Saturday, February 9, 2008

In The Best Interest of the District

The Columbus Dispatch reported this morning that the Hilliard Education Association (HEA) has voted 1,118 to 41 to reject the latest contract offer from the School Board.

What really surprised me is the reasoning given by Rick Strater, president of the teachers' union: "We felt that a longer, better offer was not necessarily in the best interest of the school district." The Dispatch article goes on to say the union leadership felt the district wouldn't be able to afford the deal as offered if the upcoming levy is rejected. The union says they've proposed a two-year contract with smaller raises instead.

In other words, the union's position is that they really want to take less money than the district is offering in order to protect jobs.

That has a very noble ring to it. I also think it's a load of crap. I mean seriously, have you ever heard of a labor negotiation in which one of the parties said "no wait, you're offering too much!" ?

There is a lot more in play in this negotiation. The big item is the contribution the teachers are being asked to make toward their health insurance costs. Earlier this year, the members of OAPSE (representing non-teaching district employees), agreed to pay 6% of their premiums in 2008, 8% in 2009 and 10% in 2010. My understanding is that the teachers were offered substantially the same deal.

So Mr. Strater isn't telling us the whole story until he discloses what the HEA counter-offered in terms of health insurance contributions. For example, did the HEA say that they would accept smaller increases than offered by the Board, but also contribute less to their health insurance costs?

Why would the teachers' union suggest a shorter contract term than that offered by the Board? There can be a couple of reasons.

One is that the HEA always has the stronger position in these negotiations. The community either gives the HEA what they want, or they take it out on our kids. First with the 'work to the contract' job actions as are going on now, and culminating with a full-fledged teacher strike in which thousands of parents have to figure out how to take care of kids who are home instead of in school. If a strike lasts long enough, many families will have to adjust summer plans if the school year is extended.

The stronger party always wants to get to the bargaining table as often as possible. The thinking is that if conditions deteriorate, the stronger party still cannot be forced to give up much at a negotiation, while if the situation is better than anticipated (ie the levy passes and a large cash surplus builds up), the stronger party wants a chance to get in there and get some of the treasure.

Another reason for the shorter term on this agreement is that it gives the union the chance to negotiate again before another levy goes on the ballot. The School Board has already said that they expect expenses (i.e. salaries and benefits) to continue rising at a pace that will require another levy to be added on no later than 2011. I think they will be lucky if they can wait that long, and that 2010 is more likely. In either case, negotiating before a levy is put on the ballot is always better for the union than waiting and taking the risk that it fails.

I've been writing for months about the Perfect Storm bearing down on our community. Well, now it's here.

The school leadership has failed to educate the community effectively about school funding, and why it is that Hilliard homeowners are shouldering 100% of the growth in our school budget. That alone will make getting the levy passed very difficult.

They also waited until the last minute to ask the community for more money (in the form of the March levy), and it's going to create a fair amount of pain if it doesn't pass.

And now the teachers' union has decided to make its stand on contributing to health insurance costs, while the rest of the people of the community are worrying about the economy and their jobs.

This is like our own little Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope there are some calm heads on both sides who can dial down the tension and bring this to a satisfactory resolution for all.


  1. It seems to me that the teacher's union has lost touch with reality. Not sure why they think they can expect not to contribute to their health insurance with what is going on in the rest of the economy. How many families of their student's can say the same thing? Guaranteed raises and free health care, all on the backs of taxpayer's, the majority of whom struggling with lack of both? I can't wait for the next statement from the union saying how the bottom line is "it's all about the kids". The teacher's union has become a selfish, greedy, entity completely out of touch with the families they claim to "support". I and many other's I know are voting "NO" on this levy.

  2. I was a bit surprised to see that in the Issue 26 literature I received Friday, there was FAQ part in which they asked why the need for additional funds when you get more property tax from new houses. They said that the average house contributes .8 kids and that property taxes from that house won't come close to the cost of educating that child.

    So at last the school district has pointed out, if buried in the literature, that development is driving this. I guess it's a start.

  3. Indeed. Now they need to take the next step - to shift from acting like victims to acting like leaders by mobilizing the community to put pressure on Schonhardt and the City Council to make protecting the economic viability of the school district their top priority.

  4. Response from email today about teachers working to contract:

    Oh. My. God.

    Time for a new batch of teachers, if you ask me. You know, maybe they need to go see what it's like to pay for health insurance. Maybe they need to learn how many other employers expect you to actually work five days a week all year round.

    Maybe they need to experience seeing their livelihoods evaporate because their selfish attitudes are causing consumers to flee in droves, leaving a whole lot of teachers that we don't need anymore because our schools have become the option of last resort for educating our children.

    I'm so sick of this entitlement-driven crap, I could just puke.

    Nobody ever said that teaching is an easy job. I respect the work that many of these people do, and I know I'd have a hard time doing it myself. But my job's hard too. So are the jobs of the people who are out in the freezing cold picking up their garbage, or fix their BMW's, or staff the ER when these teachers show up to use their free health insurance.

    If any one of these poor, downtrodden, put-out, victimized teachers could explain why they've got it so much worse than anyone else who's out there busting their butts every day to put a roof over their family's head, I'd love to hear it.

    Or, they could just shut up and get a different job.

    Please vote NO for the levy to tell the teachers we've had enough and they can start to contribute to their own healthcare costs and over the top raises. Enough is enough.

  5. I'm with you. I have to pay increases in healthcare every year. I don't get guaranteed raises and I don't have the option of working to the "contract hours" if my boss doesn't give me what I want. If the teachers strike they will work over the summer right along with the kids being in school! Then everyone will be unhappy!

  6. Right on, man! I am totally right there with your blog and comments! Nothing excites me more than people standing up to those good-for-nothing, lazy, self-entitled teachers!

    I am truly delighted when people pick and choose the comments out of various media sources to support their own narrow-minded opinions. It's so much easier to just read the facts as YOU see it instead of actually looking at both sides of an argument. And who has times to look at both sides anyway, right? I mean, you're all out - how was it so eloquently uttered? - "busting your butts to put a roof over [your] family's heads," right? I'm sure that's nothing those teachers know about.

    I know, too, how terribly exhilerating it is to be so self-righteous about how hard YOU work, about how much taxes YOU pay, about how YOUR family is the only family suffering, while those glorified babysitters deal with the myriad of issues our community's children bring into the schools' doors everyday. I mean, we could do their job with our eyes closed. They only teach the content of 5-6 subjects (and those lay-about secondary teachers - they only have to know ONE content area! Piece of cake!). I think we are as able-bodied to deal with the poverty, broken homes, mental/physical abuse, gifted/talented, multiple languages and cultures, autism, etc. of our own children.

    In fact, why don't we all just home school our kids? I mean, we know as much as those so-called "professional teachers," right? We all have college degrees in early childhood, elementary education, secondary education, special education, second language education, physical therapy, counseling and family services, English, physics, dance, music, etc. So some of them have advanced degrees and Nationa Board Certification. Nothing a library card can't fix, right?

    Honestly, it would prove those teachers right if we just abandoned this ship of public education right now and go back to the "old ways" of doing things, eh? Segregation, religious-based education, the geocentric model of the universe. You know, Jonathan Swift's proposal of the Irish eating their children as a way to stave off hunger during the famine was not a bad idea either, come to think of it....

  7. Why do all the articles in the local newspapers, and all the figures cited in the levy brochure, call the raises 3% when it appears the "step increases" of 4% per year will still be in effect? They are trying to pull the wool over our eyes, and it totally disgusts me. 7% raises and fully paid benefits, on the backs of the taxpayers who are probably absorbing their own increases in health insurance, is ridiculous. Hopefully when the levy goes down to a resounding defeat the union will get a grip on reality and figure out that they cannot bleed the taxpayers in this manner. I appreciate the education my kids have gotten in the HSD but as soon as my youngest graduates, I am out of here. I fully believe that my home value is going to actually go down due to the projected high costs and future promised levies - it is time for a full scale tax revolt in the Hilliard School District. Any teachers out there want to buy my house? You will soon be the only ones who can afford it.

  8. dkl, if you MUST use analogies, please try to make them pertinent, at least. Otherwise you seem ridiculous.

  9. Really, "anonymous"? Ridiculous? Perhaps someone needs a lesson in the definitin of "satire" and "sarcasm"? Or perhaps you were paying attention in school when your overpaid teachers were explaining what these meant?

    Yes, they WERE ridiculous analogies, but I was merely doing so to illustrate the point of how a "ridiculous" and illogical stream of thought, such as yours and Mr. Lambert's, can lead to the over-the-top ridiculous ideas that have led our world into countless acts of stupidity, terrorism, and violence.

    Next time I'm giving a lecture on this again, I'll be sure to send YOU the Cliff's notes.

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  11. nonewtaxes....

    You can sale your house and move into Bradley High School. Because when this levy fails it will be a vacant building because we, the brilliant public, will have voted down the operating money of this new school. So Davidson and Darby will continue to be overcrowded, or worse; forced to split sessions, while the new Bradley high school will be a nice free home to you. It's worth $65 Million. And believe me, its value will go WAY down once it's built with no operating funds.

    Good call on voting against the levy.

  12. If what you're saying is true--and I don't doubt it--the HEA is living in a dreamworld. Paying less than 10% of premiums is unheard of. They should take the longer deal with 10% and consider themselves fortunate.

    But those who say they're voting no for this reason are not thinking clearly. Talk to your school board. This isn't armed robbery. The board has to agree to whatever contract the teachers ask for. Why blame the teachers for the board not having a spine?

    I'm always amazed at the hostility some have towards teachers who are negotiating for the best deal they can get. I'm sure those people approach their employers and say, "just pay me whatever the public thinks I should earn." Yeah, lawyers do that don't they. So do doctors. Writers.


  13. Dave:

    I think it's back to the disclosure issue. The public tends to think teachers work for subsistence wages and take tiny raises. Now they're finding out that they average $50,000/yr, get 7% raises, don't pay on their health insurance, get the summers off and can retire in their mid-50s with 66% of their final pay as a lifetime pension.

    Suddenly lots of folks have begun to wonder if they've been duped all these years. They're finding out that teachers actually have a pretty good deal, and now in this crummy economy to be asked to cough up more tax money to pay them even more seems greedy.

    The "work to the contract" job actions by the teachers are just making it worse.

    Reminds me of the concepts of that old classic "I'm OK, You're OK" - both parties have dropped to Child mode, and Child-Child negotiations just never go well.

  14. As I understand it the teachers are not at all, nor have they ever been, opposed to paying a portion of their health insurance costs. That is an untruth reported to the media coming from the Board of Education. The HEA is simply asking that the Board give them a straightforward dollar amount that they will be responsible for, rather than a percentage of an unknown premium.

  15. I understand, and it's a valid point of negotiation. We're figuring out how to apportion risk.

    Let's say that the premium for a typical teacher and family would be $1000 per month in the first year, $1100 per month in the second year, and $1200 per month in the third year.

    The offer from the School Board, representing the voters of the community, is that in the first year the teacher would pay $60/mo, in the second year $88/mo, and in the third year $120 per month.

    It is not clear what the HEA proposed, but the form of their current agreement is that the District pays 100% of the premium unless the premium is in excess of the negotiated amount, in which case the HEA member would pay half the increase.

    So let's say the HEA negotiated $1000 for the first year, $1050 for the second year, and $1100 for the third year.

    Under the form of the current contract, the HEA member would pay nothing in the first year, $25 in the second year (50% of the difference between $1100 and $1050), and $50 in the third year.

    But if the HEA negotiated $1000, $1100 and $1200, the members wouldn't pay anything in any of the years.

    There's no right answer - it's all a negotiation. Let's just be clear what it means.

  16. Paul,

    Do you honestly believe that the citizens of Hilliard are "duped" into believing that teachers are undercompensated? Do you really think they ALL think teachers are hardworking? I hate to break it to you, but for the 60% or so of the Hilliard population who do not have children, they have zero respect and appreciation for what Hilliard teachers do. Their basic mantra is "I don't have kids, so why should I care?"

    So, don't feel that you have to stand up for your fellow man, here. They have all bought into the "teacher myth": overpaid, babysitters, only work 180 days/yr, summers off, long lunch time/planning time off, etc. And there's nothing the media, or frankly you, are telling them which is making them believe otherwise. Truthfully, they don't want to be told something that will make them feel grateful for the free, compulsory public education they and our children were/are lucky to have. They just want to know who to blame when tax time comes around.

    I'm just really unsure of why you believe your blog is giving these aforementioned folks something they don't already believe when you are really just preaching to the choir.

  17. DKL:

    Yes, frankly, most people I talk to are surprised when they come to understand the full compensation program for the teachers. I fault the School Board for that - they should have done a much better job of educating the public about school economics.

    It's the surprise that the problem, not the absolute numbers. Had it been the policy to publish the pay tables from each new HEA contract the day the contract was signed, the surprise would have been lessened.

    Had the School Board made it a practice to publish the Treasurer's Five Year Forecast in the local papers each year, or in the newletter that gets mailed to everyone, people would been able to see the trends in revenue and expenses and then perhaps would have asked questions that might have kept us from getting in this mess.

    Instead, the all the school leaders have been careful to NOT go out their way to communicate any of these numbers. And now we're seeing the consequences - a lack of trust at the exact time the school leadership (Board, Administrators and union leaders) needs it most.


  18. Paul,

    I commend your belief in our fellow citizens, and I agree somewhat with the lack of communication of the board in informing people on how teachers are compensated, but my question is (because I honestly do not know), are all public, i.e., state employees' salaries open for public knowledge? Including police offers, public librarians, ODOT workers, and college professors (I mean, OSU, is a state supported college, therefore I would think the professors there are state employees)? I know that people are more interested in what public school teachers get than the other occupations as the public is directly impacted via levies and bond issues, but if we have the "right" to know one, do we not have the right to know them all?

    And then for that matter, what would we do once we do know what all those state employees make? Start asking them for a balance sheet of each day's work to make sure we are "getting our money's worth"? I don't think most of the general public would be able to discriminate that teachers' salaries and the levies are due more to the adminstration/union's fault. They would blame it on the teacher and, again, proclaim how "lazy" teachers are. Again, I am not saying we are a "dumb" country; I am saying we are a very "who's to blame" kind of society, where we want to fingerpoint instead of problem solve.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything personally against publically publishing what teachers make. I just don't think most people would be able to interpret the findings as you do, anymore than most of us would know what to do if had the salaries of every member of Congress in front of us. Honestly, the whole problem with school funding ends with our own administration's failures, but begins at the federal level and the deplorable way in which our president has funded public schooling and increased the public's mania over one-shot standardized test results. All most people care about and understand is can our students score "X" percentage on the OAT/OGT, because that is what our leaders have told them to worry about. And they are gullible enough to swallow it.

    I guess the thing that irritates me the most is when the "anonymouses" speak of the self-entitlement and egocentricity of teachers, when it is some of the general public who are truly egocentric. Look at the campaign literature being dropped about the levy. It has to focus mostly on how the levy will be good for YOU, the voter, not the community. Vote for the levy and it will help YOUR property tax, it will protect YOUR family. Very little about how it will help the integrity of the community. Many people simply don't care anymore to do something that requires some self-sacrifice because it's the right thing to do. If they do not get anything tangible out of it, then they are vehemently against it. If they believe THEY will be hurt, they are outraged and want to know "who's to blame".

    I am not saying all teachers are Mother Teresa's and all public citizens are selfish opportunists, but that, A) no one goes into teaching because of the great salary and benefits, and B) someone paid for YOUR education once upon a time, so it's time for YOU out there - even those of you with no children in Hilliard schools - to pony up and pay for someone else's.

  19. DKL:

    To my knowledge, the compensation of every public employee is a matter of public record. For example, I requested and received a copy of the newly signed OAPSE agreement. The HEA already has their current agreement on their website. I think the next step might be to publish the list of all Administrative salaries.

    I have to agree that school funding isn't working right, but I don't see the logic of people thinking there should be local administrative control of schools yet state or national funding. Seems like the scope of control should match the source of funding. In the current scheme of things, it would seem that the best deal for Hilliard is local administrative control and as much local funding as possible. Any other solution that's likely to be implemented will cost us more and return less.

    But if we want the State of Ohio to fund our schools, we should abolish local school districts and go to a state-wide consolidated system where any kid can attend any school. It works well at the post-secondary level (ie no one dictates which college you attend), why not at the primary and secondary levels as well?

    I could actually be in favor of such a system, because it would function much the same as my preferred solution: vouchers. And I don't mean vouchers for some - vouchers for everyone. Parents can send their kids to any accredited school, and the voucher would represent 100% of the tuition. I like a voucher system because it would force schools to serve kids or lose them - along with their funding. But you get the same thing with a statewide system with open enrollment as long as the funding follows the kids (and I understand that we have to solve the question of funding the extra costs associated with special needs kids).

    There would be no more wealthy enclaves that achieve socioeconomic segregation every bit as effectively as existed fifty years ago.

    Sadly, it turns out that many wealthy and middle-class folks very much like their segregated schools. Just read some of the comments people made during the redistricting effort.

    Don't be so sure that it's the only empty nesters that oppose this levy. People are willing to invest in their kids if they think the money is well spent, but there are plenty of people with kids in the District who no longer feel that is true.

  20. Paul,

    In theory, your idea of an open enrollment system, where anyone can go anywhere they like, is certainly democratic and seems fair. In practice, however, I believe that we would still have disparity, because while we may change who is allowed to go where, we cannot change the set-up of suburban neighborhoods nor attitudes of the people who live there.

    Former teacher and write Jonathan Kozol in his book "Savage Inequalities" discusses some of these same ideas. We in our comfortable middle-class suburbs who want to help and make everything equal think if we just merely open the doors for everyone, everyone will come and be made welcome. The reality is that the very kids and parents who would benefit from coming to a good district like Hilliard would not come or would not be made welcome. I am not saying the teachers or even the other students would make them feel unwelcome, but the surrounding community would.

    For example, if such a wonderful voucher program existed and our kids could go anywhere they wanted, how long do you think it would be before a large portion of citizens in Rich Community X began to believe (unjustly or justly) that the influx of these "new kids" was negatively affecting their kids and their property values, and would then simply pack up and leave in "white flight" fashion, make another community elsewhere, where they establish a private school where they can pick and choose who comes. And not only who comes, but who works there, with more tempting salaries, benefits, and other extra compensations of brand new facilities. How could the "newly integrated" public schools function with the top teachers and most of the top students, leaving?

    And who would fill the schools that were failing to begin with? Who would choose to go there? Yet again, there would be fighting to get into the best schools, and once they're filled, what then for those who were left out because they did not have the time or opportunity or access to apply early enough? What would happen to, for instance, class sizes in the "good" school districts? From 20:1, it may jump from 35:1. The addition of 15 extra students, some of whom may come with multiple abilities (even disabilities) and needs, would greatly impact the previous performance of that once "good" school.

    And then, in these "newly integrated" schools, with their new set of students (and thusly, new problems), what happens if they do not "serve the kids"? They get punished. How? By taking the good kids away, by stripping them of funding, etc. And suddenly, our grand idea of this whole voucher-equal schools idea is right back to the disparity we have now.

    I think vouchers seem very tempting because they seem to equalize things out for everyone, but in truth, vouchers are more of a way for those who want public education to fail (especially those who would benefit financially from an increase in the number of voucher schools) to fail absolutely. Rather than fix the leak, it is abandoning the ship altogether. This idea of "it's already broken and bad, so let's just start over" may work in the business world, but is not feasible in the education world.

    I am not saying that I do not believe in your idea of a democratic school system where we all get to go where we want. I just don't think going to vouchers is going to solve all of our public education problems. And, yes, while it is true that we are not dictated where we go to school in post-secondary, we aren't all granted equal access to any college we want. Otherwise, we could all go to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. But because of things like application fees, test scores, and writing samples, the "good" are separated from the "not so good".

    I think one real solution (certainly not the only) to fixing disparity is giving the failing rural/urban schools more funding than the rich suburban schools to help them succeed and not be "low performing". These schools need and deserve more because, as Kozol says, equal funding for unequal needs is not fair or equal. I find it so sad and amusing that we punish already low-performing schools for doing just that, performing low. Would you punish someone for digging too small a hole when all you gave him was a spoon? Then why punish low schools when we haven't given them the right "tools" to fix their problems? I am not saying we should leave rich suburban schools high and dry, but let's face: they're already rich because of their geography, and the rural/urban schools are in their situation because of geography as well.

    We would all like to think that money won't solve any of our educational problems, but try telling that to kids in rural or urban schools who have schools with poor heating/air conditioning, no music/art/PE classes, and out-dated textbooks. These kids and teachers know that money, at least in this case, makes a HUGE difference.

  21. DKL:

    I can agree with much of what you say - that we cannot legislate bigotry out of existence, nor can we prevent those with the means from getting what they want.

    I have no problems with our country having a philosophy that there is a safety net through which we won't let anyone fall. I think the question is how comfortable it should be to stay in that safety net. In my opinion, it is too comfortable right now.

    I've had the chance to be part of a team that built four Habitat for Humanity houses here in Columbus. All but one was for an immigrant family. Frankly, that troubled me. Here we were building brand new, good quality houses in the midst of poverty neighborhoods and giving them to folks who had just got off the plane from Africa. I had an African-American gentleman in one neighborhood ask me why we were giving houses to 'foreigners' when there were so many people in that neighborhood who needed a better home.

    That misconception about Habitat is also the answer. Habitat doesn't give houses to anyone. The family which gets a house has to be able to make mortgage, insurance and utility payments on that house, meaning there must be a source of income. One house we built was for a man who was a doctor in his home country, but still feared for the safety of his children. He was packing boxes in the shipping department at Roxanne Labs, shoulder to shoulder with other immigrants. Far beneath his training and ability (including fluency in four languages), but what it took to take care of his family.

    That guy who complained about the 'free house' was on government subsidy, and spent his time complaining instead of working on the packing line with the doctor. Our social support system had failed him by taking away the incentive to take charge of his own economic wellbeing.

    I'm reading "The Box" by Levinson right now. It tells how the shipping container has made the movement of goods so cheap that a producer can seek the cheapest labor market on the planet and not worry about transportation costs. Our choices are clear: seal the borders and cut off imports (which also means losing our export markets), or accepting that we're in a world labor market and that American wages and benefits are going to equalize with the rest of the world.

    The immigrants who come here and take low-paying production jobs are saving the US manufacturing sector. Until folks suck up their pride and take those jobs, our unemployment is going to climb.

    It is unfathomably unlikely that our country can have 300 million people employed in high-paying professional positions. We need to have people employed in manufacturing to have a viable economy.

    I remember in a world economics class learning that one of the definitions of low-end economy is that their primary source of income is the extraction of natural resources. Go down into southern West Virginia sometime where they are removing entire mountains and shipping the coal overseas and tell me that's not where we're heading. We used to use that coal in our own steel plants. But they're gone too.

    Nor can we keep taxing those who are doing well to support those who won't do at all.

    Things are out of balance all over. Maybe it's the end times for the American empire because the things that need to be done to bring us back into balance are so painful that they won't even be attempted.

    I'd like to think that's not the case. But I think we need a swift kick in the butt.


  22. Paul,

    I agree there are many living in impoverished areas who are doing nothing but complaining. These folks do need to try to do something to improve the bleak state of their lives instead of waiting for others to do it for them.

    Unfortunately, there is an equally high number of people in the same area working as hard as they can and yet still cannot make ends meet. Read "Nickle and Dimed" by Barbara Enrhenrich (think I spelled last night right) and "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. Both give great insight into the American working class who are doing the best they can working any job (usually multiple ones) but due to the structure of major corporations whom they are working for (namely, McDonald's and Wal-mart), they are unable to make ends meet no matter how many hours they work, suffer from stress injuries which the companies won't compensate them for and are then unable to work any job, or are replaced by teenagers or other workers who will take less money. These companies function on the idea of what you said, cheap labor, importing foreign goods, and high turnover. And both of the formerly mentioned companies started right here in the good old USA.

    I also once felt as you did with the whole "Just get out there and work and stop complaining." But for many, they are not complaining, they are working, working so much, in fact, they have no time to complain, or even, to rally for themselves to pull themselves out of their situation. I don't think it's that everyone in an impoverished situation does not want to get out (I'm sure there are many who don't care or are fine with receiving welfare the rest of their lives, which is not something that I find acceptable), but they do not have the tools (financial, emotional, educational) to GET out. It's easy for us in middle class America to pick up and move up as we need to, but not so for the large majority of the lower to poverty level classes.

    The old American spirit of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, hard work = upward mobility/better opportunity, how our ancestors the pioneers made their way despite all odds, etc. are all still alive and well, but unfortunately, this dream does not work for many who want to believe it. And not because they are not motivated enough, but because they are locked in a system purposely set up to allow them to fail. When equal access (notice I did not say opportunity; access is quite different) is purposely denied people, then what choice do they have but to continue in the status quo?

    I do believe that public assistance needs to be revamped so that the truly desiring folks are getting food stamps, WIC, etc. But taking it away from everyone to teach them a lesson or force them to work harder is not the solution. All this will do is excerbate the state of affairs for the people who are doing the best they can. It is similar to punishing low performing schools for being low performing. Sure, let's take away money from those who need it most. It will force those schools to do better. Do better with what? Insufficient classrooms, insufficient textbooks, overcrowded classrooms? How do you honestly do better with THAT?

    We could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say we will agree to disagree on this topic.

  23. DKL:

    I suspect that we agree on a lot, especially that there remains plenty of work to be done to repair the social fabric of our country.

    But the question we need to ask isn't why McDonalds and Wal-Mart don't pay better, it's what happened to the steel mills, auto plants, and electronics manufacturing?

    The reasons are complex, but part of it is that free trade and cheap shipping has changed everything. Workers in Franklin County OH are competing with folks in Shanghai China and Bangalore India for jobs, and the other guys are winning.

    The old joke is that we're in a recession when a neighbor loses his job. If I lose mine, we're in a depression.

    Which circles back to the original topic of this thread. Many people who are in angst about the security of their own jobs and the economic viability of their own families are very impatient with government workers such as the teachers complaining about their raises or how much they might have to contribute to health insurance.

    I'm not being critical of teacher pay and benefits, nor am I saying they don't work hard and love our kids.

    All I'm saying is that they're not being very empathetic to economic stress on the rest of the people in our community. And that's putting the traditionally supportive relationship at risk.

    I'm not sure the teachers understand the magnitude of the gamble they're taking.