Dangerous Game of Chicken in Wisconsin

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WisconsinThe headline in the Woodland Daily Democrat’s AP story was misleadingly labeled, “Collective bargaining for state workers in jeopardy.”  In reality, the story was about a Republican State Assemblymember, Allan Mansoor of Costa Mesa, who is introducing a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for pension benefits by California’s public employees.

The long and the short of it, there is a better chance of snow this weekend in Davis than this bill passing.

“I stand with the legislators in the Midwest who are taking brave steps to stand with the citizens,” Mansoor said in a telephone interview. “It’s very hard to rein things in under the current process. Pensions are out of control. They have to be brought back in line with the private sector.”

There is a legitimate concern about pensions as we have reported for several years now, but this is not the way to deal with the problem.

The real danger in this bill is what happens if California, along with local communities, does not deal with its pension problem in a quick and decisive manner.  The real potential is for such a bill to get introduced as a ballot initiative, but even then it would be a long shot.

What is happening in Wisconsin is a high stakes game of chicken.  By raises the stakes, Governor Walker of Wisconsin is running some real risks.  The danger for Democrats and state employees is that if nothing gets down, the voter might be more willing to consider draconian approaches.

However, right now, the public may be turning away from him and all he is really doing is energizing union and public employees – groups that were largely inactive in the last election cycle that saw tremendous Republican gains.

Just as President Obama’s moves are activating conservative tea party members, Governor Walker may be activating more liberal union members.

Conservatives probably took some solace when a Rasmussen Poll found that 48 percent of “likely voters” agreed with Governor Walker while 38 agreed more with the state employees.

However, Rasmussen has been scrutinized in the last election for biasing its sample and they may have biased their respondents in the construction of that poll, according to Nate Silver, a polling guru.

The Gallup and USA Today poll found public disapproval of the idea of stripping the ability of public unions to have collective bargaining rights.  It is by a wide margin.  61 percent of all adults oppose the plan, and Independents oppose it by a 2-1 margin.  Only Republicans like the idea and even that is relatively close at 54-41.  Other polls released this week back up this finding.

More importantly to Wisconsin itself, Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that “the polling so far suggests to [University of Wisconsin polling expert Charles Franklin that] Walker may have lost some ground on the issue as it has shifted from a debate over getting public employees to contribute more to their benefits to a debate over taking away collective bargaining rights.”

“I thought he won easily on the benefits (issue) but … the Democrats really achieved their goal by delaying things as long as they did. They allowed the issue to change from ‘modest givebacks on benefits’ and turn it into ‘destroying collective bargaining rights.’  And (Walker) is on much weaker ground with the public there,” said Professor Franklin. 

In our view that makes sense.  The voters, not just in Wisconsin, but also in California, are supportive of the idea that public employees need to contribute more to their benefits.  In fact, that is what we have been arguing here in Davis for several years.

The problem comes with the idea of actually taking away collective bargaining rights.

Governor Walker, thus, has moved the debate from where Republicans may have had the very clear upper hand even among Democrats, to where most people think the policy goes too far.

We can debate about polling, but I think too many people rely too heavily on polling to ascertain the impact of policy.  Where the real danger lies is measured not in numbers but by salience.

I will point out a key example. Gun control probably cost Al Gore the 2000 election every bit as much as the closeness of the Florida election outcome.  Throughout the 1990s, Democrats looked at polls, saw a solid majority of people supported gun control, and then moved to enact gun control legislation.

The problem is that while the numbers showed strong majorities favoring gun control, they did not measure the salience of the issue.  Salience is how important an issue is to people.  Will they vote on the basis of that issue?

It turns out that the vast majority of people who will vote on that issue are against gun control.  So while Democrats took the majority position, they actually lost ground where it mattered most among white rural voters.  Whereas Democrats already had the voters who favored gun control, based on other issues.

The second key factor is not just salience, but activism.  That’s the smallest group of voters – the activists – who will actually do the legwork.  President Obama created new activists starting in 2009 with his policies, all of them against him.

What Governor Walker is doing is mobilizing public employees, many of whom were inactive and a lot of whom are surprisingly enough Republicans, and he is threatening their future. 

People generally go into public employment not because the wages are great, but because they know they will have their pensions upon retirement.  It is supposed to be a trade-off.

The problem is that public employment wages have gone up rapidly in the last ten years, as have pensions.  This is where our debate lies in the City of Davis.

But by threatening to undo this social contract, the Governor Wisconsin and several other states are threatening public employees.  Public employees and unions either stayed home or were largely inactive in the last election cycle.

But now they have taken to the streets and they are fighting for their existence.  And that is a dangerous fight.  But worse yet is that 2000 miles away in Sacramento, guess what, public employees were rallying and getting activated for 2012.

When I wrote about this during the past weekend, someone rejoined with President Obama’s note that elections have consequences.  But they forgot the second part of that, President Obama’s lesson, so too do policies.  If you mobilize your opposition, you tend to lose in the next election.

So, the problem that Governor Walker now faces is he moved past the point where he had public support, he picked an issue where the salience factor weighed against him, and he activated a crucial opposition constituency.

But the danger is not his to bear alone.  The other danger is that Democrats ignore the clear public sentiment to reform pensions.  This is the number one issue in Davis, one of the most liberal communities in the nation.  This is a huge issue that Governor Brown needs to deal with fast.

If this does not happen, there will come a point in time when there is a ballot initiative and the public will pass a very draconian, anti-public employee, anti-labor law.  Look no further than Proposition 13 which dealt with the issue of property taxes but at the same time crippled the ability of districts to raise local money.  We do not want a Prop 13 for pensions.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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82 thoughts on “Dangerous Game of Chicken in Wisconsin”

  1. Adam Smith

    There is clearly danger for conservatives, just as there was for Obama, in pushing their “mandate”. I think this effort may ultimately resonate better with the public, when they understand that Wisconsin is only trying to remove collective bargaining for the public unions. It is quite different for unions to organize and negotiate against the private companies than it is for the taxpayer. Governments can’t go out of business, and once concessions are made, it is almost impossible to get them back. In some ways it is similar to the “too big to fail” concepts for the big banks – the risk reward is out of line.

    There may well be a “middle of the road” compromise that works, but the unions should understand that the public is fed up with the elevated benefits and salaries that senior union members have. In my view, the public feels virtually the same about union employees and Wall Street employees.

  2. Neutral

    Be careful what you say. From the National Weather Service forecast for Davis, as of 6:40 a.m. this morning:

    Friday Night: A chance of rain showers before 10pm, then a chance of rain and snow showers.

    There will be a Little Hoover Commission report on point released this afternoon. They are generally an objective and thorough group. I’ll wait to see what they recommend.

  3. wdf1

    I agree. This has the makings of being a tactical mistake, politically, for the Republicans. Grade school teachers are the biggest target of this legislation, and this is in a state that generally performs better than average on student standardized tests. Teachers are a more sympathetic population than are bankers, air traffic controllers (Walker compared his situation to Reagans tangle with PATCO in the 1980’s), or the Koch brothers. Almost everyone has a good memory of a grade school teacher.

    In a few years, there will be a teacher shortage, nationwide, because fewer students are getting their teaching credential than will be needed to replace the natural retiring population. States/school districts will need to raise their compensation packages in order to attract new, younger replacements. The teaching profession has the appearance of being an unstable career right now.

    This could have a similar effect to solidifying workers into a solid Democratic party base more than it was before, the way Hispanic/Latinos have become more solidly supportive of the Democrats because of immigration-related legislation supported by the Republicans.

    If Walker had stopped with accepting the union concessions, he could have claimed a reasonable victory, without galvanizing the opposition. But now he looks like he’s going further than he has to.

  4. biddlin

    Gov. Walker is a typical GOP blowhard, too scared and beholden to special interests to go after the real goniffs. When all is said and done, everyone needs to make a living and when one of us fails it damages us all one way or another. Unions came into being because of the needs of workers to have leverage against the abuses of factory and mine owners. Despite the claims of some, that unions are no longer relevant,does anyone seriously believe that management has become a benevolent patron? The recent contortions of the mortgage and banking industries are sufficient evidence that greed is more powerful than self preservation in many instances.

  5. J.R.

    “If this does not happen, there will come a point in time when there is a ballot initiative and the public will pass a very draconian, anti-public employee, anti-labor law. “

    My guess is that this is exactly what will happen.

  6. Don Shor

    there will come a point in time when there is a ballot initiative and the public will pass a very draconian, anti-public employee, anti-labor law.

    Given that the public opposes restrictions on collective bargaining by a substantial margin (according to the poll that Fox News inverted twice before correcting their error), I would say the unions would readily defeat any such ballot initiative. In fact, they’d probably welcome the fight.

  7. wdf1

    “If this does not happen, there will come a point in time when there is a ballot initiative and the public will pass a very draconian, anti-public employee, anti-labor law. ”

    My guess is that this is exactly what will happen.

    I think Don’s right. But it raises an interesting area for compromise on the issue. I don’t know how the state of Wisconsin runs, but if they allow for ballot initiatives, then perhaps putting it on the ballot for voters to decide would be a good way to bring closure. I wonder of Walker thinks he could win such a vote. I think the teachers would welcome it. It will draw plenty of outside money on both sides — unions vs. Koch/Tea party supporters.

  8. rusty49

    “If this does not happen, there will come a point in time when there is a ballot initiative and the public will pass a very draconian, anti-public employee, anti-labor law. ”

    We can only hope, I’d be more than happy to sign up for that ballot in front of Nugget.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “But the danger is not his to bear alone. The other danger is that Democrats ignore the clear public sentiment to reform pensions. This is the number one issue in Davis, one of the most liberal communities in the nation. This is a huge issue that Governor Brown needs to deal with fast.

    If this does not happen, there will come a point in time when there is a ballot initiative and the public will pass a very draconian, anti-public employee, anti-labor law. Look no further than Proposition 13 which dealt with the issue of property taxes but at the same time crippled the ability of districts to raise local money. We do not want a Prop 13 for pensions.”

    Agreed.

    But I would also make the following observations w respect to both sides of this issue:
    1) Democrats are scared silly that if there is public union busting going on that spreads like wildfire, which seems to be the case, Democrats will lose one of their biggest campaign contributors – public unions.
    2) Walker’s ideas are indeed catching fire, and rapidly spreading to other states. Public unions, are you listening?
    3) Serious pension reform is needed, and everyone knows it.
    4) Gov. Walker handicapped his position when he exempted police and firefighters unions, who represent the biggest problem when it comes to unreasonable/unsustainable wages/benefits.
    5) Gov. Walker got caught on Skype, talking to a reporter pretending to be one of the Koch brothers, saying all sorts of things indicating Walker’s motives are far from pure. In Walker’s view it is more about union busting and gaining power rather than about the dire economy.
    6) On the other hand, had Walker not taken such an extreme position against the all powerful public unions, it is doubtful the public unions would have budged when it came to concessions. Public unions only have themselves to blame for not being reasonable sooner.
    7) Many public unions have taken advantage of the collective bargaining system, many feeding like pigs at the public trough, so that pensions in almost every state are unsustainable – taking advantage through porous campaign financing laws, conflicts of interest at the bargaining table, intimidation tactics.
    8) Those on the other side of the bargaining table have allowed unions to get away w too much – bc the side opposite the unions at the bargaining table are beholden to public union interests in some way or other.
    9) The unions in Wisconsin (except perhaps police and fire) have made the necessary concessions, at long last. Why aren’t those concessions being rewarded?
    10) Pension reform and wage concessions alone will not solve all the states’ budget problems. Economic woes go far deeper than just unsustainable public union wages/benefits.
    11) Above all, we need to keep people working. Unions should not be in the business of callously allowing younger people in the union workforce to be fired so the union can keep wages artificially high w/o making necessary concessions to keep everyone working; nor should gov’t pink slip workers willy nilly as a bargaining chip w/o asking for reasonable collective bargaining concessions that could possibly keep most people employed. That should be the main goal – to keep people working. Unemployed people cannot pay taxes, and unemployment only results in more people being laid off – a vicious downward spiral…

    My take on Wisconsin is that it took draconian measures to get the unions to finally make reasonable concessions. But once concessions were made, there should have been some compromise rather than creating a Mexican stand-off for political reasons. However, it does not in any way obviate the need for: pension reform, campaign finance reform, collective bargaining that is independant, fair and above board.

  10. Steve Hayes

    DMG “… the Democrats really achieved their goal by delaying things…”

    I expect to see their tactic of hiding out across state lines proudly profiled in their new book titled, “Profiles in Cowardice”.

  11. rusty49

    Exactly Steve Hayes,

    This on the heels of Democrat payoffs to Ben Nelson, Mary Landreau, and many others in order to push Obamacare through. The 14 Cowards of Wisconsin.

  12. rusty49

    I don’t think so, once the vote gets done and Walker brings jobs and gets the debt more under control I think most sane people will realize it was a great move for the state.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    Your kidding yourself if you think the unions are not going to strike, litigate, and otherwise fight for collective bargaining. Perhaps you should read your history on how they got the right to collectively bargain to begin with.

  14. J.R.

    ” I would say the unions would readily defeat any such ballot initiative.”

    True today, I agree. But as the tactics of the unions backfire and people become more aware of how corrupt the process is, that may change. Unions have a reservoir of good feeling which is rapidly evaporating.

    FDR warned against allowing public unions for exactly this reason. He realized that they would inevitably become part of a corrupt entanglement with the government and this would turn the voter’s sentiment to anti-government.

    David M. Greenwald: “Rusty: As ironic as you may think it is, those 14 Democratic Senators are probably your best friends at this point.”

    This statement seems to be implying that Rusty is too naive or unintelligent to understand the situation. Is there a less patronizing or insulting interpretation of your remark that I am missing?

  15. David M. Greenwald

    Good luck trying that one. You’re going to fire all of the teachers in the state of Wisconsin? Are you crazy?

    In the end both parties has one thing in common, they are their own worst enemy?

  16. David M. Greenwald

    “This statement seems to be implying that Rusty is too naive or unintelligent to understand the situation. Is there a less patronizing or insulting interpretation of your remark that I am missing? “

    You are reading too much into it. I’m simply suggesting that Republicans are their own worst enemy, though Rusty will likely applaud their actions all the way to their defeat.

  17. David M. Greenwald

    The other point, before it gets lost, is if this happens, you are essentially mobilizing 50 to 100 thousand people to organize a recall or a referendum in Wisconsin to undo the laws. It again comes back to issue salience and how strongly someone feels about a position and what they are willing to do. Mobilizing huge numbers against you generally occurs at your own peril. The Democrats at this point could easily step aside and allow the Republicans to sink themselves. I suspect that’s their strategy.

  18. rusty49

    So if what you say is right and the 14 cowards are saving the Republicans then it sounds as if they’re the morons for hiding and not letting the GOP bury itself.

    Right David?

  19. David M. Greenwald

    According to the news coverage public opinion has really been shaped in the process here, so it is not clear to me that without the stalling tactic, the public would have moved as sharply behind the Democrats as it has.

    The other problem they have now is that if they come back it looks like capitulation, so even if it is the best strategy, they have to make a good show of it at this point.

  20. rusty49

    “Good luck trying that one. You’re going to fire all of the teachers in the state of Wisconsin? Are you crazy?”

    So states are always going to have to give in to teacher demands because they would be “crazy” to fire illegal striking teachers?

  21. rusty49

    Exactly, the states have no leverage because the teachers are in a public union in which they hold all the cards. Another reason why we must do away with public unions.

  22. Rifkin

    There never has been “collective bargaining” with public employee unions ([url]http://lexicondaily.blogspot.com/2011/02/with-government-there-has-never-been.html[/url]) (or even the senior managers in the public sector). The “bargaining” has always been a farce, where these unions buy off politicians and then say, “We won our gilded lillies in a free and fair negotiation;” and the “managers” add new titles to make it seem as if they are really doing something for the public.

    That is the reality which has driven so many government agencies toward bankruptcy, including every single government agency from the state down which Davis is a part of. You think things are bad in Davis, look how mismanaged Yolo County has been with its ridiculous labor deals and, just as important, its overly generous management deals. (The top staff of the DJUSD makes much more in salary than the top staff with the City of Davis. How the hell does that help kids?)

    In the DJUSD, teachers appear to control the votes of the school board, because our elected officials appear to be gutless. They are afraid of being called “anti-teacher,” as if bucking the DTA is equal to not wanting great teachers paid well. Our reps on the school board should be reducing compensation for ALL district employees by a small amount right now in order to keep everyone fully employed.

    Instead they kowtow to the DTA, which would rather keep the highest pay for the oldest teachers than retain the jobs of their youngest people.

    In the end, there is one truth the syndicates and the “managers” cannot overcome: their greed in these “collective bargaining” sessions has taken as much money as there is. The game is up. Even the Davis City Council is pretty much unanimous in understanding we cannot continue in the same direction and provide basic city services. That is a huge change in understanding from just five years ago.

    (I would note that our county Board of Supervisors is far, far away from understanding what they need to do. Our school board is holding onto the hope that the taxpayers will keep raising taxes on everyone else whose income has been falling. Good luck with that.)

  23. Frankly

    From the cited Gallup poll:

    Almost two-thirds of those polled say their states face budget crises, but respondents oppose or are split on potential solutions, from tax hikes to spending cuts.

    Key results:

    — 71% oppose increasing sales, income or other taxes while 27% are in favor that approach.

    — 53% oppose reducing pay or benefits for government workers while 44% are in favor.

    — 48% opposed reducing or eliminating government programs while 47% were in favor of cuts.

    This is why these polls are worthless. They ask simple questions without context. Voters explained the factual tradeoffs, and causes and effects would have a more informed opinon and likely would opine less support for collective bargaining. The Kotch brother will be helping to do this education…. while George Soros works to counter it with class warefare.

    22 states are “right to work states”. Those so adamant that Walker is so unreasonable should explain then why these other 22 states don’t let unions to force-extort dues payments from workers against their will. Also, I would like to hear some arguments against right to work. It seems completely reasonable and fair to give employees this right. Otherwise I should be legally able to force all my employees to contribute to GOP campaigns and conservative causes.

  24. Adam Smith

    Those of us here in CA tend to have a view of the an world than is different than what is factual. Only about half of the states have public sector unions. The Federal Government permits much weaker collective bargaining efforts than do the states, and it pension and health plans require much more contribution than that provided by the municipal and state union negotiated plans.

    This issue clearly has the opportunity to be explosive, and if handled poorly, could backfire as David suggested. It certainly backfired for Obama with health care. But the public sector unions are about to take a beating. Time is not on their side and I disagree with Don Shor’s comment about welcoming a public debate. I don’t think they want a public debate, because the facts of the pension and benefit plans, and how they’ve been exploited over the years, will become the rallying cry for conservatives and independents, who will rail against the waste when compared to the private sector. It will turn the tide of public opinion even further.

  25. wdf1

    Rifkin: The top staff of the DJUSD makes much more in salary than the top staff with the City of Davis. How the hell does that help kids?

    Emlen’s total compensation was about $205K. As best I can tell, Superintendent Roberson’s comes just under $190K. Hammond probably made a little more than Emlen. I don’t know data for lower level administrators from the city or district, but I suspect that it is something you would have no trouble finding.

    I have also seen data that shows that California has one of the lowest ratios of adminstrators to students, and DJUSD is below the California average in that respect. And I think the number of administrators will continue to goe down.

    Rifkin: In the DJUSD, teachers appear to control the votes of the school board, because our elected officials appear to be gutless. They are afraid of being called “anti-teacher,” as if bucking the DTA is equal to not wanting great teachers paid well. Our reps on the school board should be reducing compensation for ALL district employees by a small amount right now in order to keep everyone fully employed.

    Control the votes? I don’t sense that with this board. They all appear to be independent thinkers, but they want the school district to work as best as it can.

    What makes a school district different from a private business is that the demands for services don’t fluctuate in response to the economy. There are still the same number of students at school during good times as much as in bad times, and the expectations remain that students get a good education.

    Teachers have taken cuts in compensation, accepted more stressful work environments (increased class sizes, less outside assistance/fewer para-educators, secretarial staff), taken layoffs, as have classified staff and administrators.

    Rifkin: Our school board is holding onto the hope that the taxpayers will keep raising taxes on everyone else whose income has been falling. Good luck with that.

    They have already laid out plans to cut what they have to if the money isn’t there; their current budget proposal assumes no parcel tax and no state tax extension. They know that the money is not a guaranteed thing, but they also know that there is a community demand (and a legitimate track record) to have the elections.

  26. wdf1

    Jeff B.: — 48% opposed reducing or eliminating government programs while 47% were in favor of cuts.

    You find similar contradictory conclusions polls that have been done in California. What is consistent is that K-12 education is the area where most responders say they don’t want cuts, by typically 60+%.

  27. rusty49

    Here’s a poll question for the pollsters:

    Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in order for the public unions to maintain their wages, benefits and retirements?

    I’d be willing to bet that would be a resounding “NO”.

  28. David M. Greenwald

    “Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in order for the public unions to maintain their wages, benefits and retirements?”

    The problem with that question is you are mixing three separate issues into one: taxes, unions, and benefits. It doesn’t give you a known answer to any one part of it. That’s why good polling questions, break out separate issues so you don’t conflate issues.

  29. Frankly

    Adam Smith: “I don’t think they want a public debate, because the facts of the pension and benefit plans, and how they’ve been exploited over the years, will become the rallying cry for conservatives and independents, who will rail against the waste when compared to the private sector. It will turn the tide of public opinion even further.”

    That is a good point. I think as more learn about the obscene benefits… and also as the unemployment rate stays high and private wages and benefits stay depressed, even more indignation will build.

    It really is too bad that the Democrats have grown to depend on the unions for political power. It puts them between a rock and a hard place. You can read the conundrum in David’s posts… having been on the bandwagon to reign in out of control public sector benefits, he is advocating against the actions of Scott Walker. This is a “cake and eat it too” position. We cannot solve the problems and do so allowing unions to continue to maintain their power to extort so much public money from our collective pockets.

    Here is the dealio… Democrats and the unions rely on the marketing message that the private sector – “evil corporations” and their employees – are all better off, and the “poor” public-sector is deserving of a victim’s status. That is how the PEU beat up on Arnold as he lost the special election for props-74 – 77… Remember how he screwed up with his early message going against the teachers, and then changed his message to go after the union bosses… too late?

    Arnold’s timing was just bad. Walker’s may also be. But the writing is on the wall for public unions. In the next few years, unless they give up and agree to pull back their wins for pay and benefits to match the public sector, they will lose their victim status, they will lose their union power, and Democrats will have to re-invent themselves as a party of the people and not the party of the unions.

  30. David M. Greenwald

    Jeff: I’ve always supported unions. My problem is that the pension system and the benefits for highly paid employees is out of whack. I still support defined benefits, but I see a difference between the average worker making $30,000, a teacher, and $100,000 firefighters not to mention non-unionized management who are making over $100,000 in pensions. I’m not into defending wealthy people, I am working class people.

    I don’t see anymore of dilemma with Democrats depending on unions for political power than Republicans depending on business and the rich for theirs.

  31. Frankly

    “I don’t see anymore of dilemma with Democrats depending on unions for political power than Republicans depending on business and the rich for theirs.”

    Davis: One very big difference is manpower. Corporations cannot require their employees or stockholders/members to use their time to campaign for or against any political candidate or cause. Corporations cannot collect dues from their employees or members to pay for other employees that can be used to do this work. Union human resources fly under the radar for campaign contributions but they are huge. Meg Whitman had to pay for many of the human resources she needed to run her campaign and she had to disclose all of these cost… Old Moonbeam got a free workforce. Otherwise how do you explain 1,000 nurses bussed to disrupt a Whitman campaign stop? So, how does a corporation mobilize 50,000 people to take over a state capital?

    Given that the corporation is a taxed entity, and the union is not, I see this as ass-backwards. The corporation should have the right to protect its self-interest. The public unions, on the other hand, do not pay taxes, and get their revenue from dues paid from their members that get their pay from the taxes paid by the voters… yet the unions can launch these members to influence the political process to increase their revenue. That is a huge difference and a huge conflict of interest.

  32. Dr. Wu


    “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold… ”

    Yeats

    There are a couple of key issues here.

    1. Pension returns will be MUCH lower than CALPERS and other pension funds predict predict.

    2. Municipal (and state) defaults will not be rare.

    Right now there is still some public sentiment for unions but its waning. The pressure to move to a defined contribution benefit system will be enormous.

    Our current pension and health benefits system is not sustainable–at the federal, state and local level. I support some minimum level based on years of service but there is only so much the state can do.

  33. wdf1

    One very big difference is manpower.

    Republicans that have run “culture war” issues have relied effectively on church membership of like-minded congregations for manpower. Note the use of the Mormon church (and some Catholic congregations) for phonebanking and get out the vote in the Prop. 8 campaign. This was in the very same election that Obama won.

  34. Frankly

    On the use of church manpower…

    wdf1: When is the last time we saw 50,000 church members taking over a state building? That would be a hoot!

    Also, are you talking about those churches that get 100% of their revenue through private voluntary contributions?

  35. Frankly

    “Actually neither can unions, employees are able to opt out of political commitments.”

    Interesting. That being the case, then why don’t you support them opting out of joining the union and/or paying dues?

  36. rusty49

    I’m an inactive union member of a union that allowed members to opt out of paying the portion of the dues that went towards political purposes. Guess what, you opt out and your name was posted monthly on the union breakroom bulletin board as a non dues payer for all to see.

  37. Frankly

    “In most cases they can do that”

    David, I think I am confused. Isn’t the reason they can do that… they work in a right-to-work state? And isn’t this what Walker is trying to do for Wisconsin that you do not support? Help me undertand where I am wrong or help clear up my confusion. I admit that the second is sometimes not too easy to do. =]

  38. David M. Greenwald

    I don’t think being in a right to work state has anything to do with the opt-out clause. The right to work state, provides an opt-in clause, I believe plus perhaps more provisions. But California is not a “right to work” state, but allows state workers to opt-out.

  39. David M. Greenwald

    What Walker is trying to do is outlaw collective bargaining, at least some aspects of it, for public employee unions, meaning that they no longer have the right to negotiation their terms of employment.

  40. wdf1

    Jeff: You make a lot of assumptions and generalizations about unions. Its membership isn’t in lockstep on all political issues. There are a good number of Republicans who are public employees, for instance. If you talk to Davis teachers, a few have a dismayingly militant, adversarial posture. Others are very willing to give concessions in times like this. And I’d say that I sense that from what little I know of other PEU’s, you see the same spectrum, with possibly increasing numbers for giving up some compensation. But if you discuss taking away collective bargaining rights, then I think 99% of the membership will be mobilized.

  41. David M. Greenwald

    That’s a good way to put it wdf. In fact, I would argue that the greatest danger is that Walker is threatening to undermine an emerging consensus on compensation and pensions by taking it to collective bargaining.

  42. Adam Smith

    Jeff: I’ve always supported unions. My problem is that the pension system and the benefits for highly paid employees is out of whack. I still support defined benefits, but I see a difference between the average worker making $30,000, a teacher, and $100,000 firefighters not to mention non-unionized management who are making over $100,000 in pensions. I’m not into defending wealthy people, I am working class people.

    The primary problem with public unions is that many of the 30K employees grow into 100K, or more, employees over time, regardless of their responsibilities or capabilities. Combine that with your statement that you believe in defined benefits and the core of the problem for government is now defined. Defined benefit is generally no longer available in the private sector, because businesses long ago realized that they couldn’t sustain an ever increasing aging population with ever increasing benefits.

    The public sentiment is going to be hard to judge. The unions will rally their supporters, and we are going to see a very vocal, potentially violent protest from them. In the meantime, the majority of citizens are going to learn of the outrageous benefits and importantly, significant abuses of the system – promotion to higher paying jobs immediately before retirement, double dipping, unused vacation and sick time being paid after retirement, etc. And in the end, I think the general public is going to support a significant rollback, and perhaps, to limiting certain rights to organize – for public employees only.

    A good example to think of is the San Francisco muni strike a couple of years ago. SF is even more liberal than Davis, yet when the public learned of long term muni drivers working less than private sector employees and making than most private sector employees, the public outcry was clear and the strike ended.

    Another example is the growing popularity of Chris Christie in NJ, traditionally a very blue state. He is killing the teachers union, and his popularity numbers are growing.

  43. Frankly

    The Wisconsin legislation does two things (in addition to asking union employees to contribute some piddly amount to their healthcare and pension costs) it restrict collective bargaining rights and make it a misdemeanor to require any employee to join or pay dues to a union.

    Are you telling me that the ONLY thing the unions and members are protesting is the collective bargaining… and that is the only part of the bill you are against?

    In any case, CA requires any member that opts-out to still pay their dues. So this is a false opt-out. Prop-75 was defeated… the unions still can use the money for political purpose without the employee’s consent. Am I wrong?

    wdf1: “You make a lot of assumptions and generalizations about unions. Its membership isn’t in lockstep on all political issues.”

    Can you help find me some evidence that unions and/or union members agitating for a cause or candidate you would associate with Republicans or conservatives?

    From a WSJ article:
    [quote]The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

    “We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

    The 2010 election could be pivotal for public-sector unions, whose clout helped shield members from the worst of the economic downturn. In the 2009 stimulus and other legislation, Democratic lawmakers sent more than $160 billion in federal cash to states, aimed in large part at preventing public-sector layoffs. If Republicans running under the banner of limited government win in November, they aren’t likely to support extending such aid to states

    The political debate over spending by outside groups has focused largely on advertising buys by those Republican-oriented groups. Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

    Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.[/quote]

  44. Rifkin

    [i]”What Walker is trying to do is [b]outlaw collective bargaining[/b], at least some aspects of it, for public employee unions, meaning that they no longer have the right to negotiate their terms of employment.”[/b]

    Collective bargaining is, was and always will be a farce, as long as public sector unions finance the campaigns of candidates and work to defeat pols who would stand up to them.

    I think, therefore, we need a new term for it: FOTT. I’ll let you guess what the F stands for. The rest is Over The Taxpayers.

    Now let’s restate your comment: “What Walker is trying to do is [b]outlaw FOTT[/b], at least some aspects of it, for public employee unions, meaning that they no longer have the right to FOTT.”[/b]

    I really have no problems with most unions in the private sector collectively bargaining for their workers. (They step over the line when they use governmental violence to prevent non-union shops from opening up.) However, there just is no excuse for public sector unions, given their long record of corrupting the contracting process with pliable pols. You know this has been the case in Davis for a long time. But everywhere there are public sector unions, their tactics are the same–FOTT.

  45. Rifkin

    [i]”In any case, CA requires any member that opts-out to still pay their dues. So this is a false opt-out. Prop-75 was defeated… the unions still can use the money for political purpose without the employee’s consent. Am I wrong?”[/i]

    I am fairly sure you are right.

    I heard a Stockton Unified teacher call in to a talk radio show this morning who said he is “a born again Christian conservative.” He said that he has opted out of his union, but is forced to pay full union dues by California law. He said his problem with his teacher’s union is that they don’t just bargain on his behalf. They take up and help fund a long litany of social causes that he disagrees with. And he has no choice (save quitting his job) but to pay the money that goes to those causes. Unless the guy was full of feces, that story seems to confirm what you said, Jeff.

    While I am certain that I probably disagree with all of this born-again dude’s social and religious views, I largely* sympathize with his feelings about not wanting to fund causes he opposes.

    *A fair argument can be made that all of us, by paying taxes, are forced to fund things we don’t fully agree with. I don’t want my tax money funding the Afghan-Pakistan War, for example. But just like the Stockton teacher, I am outvoted in Congress. So maybe these sorts of situations are just inevitable sometimes, unless with unions we pass a law which restricts them from using member dues for activities outside of their narrow area of commerce (and it strikes me in writing this that is probably an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech).

  46. wdf1

    Can you help find me some evidence that unions and/or union members agitating for a cause or candidate you would associate with Republicans or conservatives?

    Off the top of my head, teamster’s union supported Reagan in 1980. A number of law enforcement unions have support Republican/conservative candidates. Unions have also refused to endorse candidates.

  47. Frankly

    “Off the top of my head, teamster’s union supported Reagan in 1980”

    Aw yes, those Reagan Democrats. Though that was 30 years ago… back before the public sector was the master of the private sector in pay and benefits.

    Law enforcement supports Republicans who pomise to be tough on crime for the same reason they support Democrats… they pick the candidate that will put the most butter on their bread. Unions generally do not support candidates for the same reason.

    I was looking for something a bit more current and that could help make the argument that some are trying to make… that unions, and the majority of their members, are not in bed with the Democrat party.

  48. Don Shor

    that unions, and the majority of their members, are not in bed with the Democrat party.

    Union members support Democrats, and vice versa, because their interest coincide. I assume corporations support Republicans for the same reason.

  49. wdf1

    Nowadays you get to have corporations who get to make contributions to candidates of their choice, regardless of how its customers, workers or stockholders feel.

  50. wdf1

    Personally, I don’t disagree with David’s and Rifkin’s points about abuses of PEU’s in cases that have been cited. But bashing teachers is excessive. Teachers have never been that rich.

  51. Don Shor

    wdf: “Nowadays you get to have corporations who get to make contributions to candidates of their choice, regardless of how its customers, workers or stockholders feel.”

    [url]http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-24/oil-group-starts-political-giving-as-congress-eyes-subsidies.html[/url]

  52. Rifkin

    [i]”Personally, I don’t disagree with David’s and Rifkin’s points about abuses of PEU’s in cases that have been cited. But bashing teachers is excessive. Teachers have never been that rich.”[/i]

    The 3 biggest problems I have with the teachers unions are these:

    [b]1. Greed without results.[/b] They want their members to make more and more money–perfectly reasonable–but they have forever fought all attempts to tie increases in pay to increases in productivity.

    I am of the belief that we have a large number of terribly underpaid great teachers. It’s ridiculous that overly titled clerical staff at the City and County level make 2 to 2.5 times as much as many of our best teachers make in total compensation.

    However, it is in large part* due to the teachers unions that we don’t pay our best teachers what they are worth–because the union ideology states that discrimination based on ability is wrong. (They also make up some cockamamie nonsense that teachers can grade students fairly but no one can fairly grade teachers. Forget the quality value-added studies which suggests they are wrong ([url]http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/rank/top-100-teachers/[/url]).)

    [b]2. The unions lie that they are education advocates.[/b] Teachers unions care more about the top pay of their old teachers than they do about the quality of education. Whenever the unions have faced the choice of keeping 100% of teachers employed for 95% of their old pay or keeping 95% of teachers employed for 100% of their old pay, the unions have always gone with the latter to the detriment of the children. Their argument is, “But we are underpaid!!!” The good teachers are. The bad ones aren’t. Either way it is beside the point–everyone in a bad economy is taking pay cuts or losing hours. So should the unionized teachers, especially when their avarice means in the end the total loss of income for the 5% who get fired because the union would not go along with a shared sacrifice; and

    [b]3. Their prolific politicking.[/b] I abhor Prop 98 and virtually every other state proposition that the teachers unions have campaigned for and against. I wish we could do away with the whole initiative process. It’s corrupted by money; the voters are very often stupid; and it makes legislating nearly impossible. That said, none of the propostions (save 3 Strikes) is worse than CTA’s Prop 98, which, almost regardless of all other considerations, pours a guaranteed (large) percentage of state revenues into the public schools and hijacks the budgetary process where legislators are not allowed to decide how to appropriate the public funds in a manner they see fit.

    *I think it’s fair to say that beside union intransigence a major reason we don’t pay teachers based on performance is inertia–that is, we never have; so we never will.

  53. Don Shor

    A tale of two governors. Wisconsin’s governor has decided to wage a war on unions, refusing to even talk to the opposition. Meanwhile, our Governor is doing the hard work, taking his conversation directly to the voters, and to the legislators.
    [url]http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/02/jerry-brown-heads-to-the-belly-of-th.html[/url]

  54. Adam Smith

    A tale of two governors. Wisconsin’s governor has decided to wage a war on unions, refusing to even talk to the opposition. Meanwhile, our Governor is doing the hard work, taking his conversation directly to the voters, and to the legislators.

    Of course, another way of looking at is that Wisconsin’s governor has the votes to pass his bill, and the democrats are avoiding the vote by leaving the state. I imagine Jerry Brown’s demeanor and actions would be quite different if he had the votes to pass the bill that he wanted.

  55. wdf1

    That said, none of the propostions (save 3 Strikes) is worse than CTA’s Prop 98, which, almost regardless of all other considerations, pours a guaranteed (large) percentage of state revenues into the public schools and hijacks the budgetary process where legislators are not allowed to decide how to appropriate the public funds in a manner they see fit.

    That’s the downside of Prop. 13. As taxes go, property taxes usually are the most stable revenue source. But with Prop. 13 limits, now more funding comes from the state where income and sales taxes are more sensitive to economic fluctuations. (yes, this recent recession is an exception to the notion of stable property tax revenue due to the collapse of the housing market) If good accessible education for all is a public interest, then Prop. 98 creates a more stable source of education funding. There are still the same number of students at school during good times as much as in bad times, and the expectations remain that students get a good education. In California polling, K-12 education is the area where most responders say they don’t want cuts, by typically 60+%.

    As far as teachers politicking, I would rather see them keep education issues in the forefront rather than watch oil companies lobby to keep their government subsidies and to scale back pollution regulation.

    Whenever the unions have faced the choice of keeping 100% of teachers employed for 95% of their old pay or keeping 95% of teachers employed for 100% of their old pay, the unions have always gone with the latter to the detriment of the children.

    Davis teachers have taken cuts in compensation, accepted more stressful work environments (increased class sizes, less outside assistance/fewer para-educators, secretarial staff), taken layoffs, as have classified staff and administrators. That allowed for fewer teachers to be laid off.

    The unions lie that they are education advocates.

    I don’t know about unions, but I trust education recommendations from my kids’ teachers more than from politicians or pundits. Given that teachers are regularly running class with the kids, I think they have more credibility than most on how to teach.

    However, it is in large part* due to the teachers unions that we don’t pay our best teachers what they are worth–because the union ideology states that discrimination based on ability is wrong. (They also make up some cockamamie nonsense that teachers can grade students fairly but no one can fairly grade teachers. Forget the quality value-added studies which suggests they are wrong.)

    First, what’s to keep you from doing something like what the LA Times did? I happen to think that most Davis teachers are quite good. Second, how would you propose to measure the work of visual and performing arts teachers? P.E. & sports? How do you measure if those teachers add value?

    Have you ever thought of inviting Dean Vogel (current CTA president & Davis resident) to debate these issues in op-ed pieces for the Enterprise? Sort of like Ben Boychuk and Pia Lopez do for the Sac Bee: [url]http://www.sacbee.com/2011/02/23/3422767/head-to-head-should-the-state.html[/url]

  56. indigorocks

    Gov. walker’s a big fat republican dumby and a joke of a legislater..so funny about him getting bamboozled by a “david Koch”.
    HAHHAHAHHAHHAAH..jokes on you asshole..goodbye…
    recall WALKER 2011.!!!!

  57. David M. Greenwald

    Jeff:

    “The Wisconsin legislation does two things (in addition to asking union employees to contribute some piddly amount to their healthcare and pension costs) it restrict collective bargaining rights and make it a misdemeanor to require any employee to join or pay dues to a union.

    Are you telling me that the ONLY thing the unions and members are protesting is the collective bargaining… and that is the only part of the bill you are against? “

    I’ve never said that the only thing that anyone is doing is protesting collective bargaining, but that is the primary thing that they are protesting. I think if he merely pushed for wage freezes, and higher contributions to pensions, he would have a lot more support. The problem is that he has lumped too many different things together and so he has built opposition.

  58. Frankly

    ” I think if he merely pushed for wage freezes, and higher contributions to pensions, he would have a lot more support.”

    I was hearing today on my drive in to work that Walker and the Wisonsin GOP are considering stripping the financial components out of the bill so they only need a majority vote.

  59. Rifkin

    [i]”If good accessible education for all is a public interest, then Prop. 98 creates a more stable source of education funding.”[/i]

    You are, as the lawyers would say, begging the question. You presume it is a given that “a more stable source of education funding” results in a “good accessible education.” We have a large number of failing schools and even failing school districts in California with the same funding as we have in Davis. Your conclusion, therefore, does not follow from your presumption because both are doubtful.

    [i]”As far as teachers politicking, I would rather see them keep education issues in the forefront rather than watch oil companies lobby to keep their government subsidies and to scale back pollution regulation.”[/i]

    One has nothing to do with the other. Moreover, teachers unions don’t “keep education in the forefront.” Their interest is in keeping the stream of more and more money poured into the K-12 system (and hence into their members) flowing. The teachers unions are not in business to make education outcomes better. If they were, then they would not support such nonsensical measures as LIFO ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFO_and_LIFO_accounting[/url]) when it comes to layoffs.

    [i]”Davis teachers have taken cuts in compensation …”[/i]

    Really? How much less in inflation adjusted dollars is their 2010-11 total compensation than was their total comp in say 2002-03? I don’t know the answer. But I’d be willing to bet it is higher (in CPI adjusted dollars).

    [i]”… accepted more stressful work environments (increased class sizes, less outside assistance/fewer para-educators, secretarial staff) …”[/i]

    This makes my point for me–they are not interested in keeping those lower on the totem pole employed. The DTA’s policies, followed by our pliable school board, have resulted in those layoffs in the face of state cutbacks. We could have followed an alternative policy framework, where we did not have more students per teacher and we did not fire secretaries and so on, if we just adjusted all district employees salaries down as a percentage of the decrease in state funding. But the DTA and its board members chose this path.

  60. Rifkin

    [b]”The unions lie that they are education advocates.”[/b]

    [i]”I don’t know about unions, but I trust education recommendations from my kids’ teachers more than from politicians or pundits.”[/i]

    That’s a non-sequitir. Beyond the fact that I (the pundit in question) did not make an “education recommendation,” my explicit claim was about the teachers’ unions (which portray themselves as advocates of better education), not about teachers.

    As to whether teachers themselves have good recommendations which would improve education, I would guess those suggestions vary in worth depending on how good the teacher is. As you know, many teachers in our state are not good. Yet your blanket statement about trusting the recommendations of teachers fails to note that. I would hope you would reject the ideas of our worst teachers when it comes to improving education.

    [i]”Given that teachers are regularly running class with the kids, I think they have more credibility than most on how to teach.”[/i]

    This is restatement of your previous argument, where you once again fail to distinguish between those who teach well and those who are there to collect a paycheck.

    [i]”First, what’s to keep you from doing something like what the LA Times did?”[/i]

    Time and money.

    [i]”I happen to think that most Davis teachers are quite good.”[/i]

    The education outcomes in Davis are quite good for those kids who come from families which care about a college prep education. I don’t doubt that at all. That does not prove, however, that our teachers are better than those in say Woodland or Dixon, where the outcomes for a college prep program are not nearly as good.

    [i]”Second, how would you propose to measure the work of visual and performing arts teachers? P.E. & sports? How do you measure if those teachers add value?”[/i]

    There is no question that some progress is harder to measure than others. If a reasonable testing regime cannot be set up–that is, one which measures student progress–then teacher quality can be assessed by a combination of peer assessment, student assessment and principal assessment. In the private sector, this is very often how employees are graded. Just because it can be subjective does not mean it is not superior to our nonsense system of giving people raises on the basis of their tenure.

    [i]”Have you ever thought of inviting Dean Vogel (current CTA president & Davis resident) to debate these issues in op-ed pieces for the Enterprise?”[/i]

    No. I would much rather our members of the school board debate the union chiefs. I would like to hear our trustees show that they are not just sucking up to the DTA.

  61. Frankly

    “Gov. walker’s a big fat republican dumby and a joke of a legislater..so funny about him getting bamboozled by a “david Koch”.
    HAHHAHAHHAHHAAH..jokes on you a*****e..goodbye…
    recall WALKER 2011.!!!!

    indigorocks, did you just escape from the Huffington Post?

    I wonder if these type of shenanigans have a positive payback in public opinion? I think the child in us gets a snicker. However, for those with adult sentiments, I think it plays to our opinion that the PEU and their supporters are out of control.

  62. Rifkin

    INDIGO: [i]”Gov. [u]w[/u]alker’s a big[u],[/u] fat [u]r[/u]epublican [b]dumby[/b] and a joke of a [b]legislater[/b] …”[/i]

    I find that, when you call someone a dummy and misspell that word, it hurts your argument. Additionally, it does not advance your case to confuse an executive with a legislator, regardless of your trouble spelling legislator.

    And FWIW, pictures I have seen of Scott Walker suggest he is neither big nor fat.

  63. wdf1

    Rifkin: We have a large number of failing schools and even failing school districts in California with the same funding as we have in Davis. Your conclusion, therefore, does not follow from your presumption because both are doubtful.

    How do you measure failing?

  64. Frankly

    One area where California public schools are failing… graduations rates:
    [url]http://www.all4ed.org/files//California_wc.pdf[/url]

    Here is a place to see and compare the graduation rates for the nation and all states: [url]http://www.all4ed.org/publication_material/understanding_HSgradrates[/url]

    There was a great Special to the Enterprise last week “The costs of college obsession” by Bill Maxwell, that, I think, laid out a big problem with education in general. It is a problem of so many missed opportunities to prepare kids to have a prosperous life. In that respect maybe it is not that our public schools are so bad by historical measures; but are so bad by modern measures.

  65. Rifkin

    [i]How do you measure failing?[/i]

    The same way the California Dept. of Education defines failing, which is a construct of what is called Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. If we use the federal NCLBA standards, we have even more failing schools.

  66. wdf1

    wdf1: “Davis teachers have taken cuts in compensation …”

    Rifkin: Really? How much less in inflation adjusted dollars is their 2010-11 total compensation than was their total comp in say 2002-03? I don’t know the answer. But I’d be willing to bet it is higher (in CPI adjusted dollars).

    You judge what teachers ought to be paid. Does it take into account what it takes to keep and attract good teachers? The available pool of teachers? (A recent report indicates that there will be a teacher shortage a few years out; not enough teachers currently in teaching credential programs to replace potentially retiring teachers) What other districts offer their teachers? None of this happens in a vacuum. And the number of students is still relatively constant (i.e., not directly tied to the economy)

    DJUSD salaries are roughly equivalent to other neighboring districts; last time I checked, many had higher salary scales.

    It seems that you’re not likely to accept that Davis teachers are good (I’m somewhat hearing your answer “it’s really because parent education/good genetics”). All I can say is that anecdotally I see parent satisfaction with the teachers.

    In the absence of other measures (noting that there are very few value-added measures at the moment), LIFO is the only system that approximates keeping the best teachers, assuming that one gets better at your job the longer you do it. I think it would require a statewide change, not a local one.

    DJUSD has laid off very few teachers.

  67. wdf1

    The same way the California Dept. of Education defines failing, which is a construct of what is called Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. If we use the federal NCLBA standards, we have even more failing schools.

    At a certain point I think we’re beating ourselves up, because probably in a few years, even Davis schools will be judged to be failing. In spite of that there has been progress statewide using these measures, even in “failing” schools.

  68. Rifkin

    [i]”You judge what teachers ought to be paid. Does it take into account what it takes to keep and attract good teachers?”[/i]

    Wait. We have never, ever paid teachers in Davis on the basis of their abilities to teach. My best teachers (of equal tenure) made the exact same amount of money as my worst teachers in the Davis school system. That is still the case today.

    [i]”The available pool of teachers? (A recent report indicates that there will be a teacher shortage a few years out; not enough teachers currently in teaching credential programs to replace potentially retiring teachers.)”[/i]

    There is no shortage of teachers (good and bad) now. And if there will be a shortage of good teachers in the future, a part of the reason for it is because we don’t pay teachers based on performance. Good workers (in all fields) become dissatisfied when they are treated the same as the lousy
    workers.

    [i]”What other districts offer their teachers? None of this happens in a vacuum.”[/i]

    If we paid our best teachers the most money and our worst the least, then those who would flee to other districts would be our worst, assuming the other districts want to bid them away from us and that our most shiftless employees have the verve to leave.

    [i]”And the number of students is still relatively constant (i.e., not directly tied to the economy).”[/i]

    ADA dollars (over the long haul) are as constant as our student body.

    [i]”DJUSD salaries are roughly equivalent to other neighboring districts; last time I checked, many had higher salary scales.”[/i]

    If the others have higher salary scales and they have worse performance, that suggests that the local schools don’t pay based on results, like any sensible industry pays.

    [i]”It seems that you’re not likely to accept that Davis teachers are good.”[/i]

    I’m not accepting that Davis teachers are good based on the fact that our test scores in Davis are high. They were very high when I was a kid. (In fact, relative to our region they were much better than they are now.) And they will remain high as long as so many kids here come from educated families and families which value education. That said, I am sure we have many very good teachers here. So does Woodland. So does Dixon. So does Winters.

    I don’t blame a teacher in say Esparto for the fact that her students don’t score as high on standardized tests as the kids score in a typical Davis class. Do you?

    [i](I’m somewhat hearing your answer “it’s really because parent education/good genetics”).[/i]

    You are only hearing half of the answer, then. I believe good teachers matter very much. As it happens, it’s more important to have good teachers when you have students who come from bad homes. In Davis, most kids come from good homes.

    The real question our pay policy does not answer is why we are paying our worst teachers as much as we pay our best when they have equal tenure?

    [i]”All I can say is that anecdotally I see parent satisfaction with the teachers.”[/i]

    How do they feel about the “work of visual and performing arts teachers? P.E. & sports?” How can that satisfaction level be judged?

    [i]In the absence of other measures (noting that there are very few value-added measures at the moment), LIFO is the only system that approximates keeping the best teachers, assuming that one gets better at your job the longer you do it. [/i]

    The L.A. Times study (and hundreds of other studies) show that it’s not that hard to properly grade teachers. Moreover, any anecdotal observation–you seem to like them–will show you that there are good and bad teachers of equal tenure.

    I’m not arguing that it does not take a few years on the job for most teacher to learn how to be the best teachers they can be. There is a learning curve, as with any occupation or avocation. But LIFO results in firing the best of the young teachers in place of the worst of the old. That is senseless if a good educational outcome is your goal. But that is not the goal of the DTA or any teachers unions. Their goal is simply about money–keeping the highest paid teachers in place and ridding the system of those without tenure (and hence without high pay).

  69. Rifkin

    [i]At a certain point I think we’re beating ourselves up, because probably in a few years, even Davis schools will be judged to be failing. In spite of that there has been progress statewide using these measures, even in “failing” schools. [/i]

    We probably agree on this. Raising standards is a good thing. Raising standards has resulted in better performance across the board.

    Yet we are running into a fiction inherent within the NCLBA logic: that all children need a college prep education, including those with intellectual handicaps.

    Were it up to me, I would change the No Child Left Behind Act to the Seventy Percent of Kids Left Behind Act (SPoKLBA). The fact is that no matter what policies are passed in Washington, only about 25%-30% of children in a given grade will go on to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university or higher.

    [img]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Educational_attainment.jpg[/img]

    As the graph shows, that “ceiling” has not changed much in the last 30 years (despite the massive growth of sham for-profit degree programs).

    Under the SPoKLBA, I would distinguish between those who are college material and those who are not. For the former group, we need to have very high academic standards, just as in No Child Left Behind. But for the latter, we need to gear our K-12 education program so that they are much better prepared for the work world they will enter.

    This is especially true of boys who are not academically inclined or interested. They need a work prep program beginning when they are 13 or 14 years old. They need to learn a trade; they need to learn work habits; and they need to be put in programs where journeymen in their trades mentor them.

    Most of what these boys are getting in their NCLB college prep programs is a waste of time for them. It explains the VERY high drop out rate among this subset. It explains the high drug usage rate. It explains the high incarceration rate. These boys would be far better off going to school fewer hours each day–getting basic math and reading and writing skills–but training as apprentices in a trade the rest of the day or taking classes like carpentry, electrical wiring, plumbing, metal fabricating, automotive mechanics, etc.

    I know it is sexist to believe that girls and boys are not the same–so go ahead and call me a sexist–but these programs are generally less important for girls. That said, if a girl does have more interest in learning a trade than she does in taking a college prep program, then that’s where she should be, as well. I would guess that girls of this sort who have high rates of teen pregnancy would be less likely to pop out kids at a young age, if they were training for and working in a job they liked.

    I should note further that “trade school” education is not limited to the traditionally male trades like carpentry and plumbing. For the 70% I would leave behind, I would favor programs in the culinary arts, including cooking and baking; cosmetology; retail sales management; the practical arts like drafting and graphic design; and even things like sales.

  70. Frankly

    “LIFO is the only system that approximates keeping the best teachers”

    We need WIFO: “Worst In First Out”… or BILO: “Best In Last Out”

    How do you determine “worst” or “best”? That depends on how you define it. In concept it is really quite simple. Just make a list of the measurable criteria that defines what a good teacher is: Let me start:

    – Educates the students on the subject matter (standardized test scores before and after)
    – Prepares students for the next step (feedback from next teacher on students’ preparedness)
    – Level of self satisfaction (self survey)
    – Level of customer satisfaction from the students (student surveys)
    – Level of customer satisfaction from the parents (parent surveys)
    – Level of peer satisfaction (peer teacher surveys)
    – Growth and development progress, and contribution to overall school success (principle’s assessment)

    Surveys are anonymous, short and with succinct and targeted questions of “yes”/”no” or on a scale. For example:
    -The teacher made herself/himself available when needed? Yes or No
    -The teacher demonstrated patience, kindness or firmness when needed? Yes or No
    -The teacher was helpful and collaborated well with other teachers? Yes or No
    -The teacher knows her/his subject matter? On a scale of 1-5

    The principle, like all managers, should have the right and responsibility to override any external input and deliver a fair final assessment. For example, if the teacher had a year with a higher than usual number of difficult children, then exceptions could be made.

    At the end, the teacher is given a number grade/score and forced-ranked with all other teachers. Yes, the principle must rank from one to how ever many teachers he/she oversees… just like the teachers do with their students.

    Higher bonuses are paid to the top-ranked performers. This is where we get the six-figure teacher salaries. The bottom 25% get zero bonus and are put on notice to improve the following year. Consistent low performers are terminated.

    This is not difficult to develop folks. You have to ask why teachers don’t get how it would make their jobs so much better knowing that they would be rewarded for good performance, and seeing the low performers sent packing unless they improved.

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