Category Archives: Privatization

Public unions and budget deficits

Although facts and evidence don’t much matter to the controlling factions on most Capitol Hills these days, it’s never a bad idea to marshall them anyway.

David Moberg’s “The Wrong Target” (In These Times, 10/14/2011) summarizes and highlights the results of a recent study out of the University of California at Berkeley, making clear that public unions are not at all responsible for state budget deficits; neither are public unions responsible for skyrocketing numbers of state jobs (although I don’t see why that’s a bad thing–but that’s just me).

Some highlights from the article (but you should look at the whole thing, which isn’t very long, and at the study on which it’s based):

   •    Public workers have been a steady share of the workforce from 1979 to 2011—averaging 14.2 percent of the entire workforce and ranging from 13.6 to 15.2 percent (slightly increasing typically following a recession simply because private workers disproportionately lost jobs).

•    State and local government employment for every thousand residents rose very slightly from 1990 to 2001 (from 60.8 to 64.2 workers for a thousand residents, virtually all in local government), then remained flat through 2009.

•    Comparing states with the highest and lowest rates of unionization, the researchers found that from 1990-2009 there were more public employees for every thousand residents in weak- or non-union states than in states densely unionized. Also, there was faster growth in weakly unionized states, especially from 2001 onwards when the ratio of public workers to the population declined in the most unionized states.

•    Ultimately, the data seem to show no correlation between union density and public sector employment. (Jacobs suggests some rural, lightly populated and big states that also have few public unions may have a higher ratio to serve a dispersed population.)

•    Public worker total compensation has not been growing as a share of state expenditures. Indeed, worker wages and benefit declined as a share of state spending from 1992 to 2002, then remained stable (according to a study from the Center for American Progress).

•    As many studies have demonstrated, state and local government workers earn less in wages and benefits than similar private sector workers. Moreover, in recent years private sector labor costs have risen faster than costs in the public sector—a remarkable record considering the widespread wage stagnation and cuts in both pay and benefits in the private sector.

 

So the next time somebody tells you that public sector unions are bad for the economy, here’s a solid block of evidence to the contrary. We can only hope that evidence starts to matter sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Communities, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Teacher unions, Unions

Our ‘friend’ Michele Rhee is at it in Pennsylvania

Another day, another effort by education ‘reformer’ Michele Rhee to destroy public education in the name of reforming it.

This time it hits closer to home, as according to Laura Clawson at Daily Kos Labor, Rhee is working with former Lynn Swann campaign manager Ray Zaborney on a bill to lobby for passage of school privatization (masked as “vouchers”) legislation.

In case you’re wondering why efforts to privatize K-12 education get so much air (screen?) time on a blog representing a university faculty union, I have at least these two answers for you: (1) what happens to K-12 is often a harbinger of what policy makers want to do to us; and (2) in the not-very-deep subtext of Rhee’s (and Gates’ and Duncan’s and others) push to privatize public education is an anti-labor, anti-union impulse that we as a union should be utterly committed to stomping out in any way, at any time we cross paths with it.

Simple as that.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Arne Duncan, charter schools, Education reform, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, StudentsFirst, Teacher unions, Vouchers/School Choice

Mike Rose responds at length to Education Reform

For those of you not familiar with Mike Rose, he’s a Professor of Education at UCLA who has written several influential books about literacy education and the politics of school over the last 25-30 years. He’s one of those rare thinkers and writers who’s able to say very incisive and critical things while maintaining a tone that’s respectful and at times even affectionate, even when he’s talking about people he strongly disagrees with.

This link goes to a series of essays Prof. Rose posted at the indie-news-blog-service Truthdig; I don’t know how I missed it until now because I read Truthdig pretty faithfully and it’s been up for months.

There are several, and the series is a long read to do in one sitting, but each of them has at least one gem of an argument in it, if not more, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you spend some time with it. If you’re an angry rabble-rouser like me, you’ll find moments of calm hope. If you’re cynical and feeling burned, you’ll find moments of inspiration. If you’re starry-eyed optimistic (or believe that all’s well and those of us who struggle are just paranoid–although if you’re that person you probably don’t read this blog!), you’ll find reasons to be more concerned.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, charter schools, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, liberal arts, Mike Rose, Privatization, Public education, public employees, Teacher unions