiring a higher wage for one part of society necessitates less money for the rest of society. In and of itself, that's not a bad thing; that's simply competition. In this case, however, teacher unions aren't earning higher pay by competition, but by politics. That makes their attitude a rather selfish one, since they're using the power of government to raise their standard of living and lower everyone else's.

But teachers unions, like all other unions who are paid by the taxpayer, don't care a whit that everyone else will bear almost all of the burden. They'll benefit much more than their minor share of the increased taxes. This is another manifestation of the economics phrase, "concentrated benefits, dispersed costs," which describes what makes protectionists tick.

Then consider what would happen in states like Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks as the three lowest in per-capita income. They'd go bankrupt if the NEA had its way, because they don't have the economic base to support high teacher pay. I mostly grew up in Utah, and while I lived there, most teachers didn't even start as high as $20,000. That is to be expected: Utah is a relatively low wage state, and as much as we'd like to think teachers are more important than sports stars, they don't have a high marginal value, as Don Boudreaux explained.

There are a lot of good teachers, but there are also many bad ones. Teachers unions consistently oppose merit-based pay and insist on seniority-based pay and tenure, which protects bad teachers and discourages good ones. Wouldn't you be a bit miffed if you bothered to work hard and competently, while an unfit colleague received the same pay for poor work?

Teachers unions rely on sympathetic legislators and school board members -- and coerce the rest -- to get the most incredible degrees of latitude. Public school teachers are so well-protected, regardless of competency and efficacy, that it's become almost impossible to fire the bad ones. An Investor's Business Daily from several years ago (things haven't changed since) noted what happened when New York tried replacing tenure with five-year renewable contracts: the teachers unions killed the idea. Often a principal's only recourse is to transfer a teacher, making it another school's problem. The requisite hearings and appeals make it very expensive to fire a teacher, and except when criminal charges are filed, the worst teachers can almost always count on unconditional union backing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Excellent comments! I'm speechless...I wish there was a way to make things fair in this country but it seems to be impossible...

If you don't hurt one person you hurt another. It's pretty pathetic!

Thursday, September 22, 2005 1:29:00 PM  

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