The Success of Failure-Grassroot Perspective – Feb. 15, 2006

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Nothing succeeds like success. Success tends to get rewarded. And then repeated. And emulated. And repeated some more.

Except in our education system.


In public schools, success is blocked, protested, hounded, attacked, and then, if it somehow manages to survive, it is usually sued.

So success tends to fail.

Recently, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a state government program that gave 700 schoolchildren a voucher allowing them to leave failing public schools to go to the private school of their choosing. The teachers unions had sued, arguing that Florida’s Constitution requires every kid had to have a “uniformly” poor education. The judges agreed.

Participation in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin voucher program is being rationed. Yes, rationed. Studies show that not only are the students receiving a voucher doing better but so are the public school students. So why allow only a few to have a choice? Politics. Money. Teachers unions don’t want more customers opting out of their current captive audience.

Meanwhile, nothing succeeds like failure. John Stossel’s recent ABC 20/20 program, “Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids,” detailed the insanity of an educational monopoly.

In New York City, for instance, it is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher, even a teacher deemed dangerous to the children. The city spends $20 million a year paying bad teachers not to teach.

It defies common sense!

And this IS Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

”’Paul Jacob is Senior Fellow of U.S. Term Limits, a national grassroots organization committed to restoring citizen control of government by limiting the terms of politicians at the local, state and national level. See:”’

”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. See the GRIH Web site at:”’

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Daily Policy Digest


Until last week, Los Angeles school officials had thought their unfunded health care obligation for retirees was $5 billion. Then they scrubbed the numbers. The new estimate: $10 billion. That’s bad news for taxpayers who will foot the bill and for children whose education will be limited by the cost, says USA Today.

Thanks to generous contracts negotiated years ago, when health care costs were largely an afterthought, tens of thousands of teachers about to retire have been promised lifetime benefits for themselves and spouses, something available to very few of the taxpayers who pay the cost, says USA Today.

As health care costs soar, these contracts represent financial time bombs.
They will leave schools with less money to hire teachers, less money for raises — less money for everything.
The health care squeeze is “the single most important issue facing districts nationwide,” says Tom Henry, a financial adviser to California schools. Doing nothing threatens to send many school districts into what Henry describes as “a death spiral.” Already, health care benefits are smacking against budgets.

Los Angeles sets aside $1,000 of its $5,500-per-student budget to cover health care costs for current and retired teachers.
To cover the newly estimated $10 billion liability would require $2,087 per student.
The health care situation facing school systems mirrors the squeeze facing public and private employers more generally, as well as the financial strains on Social Security and Medicare as the baby boomers retire.

In all these cases, the sooner action is taken to bring promised benefits in line with revenue, the less painful the solution will have to be. That’s a lesson schools can teach the rest of the nation, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, “Schools face ‘death spiral’; Districts must choose between students’ needs, teachers’ benefits,” USA Today, February 15, 2006.

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