Rick Hess director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute blames retirees pensions and health benefits for the problems in education. (rough draft)

Mr. Hess was on Jeb Bush’s blog Redefined Education having
a chat moderated by the ReDefined Ed staff. The toughest question they asked
him was, how is your day going?
When answering a question about for profits putting profits
first he answered,
Well, sure. That’s always a concern. Of course, I trust
Patricia recognizes that there are plenty of public school districts that fail
to put needs of students and parents first. The point is that for-profits are
not uniquely culpable, and that they have strengths as well as weaknesses.
I wondered if he could give some examples of school districts
not putting kids and parents first and he answered:
Sure, take a look at health care and pension obligations in
cities like Detroit or Philadelphia that are starving classrooms in order to
make things comfortable for retirees. Look at procurement systems and HR departments
that have avoided hard choices, throwing money at mediocre vendors and failing
to get serious about evaluating or improving employee performance. These things
are difficult and unpleasant, so the status quo is allowed to linger.
Where do I start? Am I wrong or is he saying that giving
health care and pensions to teachers who gave a lifetime of service is a poor
policy for school districts and that it robs from kids and parents. His dig
about procurement systems is a bit of a stretch, yes I think school districts
often choose crappy books but they choose them from for profit companies, which
Hess was on Redefined Ed to promote. Then he goes into the tired old blame the
teacher argument. Are their teachers that have chosen the wrong field? Sure just
like there are probably
directors of education policy studies at the
American Enterprise Institute too.
I want to go back to what he blamed first and that’s the
health benefits and pensions of people who dedicated their lives to children.
That’s what we are battling against here, people who have no respect or
appreciation for their service. Lets not forget that they often gave up on
higher pay for better benefits and a pension too. People like Hess would see
teachers have none of them.
I asked a follow up question, I have read the average teacher retiree
in Detroit makes 19k a year that hardly seems like we are making them
comfortable after a lifetime of service. Philadelphia’s problems also seem to
come from decades of mismanagement at the state and local level. Those two
examples aside, do you think pensions are a problem in education as they divert
funds from classrooms?
To which he replied, Yeah, you might want to take another
look at the Detroit data. That figure is way off for a retiree who retired with
25 yrs. Look, the point is not that pensions are good or are bad. It’s
reasonable for people to want the pensions they’ve been promised, and we all
like good benefits. But retirement obligations are carving huge chunks out of
K-12 outlays (look at the Pew work on unfunded obligations and what that’ll
mean for states over the next decade or two). Public systems tend to be bad at
resisting these demands, because nobody likes to be a bad guy. For-profits have
self-reasons to keep those retirement obligations under control, which has the
happy result of ensuring that more funds are going into salary for practicing
teachers and into classrooms.
Once again he says where teachers wanting them isn’t unreasonable
teacher pensions are the problem. He then added for profits make sure more
money goes into salaries which we know to be a total lie as charters and the
private schools in strip malls usually pay quite a bit less than public schools
do. So yeah, I might need to look up how much Mrs. McGillicutty who taught for
30 years in Detroit is receiving but he needs to look up how much for profit
schools are paying their staffs too. Who wants to best I am closer to the
He then went on to praise Jeb Bush and Tony Bennett and I
went on to throw up in my mouth a little.

So there you have it friends, the pensions and health
benefits of people who dedicated their lives to children are two of the biggest
stumbling blocks to improving education. After all they divert money from our
classrooms and lets just forget teachers often traded pay for pensions and
benefits, that way we will be able to sleep at night as Mrs. McGillicutty eats
her cat food and lives in the back room of her daughters house. 

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