Tag Archives: Ohio

Dallas Moves To Honorary Ohio

With the first Republican debate happening tonight, and the race for the Presidency starting in force, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the funny little things in politics. It was widely reported that the President and Vice President were playing a round of golf with the Speaker of the House, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. After that Kasich, went back to Ohio to deal with the pressing matters of government. What pressing matters? He wanted to make fun of Lebron James.

So the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship. That’s great for them. It’s the first title in franchise history and I’m sure is very exciting for basketball fans in Dallas.

This is where it gets funny. The Dallas victory is possible more exciting for the citizens of Ohio. Still feeling bitterly betrayed by LeBron James and the manner in which he left for Miami, Cleveland Cavaliers fans are ecstatic to see Miami fall short of the championship. They are apparently so happy the Ohio Gov. John Kasich took the time to make the members of the Dallas Mavericks organization honorary Ohioans. I knew Cleveland fans were pissed when LeBron left but I had no idea that it was this bad. The Governor got involved and took Image courtesy of CNN.comshots at James in his declaration. He praised Mavericks player Dirk Nowitzki for resigning with Dallas in 2010 and, “remaining loyal to the team, city and fans for whom he played his entire career.” I think Kasich was talking about you LeBron. It would appear the government of Ohio doesn’t like public employees, but they really don’t like LeBron James.


Who Wants Be A Teacher?

“Education will not cure all the problems of society, but without it no cure for any problem is possible.” -President Lyndon Johnson

Attacking teachers is becoming an all to common occurence in this country. We all watched the protests in Wisconsin as teacher’s rights were being stripped. We know about the bills in Ohio and other states. Recently, it really hit home for me because it hit Kansas City.

Dr. John Covington is the superintendent of the Kansas City, MO school district. The KCMO district has been plagued with huge problems in the past. Dr. Covington was brought in to turn it around. He took a radical approach, that he knew would be unpopular. He drastically cut back on staff and closed around half of the districts schools. People didn’t like it, but understood the necessity for change. Now he may have gone to far. As the Kansas City Star reports, the district recently informed a large number of non-tenured teachers that their contracts would not be renewed. So the district in reducing staff, what’s the big deal? The deal is that the district isn’t reducing staff. They have a contract with Teach For America, a groups that recruits college graduates to teach for a few years in needy schools. The district plans to bring in around 150 new teachers from this program. So why did they fire teachers they already had? We don’t know. The nice thing about non-tenured teachers, in the eyes of districts, is that you don’t have to tell them why. We do know that performance was not a consideration. Dr. Covington confirmed that. So the reason had to be money. The district has budget problems and new teachers cost less than experienced teachers. While, the average pay of teachers is 55 thousand dollars a year, a first year teacher averages only 36.

This raises a question about teacher pay statistics. We’ve heard a lot recently about teachers average pay. There are a few different ways of looking at teacher pay. One is the mean average, where you add up all the teachers salaries and divide it by the number of teachers. Another way to look at it is pay per contract hour. Teachers don’t get paid by the hour exactly, but they sign a contract that says they will work this many hours for this many days. Those contracts are usually around 8 hours a day for an average school year of 180 days. If you take their salary and divide it by the number of hours you get an estimated per hour wage. I don’t like either of these ways. Pay per contract hour is ridiculous. There is no teacher in this country who doesn’t work hours outside of their contract. It’s impossible. Teachers cannot do their jobs in an 8 hour day with kids. There are papers to grade, lesson plans to develop and any number of things that have to be done outside of contract hours. Average pay is better but it is skewed by higher income teachers. In some states teachers make considerably more simply because the cost of living is higher. Usually median pay is the best way to look at salary because it gives you a better idea of the true middle. For instance if Bill Gates is in a room with 50 low wage workers, the median income will be much smaller than the mean. It is also a more accurate view of that group. Median teacher income in this country varies by state but is somewhere between 40-43 thousand dollars a year. That’s not a bad salary by any means, but the media representation has been that teachers are living the high life. They’re not. They are living very middle class lives.

I could go on and on about teacher pay and teacher rights but there is an underlying point here. Teachers do get better benefits than the average worker in this country. They are paid decently. If we continue to hack away at those facts we will find ourselves in a difficult spot. If we continue to take away the incentives that bring people to teaching, are we going to have enough teachers in the future?

The fact is that we need teachers. There are 49 million public school students spread across 98 thousand public schools. Someone has to take on the job of educating them. The truth is not everybody wants to be a teacher. There are those who think of teaching as a calling. Education is sacred to them and they want to go out and teach the world. There aren’t enough of them. We have 3 million teachers in this country and not all of them chose teaching. Many see it as a transition from college to a career. That’s what Teach For America is all about. Those people agree to teach for a couple of years in needy schools. After that couple of years they might quit and move on to what they originally wanted to do. Some of them may find that they really like teaching but another career may offer them more. If we want to have any hope of retaining those some of those teachers we’re going to have to give them a reason to stay. A decent income and guaranteed pension might be a enough of a reason. Taking away those things is reason to leave teaching. In Wisconsin, they are seeing far more retirements than usual. Educators are leaving in droves to make sure they get the retirement benefits they’ve been promised.

In the state of the Union speech, the President said we need to “out-educate” the rest of the world. Can we out educate the world when the total amount of money spent on education at all levels of government doesn’t even equal what the federal government spends on defense? In 2010, the Department of Education had a budget of 64 billion dollars. After you remove Pell grants, they only had 48 billion dollars. Imagine if what we spent on education was equal to what we spend on defense. Somewhere around 700 billion dollars to train teachers, build schools, and send kids to college.  We live in a time where Congressman and Senators sound like the government does too much, when it actually does far, far, too little. Maybe we should look to history and something Lyndon Johnson said:

” So we must give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from. Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty. But more classrooms and more teachers are not enough. We must seek an educational system which grows in excellence as it grows in size. This means better training for our teachers. It means preparing youth to enjoy their hours of leisure as well as their hours of labor. It means exploring new techniques of teaching, to find new ways to stimulate the love of learning and the capacity for creation.”

The “love of learning and the capacity for creation.” We don’t talk like that anymore.  We need to add incentives and bring in new teachers, not take them away. You often hear that certain professions need to be paid top dollar. A company needs to pay their CEO millions to attract the “best and the brightest.” Shouldn’t we want the “best and the brightest” passing on all the knowledge they have? Shouldn’t we want the “best and the brightest” in our classrooms. An average teacher makes 43 thousand dollars a year and is being treated like they shouldn’t ask the government for so much. Yet, that CEO really needs more stock options.  If we want to know why education this country is consistently ranked lower than others look at how we treat educators.  If we truly valued education we would spend hundreds of billions of dollars and pay teachers more, build better schools, do more research into how to teach, and build better teacher education programs. Then we might see real results in education.

Wisconsin Battle is Over. Who Really Won?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finally got his way. His budget bill that strips collective bargaining rights from public employees is headed for his desk. Ohio Governor John Kasich will sign a similar bill. Other states are sure to follow. It’s unfortunate that the Tea party fervor and Democratic apathy in 2010 has led to this. In the back of my mind I can’t help but think, Gov. Walker may have won today, but will he win in the end?

I don’t think this move played well for Scott Walker. I think it was bad politics. As the protests continued, the Governor was losing public support. At one point polls showed the 2010 election would have had the opposite result were it held now. Walker could have been the good guy. He put up a bill and people protested. The unions agreed to concessions as long as they were allowed to keep bargaining rights. He refused to compromise. Democrats fled the state and prevented a vote. He still refused. He could have accepted a compromise and looked like a statesman and a leader to the people of Wisconsin. He didn’t. In refusing he forced himself into a corner and looked like the bad guy. Sure to the right he’s a hero. To the left he’s a villan, but what is he to the middle? That’s where he loses.

Political battles are won and lost in the middle. It’s the independents who matter. Walker could have looked like a great guy to the middle. A governor who is really ready to tackle a budget. A governor who is willing to set ideology aside to solve the problem. Now pictures of teachers standing up for their rights are all over the media, and Scott Walker is the guy who refuses to budge. John Kasich knew this was a thin line. He made a point that he wanted the signing of his bill to be low-key. The Ohio bill doesn’t reach as far as the Wisconsin bill, and Kasich still didn’t want to cause any stir.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years. The Supreme Court ruled last year that corporations could spend as much as they wanted on political activities. That ruling also applied to unions. 2012 and 2014 could be years in which places like Wisconsin and Ohio are hotspots for union spending. The NEA, AFT, and AFSCME are all likely to be very interested in defeating politicians like Scott Walker.

Russ Feingold could be the big winner in all of this. Wisconsin took a swing to the right in the last election. I think it’s going to be swinging back and former Senator is a liberal icon in the state. If he has his eyes set on Madison, this might just be the time.