February 27, 2011
Letterman's Ignorance on DisplayThough I am much less of a fan than I once was, I still watch a little Letterman. Old habits die hard, I suppose. Typically these days I watch the monologue and move on; I almost never hang around for the guests. But the other night, Rand Paul was on the show. I watched.
I don't know, really, why I even bother to watch the monologues anymore. They aren't that funny. One of the reasons is Letterman seems to have forgotten that we have a president. Letterman made a living for 16 years pounding away at Bill Clinton and George Bush, but he won't lay a finger on Obama.
At any rate, I suffered through the show until Paul was finally trotted out at the very end. I'm sure Letterman's mission was to discredit Paul. He failed miserably. Paul handled himself very well. Letterman proved---to his national TV audience---he's an idiot.
Letterman got on education. Paul said the average schoolteacher in Wisconsin makes $89,000 a year. I can't swear to that figure, but I'll take his word for it. Letterman quickly interjected that figure should be doubled. What a ridiculous statement.
I don't know if Letterman actually believes an average schoolteacher should be pulling down 180 grand a year or not. He has a TV show. Ratings are important to him. There are millions of public school employees across the nation. If a TV show host says nice things about those millions, he can make a lot of friends. So it goes within the ranks of the PEC.
Whether he believes it or not, it was a stupid comment to make.
Letterman continued to rant and rave about more money for education. Surely, he contended, education should be a place for increases in government spending.
I guess Letterman has been living under a rock for the past 30 years. He seems to have no clue that pouring more money into education has been tried, and tried again, and tried again, and tried again.
Paul noted Washington, D.C. spends $20,000 per pupil but still has maybe the worst public school system in the nation.
As time ran out, Letterman cut Paul off and made another ignorant comment. Letterman said he knew Paul was wrong but didn't know why. Ha, ha. Laugh, laugh.
Letterman displayed the classic liberal attitude. A case is made, logically, cogently, and even though a liberal has no counterargument, he or she will not accept the truth. If it ain't liberal, it ain't right.
Like I said, the political-educational complex, though on its last leg, has yet to disappear completely.
Educators are people with jobs. They keep showing up because they get paid, they get health insurance and they have a pension on the horizon. They do not show up for work because they are "heroes" or because they are dedicated to a "lifetime of giving." It's time we quit glorifying them. And it's time the people that pay teachers start determining how much teachers get paid, instead of letting teachers determine that for themselves.
February 25, 2011
CBS Blows WindLast night, the CBS Evening News ran a story about the current battle over public unions and their excesses. It started with a mention of Wisconsin then jumped to New Jersey. A reporter focused on a family full of educators.
As the story ended, a younger in the family noted that if she was wearing her union T-shirt she would zip up her jacket. She didn't want to be called greedy by the general public. I thought that spoke volumes. If someone is a member of a teachers' union and figures they have the high ground, why run and hide?
The final comment from the reporter was something about "harsh words" for a "lifetime of giving." That comment boiled my blood.
Let's take a look at a couple of facts put forth by the story itself.
The story sought to put a price tag on the proposed increases in a teacher's contribution to his or her own benefits. The salary chosen for the example was $66,000 a year. At 66 grand per year, a New Jersey teacher would have to rank at least in the top 50 percent of wage earners in this country.
Lest we forget, a schoolteacher works a part-time job. I don't care how you slice it and dice it, 6 hours a day for 180 days a year, give or take, is a part-time gig.
The story said New Jersey teachers currently pay a whopping 1.5 percent of their health insurance premiums. Chris Christie wants to bump that to 30 percent. Teachers say that is unfair.
Many people have no health insurance at all. Many, if they have employer-provided insurance, have to pay half the premiums themselves. But teachers shouldn't have to endure what mere mortals endure. They are special.
Though it wasn't mentioned in the story, let's not forget the pension. Once a teacher always a teacher when it comes to getting paid. A teacher can step out of the job early and draw paychecks to the grave. Lifetime compensation doesn't count, though, right?
Would you call drawing $66,000 a year for a part-time job, getting free health insurance and guaranteed pay for life the makings of a "lifetime of giving?"
CBS' story was a giant pile of buffalo bagels. It seems the political-educational complex has yet to gulp its last breath of air.
December 25, 2010
Henry's NumbersA recent poll came out that shows Governor Brad Henry's approval rating spiking since the November elections. His approval rating had been in decline for years. I suppose that's normal for a sitting governor. It bottomed at 62 percent---which ain't a bad low point. The most recent poll, however, shows Henry with a 71 percent approval rating. Why?
Henry is a lame duck; he hasn't done much of anything of late. Much was said about "shellacking" in the recent election on the national scene. But in Oklahoma, Democrats were severely shellacked. Republicans made gains in the Legislature. If I'm not mistaken, a Republican won a seat in Little Dixie---an unheard of event. The governor's race wasn't a race. The Democrat was never in it. All statewide races went to Republicans. Yet the outgoing lame duck Democratic governor got considerably more popular. Hmmmm, a bit of a head-scratcher?
Well, not really. Henry came out strongly against the educators' attempted billion-dollar money grab known as State Question 744. The pounding Democrats took at the polls in November pales in comparison to the pounding educators took. Four out of five voters said no to their measure.
People, it seems, have finally had enough of educator whining. Let the word go forth to politicians and media types alike: It's a new day. No longer do you need to kiss educator ass. The political-educational complex is crumbling.
September 15, 2010
Double StandardI read, somewhere, the other day, that the Oklahoma Ethics Commission had contacted the anti-SQ 744 forces, informing them that a large portion of their contributions were illegal. The ruling had something to do with PAC-to-PAC contributions.
The anti campaign returned the money, then called on the pro forces to give back millions in contributions they had received from the National Education Association.
I caught a brief news blurb on the Oklahoma News Report last night. The report said the Ethics Commission says the pro forces can keep their NEA money. That's okay.
The political-educational complex, baby. It never sleeps in its quest for your money.
July 29, 2010
The Edmonson AnalysisLet's do a brief, and more serious, analysis relative to the outcome of the governor's race.
Attorney General Drew Edmonson lost to Jari Askins in the Democratic primary. The pollsters had Edmonson with a strong lead right up until Election Day. Now they are all scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they got it so wrong. Allow me to help.
I wrote a while back about the recent Tulsa mayor's race. A Democrat, Tom Adelson, a state senator, well-financed, managed to get less than a third of the votes cast in the general election. He was a pro-education-spending candidate. In a public appearance, Adelson advocated housing subsidies for schoolteachers.
Drew Edmonson was the only candidate for governor that ran TV ads promising to work for higher pay for schoolteachers. He was endorsed by our local socialist rag---the Tulsa World. The World has been a card-carrying member of the political-educational complex for years and years. Nonetheless, Edmonson went from strong front-runner to loser just that quick. He now says he will exit politics. I applaud his decision.
Politicians everywhere should be paying attention. People are sick and tired of hearing about the "downtrodden" public educator. Hitching a political wagon to the education lobby worked for a long time, but it doesn't work anymore.
June 7, 2010
Cracks in the PEC's Foundation?The political-educational complex---that unholy, you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours, alliance that has existed between politicians, the media and educators for years---is showing signs of weakness.
Lt. Governor Jari Askins is running for governor. She is currently running a TV ad. I've seen the ad several times. There is no mention of the word "education." There is no call for more money for schoolteachers. There is no call for support of SQ744---the educators' latest attempt at raiding the public coffers.
Askins is a Democrat. Askins is also a woman, and women seem to be more into the "it's all about the kids" nonsense than men. Yet she is not playing the education card. I find that fascinating.
Not long ago, we had a mayoral race in Tulsa. The Democrat in the race, Tom Adelson, even though the mayor's office has nothing to do with education, played the education card. In a public appearance, he even advocated housing subsidies for schoolteachers.
Let's see, according to Adelson, we should give part-time gubment employees a salary that beats the state average wage, we should give them free health insurance and we should give them pensions that can start at an early age and pay them for life. And we should make their mortgage payments for them, too. Marvelous.
Adelson, though a sitting state senator and a rich guy that reportedly spent nearly a million bucks of his own money on the campaign, got hammered. He got less than a third of the votes cast. The votes he got likely came largely from schoolteachers and their family members.
KOTV---to its credit---got on and stayed on the Skiatook Public Schools story. The district was found to have overpaid by half a million dollars for things like mop heads and trash cans. Instead of going down to the local Home Depot to buy such things, the district purchased them from some distributor in Oklahoma City.
It's pretty clear, in my view. The super had a deal with a crony. He routed taxpayer money---supposed education money---to his buddy in exchange for kicks. That's just one man's opinion, of course. But I'm not stupid enough to believe this was some kind of "overlook."
The school board---to its shame---did all it could to protect the super. He was not fired; he was put on paid leave. Citizens rose up and demanded the man be fired. Finally, he was terminated. But, according to reports, he's still getting paid through the end of this month.
Five years ago, I doubt KOTV would have put so much time and effort into the story. Fifteen years ago, I doubt the story would have been reported at all.
Other stories have hit the news in recent times. There was the story about the super in Marble City that embezzled a million bucks, and there was the story from OKC of the super that was using the district as his own personal ATM, charging everything to the district from cab rides to booze purchases.
You know how politicians work. They have their pollsters and their consultants and they analyze numbers in order to come up with a message they think might win the election. The fact that Askins is running a TV ad that doesn't mention education speaks volumes.
Is the public finally fed up with self-serving educators reaching into its pocket?
February 23, 2010
I-44 Bridge Kills a ManJust a couple of days ago, a huge hole developed in the deck of the I-44 bridge over 161st East Avenue. Reports said 17 cars hit the hole, sustaining damage like blown tires and bent rims. Once mechanics look at the cars, other, more expensive, problems might well be found.
I recall thinking about how lucky we were that no one died in that incident. Our luck ran out today.
Another huge hole developed in the same bridge. A semi slowed down as it approached the hole. A man driving a pickup slammed into the semi. The driver of the pickup died.
I didn't hear any specifics on the deceased, but it could well be some parent lost a son today; it could well be some wife lost a husband today; it could well be some child lost a father today. Why? Because of a crap piece of infrastructure, that's why.
The bridge in question is 52 years old. Engineers will tell you an average bridge is built to last 30 years, maybe 40 at the outside. The bridge in question is one of the most-traveled bridges in the state. The bridge in question should have been torn down and replaced 10, 15, maybe 20 years ago. But it wasn't. Why wasn't it? In a word, money.
The bridge is slated for demolition and replacement. The question is, will it stand up long enough for us to have a chance to tear it down?
I've been writing about this problem for years. I was writing about it before this blog even existed. I hope people have a bigger ear for the problem now.
From 1985 until recently, state appropriations for transportation were held, basically, static at $200 million a year. Inflation ate away at the appropriation in real terms, year after year after year. Education funding, over that time, has skyrocketed.
ODOT says there are 1,500 structurally-deficient bridges in this state. But that just tells part of the story. ODOT just talks about ODOT bridges. There are turnpike bridges, county bridges and municipal bridges in the equation as well. As an example, a city overpass in downtown Tulsa was recently demolished. It wasn't replaced. It was simply torn down because it had become too much of a safety hazard.
Let's do a little compare and contrast. I went to the web and looked at some reports about recent school bond activity in the area.
In December of '08, Jenks voted in a $153 million school bond issue. Jenks came back last year and got another $10 million.
Broken Arrow voted in a record $295 million school bond issue last year.
Union, this month, voted in a $22 million school bond issue.
Tulsa Public Schools is currently going for a record $354 million school bond issue. That vote will take place next week.
I'm going to divert out of the Tulsa area for a moment and mention Sequoyah Public Schools. That district was in one of the reports I found in the Tulsa World. That district recently approved about $14 million in school bonds. What was interesting was the allocation of the bond money. An athletic track was to be built. Renovations for an athletic facility were slated. Putting synthetic grass on an athletic field was one of the projects mentioned---at a cost of $700,000.
The report said $240,000 was going to the purchase of 3 new school buses. Dude, if we're paying $80,000 for those tin cans on wheels, we're getting screwed.
Sequoyah, I'll add, recently had its superintendent busted for embezzling a million bucks.
Another story along the same lines has broken. Skiatook schools, apparently, paid $350,000 more than it should have for janitorial supplies. Why would that happen, do ya think? Well, that wouldn't happen if educators in control of the money weren't getting greased.
But let's go back to the Tulsa area. If one assumes passage of the TPS bond issue---which is easy to do because school bond issues always pass---we're looking at 4 districts, in the Tulsa area alone, over the past couple years alone, that will be spending $834 million in borrowed money.
News reports say the I-44 bridge project is a $7 million contract. For the want of that wee bit of money, in government terms, a man just died.
The political-educational complex has blood on its hands. The educators that constantly scream for more and more of the public-funding pie have blood on their hands. Politicians that have crawled into bed with educators in search of votes and political contributions have blood on their hands. Media types that have promoted more and more money for education in search of ratings have blood on their hands.
I hope it doesn't wash off too easily.
November 17, 2009
Two Hundred No-Shows Per DaySchools are facing budget cuts; we’re all doomed! So say the plentiful local TV news reports on the matter. Of course, November is a ratings month. The political-educational complex just keeps rolling along.
It wasn’t long ago that the state’s General Fund was bulging with new money, thanks in large part to revenue collections generated by high oil and gas prices. General Fund revenue ballooned, growing from about $5 billion to $7 billion over the space of three or four years. The primary beneficiary of that revenue explosion was education.
I wrote a piece warning of likely problems with that scenario a couple of years ago. Given the history of energy booms and busts, I said the state could easily find itself a billion dollars short in a heartbeat. I have been proven right.
The new money should have been viewed as temporary at the time, and should have been appropriated for one-time expenditures such as infrastructure improvements. The state had a nearly endless supply of needed infrastructure projects from which to choose. But no, the politicians figured the money would best serve the state if it was dedicated to recurring annual expenses---like raises for educators. The political-educational complex just keeps rolling along.
Now the new money of past years is disappearing, and educators are whining like stuck pigs.
An Oklahoma Impact report last night said Governor Brad Henry had $105 million in “stimulus” money for dispersal at his discretion. Naturally, education got most of it. The political-educational complex just keeps rolling along.
I will be exceedingly glad when that education lackey we call a governor runs out the clock and takes a hike.
I will inject this point as a side note: You’re hearing about state funding cuts; you aren’t hearing about property tax revenue---which is a major source of funding for public schools. Maybe somebody in our esteemed local media would care to report on how much property tax revenue is up in the midst of the alleged grand funding crisis.
Last night, KOTV’s big story had to with Tulsa Public School’s announcement that it will eliminate paid substitutes for the rest of the year in response to state funding cuts. The district calls on parents to pick up the slack, asking them to sit on classrooms as uncompensated substitutes.
Tax, tax, tax the crap out of people in the name of education then ask them to come in and work for free. What an excellent display of brass ‘nads.
In the course of the story, anchor Terry Hood put forth a statistic that left me slack-jawed. She reported the district needs, on average, 200 substitutes a day. Two freakin’ hundred a day! Multiply that number by 180 instructional days and you come up with a staggering 36,000 instances over the course of a 9-month school year in which schoolteachers pick up the phone and say they aren’t coming to work.
Let’s have a little more fun with numbers. I don’t know how many teachers TPS has on the payroll; I think it’s somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000. If there are 36,000 call-ins per school year and there are 2,000 teachers on the payroll, we’re talking an average of 18 no-show days per teacher per school year. If you want to go with 3,000 teachers on the payroll, we’re talking an average of 12 no-show days per teacher per school year. Even if you push the number of teachers on the payroll to 4,000, we’re still talking about an average of 9 no-show days per teacher per school year.
If students don’t show up for school, it’s a big deal. But, apparently, the district has less of a problem with teachers playing hooky.
The average annual pay figure for Oklahoma schoolteachers is several thousand dollars higher than the state’s average annual wage as a whole. If I’m not mistaken, starting pay for a teacher is higher than the state’s average wage. In other words, teachers get paid like they work an entire year. But they most certainly do not. A teacher is only required to show up for work about half the calendar days in a year.
Yet on the rare occasions when teachers are supposed to go to work during a 9-month period of the year---a 9-month period that is itself laced with time off---well, hell, they just can’t make it.
Allow me to offer a solution. If a teacher takes a day off, dock that teacher a day’s pay. If teachers have to pay substitutes out of their own pockets, they’ll start showing up.
I’ll not hold my breath waiting for my proposed solution to grow legs, because the political-educational complex just keeps rolling along---and rolling all over you in the process.
September 23, 2009
KOTV and the PECKOTV’s morning show ratings must be in the tank. I say that because the station was all about education this morning. If you are in need of viewers, when all else fails, suck some educator butt.
A story was done about the HOPE initiative. I’m going to call that the DOPE initiative, because anyone that votes for it is a dope. I can’t believe that piece of trash made it to a ballot, but, apparently, it did. Oklahomans will be voting on it next November. If you would like to bankrupt yourself with tax increases, feel free to slap a yes on it.
The newly-crowned Oklahoma Teacher of the Year was in studio for a live interview. He works at Rogers High in Tulsa. Rogers was a great school, once upon a time. My mother graduated from Rogers in the ‘40s. She probably got an education there that bests the education students get from universities these days. In the now, Rogers is a dump.
Anchor LeAnne Taylor made a comment about teachers not getting the money they deserve. Sure she did. LeAnne’s mommy is a teacher.
A story was done about “stimulus” money. Of course, the station went to a school---an obscure school in Oklahoma City of which I have never heard. The principal says the “stimulus package” is a grand success.
Obama is now claiming to have saved a million jobs. That’s a claim impossible to verify. It’s just another example of politicians pulling numbers out of the air. That aside, the principal interviewed said “stimulus” money saved a whopping two jobs at his school. I imagine the jobs of which he speaks belong to a janitor and a cafeteria worker. Or, maybe one belongs to the pot-bellied security guard that sits in a chair eating Twinkies and drinking Coke a few hours a day for seven bucks an hour.
It’s the political-educational complex, baby. It never sleeps in its quest for your money.
July 19, 2009
Corporate PECI haven't written much about the political-educational complex of late. It seems our economic problems have put a bit of a muzzle on it. But it's still out there, and it will be back as soon as money becomes available.
I have written about the components of the PEC.
Of course, the educators---teachers, principals, superintendents, college profs, college administrators and coaches (I hope I haven't left anybody out)---are a part. Simply put, the more money that flows to education the more money they can put in their pockets. Naturally, for them, it's all about education.
Politicians are a part. The reason is numbers. There are an awful lot of people working in the education field. Politicians want votes and they want money.
The media---a large portion of it at least---is a part. The motivation here is the same as it is for politicians: numbers. The media lives and dies by numbers. Viewers, readers or listeners are required to attract advertisers. Money talks and BS walks, as they say.
But there is another element to the PEC that I have been remiss in not mentioning. That would be businesses that feed on education money.
Not too long ago, a story about a stink in Broken Arrow hit the news. A company, Air Assurance, was accused of billing BA Public Schools for work not done. The super was fired by the school board for bringing the matter up. A couple of school board members---I believe---have since been removed. Air Assurance denied everything. And then---somewhat conveniently---a storage barn containing Air Assurance invoices caught on fire. Amid a number of questions, it just kinda sorta accidentally caught on fire. Go figya.
I haven't seen any recent stories on the matter. But I have seen Air Assurance commercials running on local TV. Gee, do you think it's possible to buy your way out of investigative reporting in the modern age?
Me thinks most probably so.
A while back, I wrote of an episode of 'Now' on PBS. The primary discussion in that show had to do with the horrors of student loans---some 70 million people in debt to the tune of $700 billion. But right at the end of the show came another little tidbit.
A summit meeting of CEOs was held in Detroit. The meeting was supposed to search for ways to fix the economy. The comments of one CEO---the CEO of McGraw-Hill Publishing---were chosen for air. He said the fix for the economy has to do with education, education and more education.
Why do you reckon he would make such a comment?
One trip to the company's website told the story. I pulled this quote: "McGraw-Hill Education addresses virtually every aspect of the education market from pre-K through professional learning."
So a CEO that lives like a king from money he takes from a company that takes money from education sings the praises of more money for education.
If you have a brain, no more should be needed.