All the teachers need to do is survive for the four-to-five years it takes Californians to forget what they have voted for. Then they can roll out a Proposition or local bond measure scolding voters for not funding education. Techies and other knowledge workers in particular respond very well to this kind of prodding which is why these measures pass reliably every four to five years but tend to fail if done too frequently. The unwise teachers in my town, Los Gatos, recently tried to shake down voters before the buildings promised by the previous bond measure were constructed.
The same is done with transit funding...I can't remember how many times a Measure or Proposition has passed that has promised to "finally" address transit funding...until four years pass and it is time to "finally" address it again.
I am their son. I am college educated, I make $50,000 per year on average and I've been laid off 3 times over my 6 years of post college employment. I have never been offered a 401k, which is a particularly ineffective retirement tool anyway.
How are teachers underfunded again? Maybe in certain underfunded neighborhoods, but not all. And their employment is pretty secure.
1. Pension spiking. Happens for teachers, though not as much as other public employees.
2. The pension should be funded from investments, not some optimistic guess as to the return on those investments.
3. It should be easier to fire a bad teacher. I realize this is hard, but we've all heard the stories. In my excellent school district, you apparently have to be caught sexting teenagers to get fired, even though a lot of people had reported the offensive behavior, many times over many years. While most of my son's teachers are excellent, a few of them shouldn't be anywhere near students of any sort.
This is a problem with most public employees though. It's not necessarily unique to teachers. Try to fire a bad cop for instance. Just won't happen. Or a bad database analyst at your State's Department of Administration or whatever. You just can't do it.
But the pensions are driving housing prices and property taxes through the roof around here. I luckily found 2 other roommates to live with me in a 1br apartment far outside the city, and we're all paying $650 each. Property tax accounts for 33% of our rent contribution.
GDP per capita is a stupid measuring stick for salary (except that an annual one below it is bad), since you are averaging eco onic activity across everyone, including those not working and outside the labor force (children, prisoners etc.)
> But the pensions are driving housing prices and property taxes through the roof around here.
I'd like to see your argument for how pensions are driving those two things (especially given that California has limits on the latter.)
So, they stay in NY for the good doctors and paid-off house and soldier through the cold weather. All of this wouldnt be a big deal if NIMBYism wasn't a thing, but it is.
Population on Long Island continues to explode as people commute by train to NYC to avoid exploding rents there. Building a house or remodeling a house on Long Island is extremely, mind-blowingly expensive and regulated due to the local town governments in Huntington, Oyster Bay, Manhasset, Babylon, Brookhaven, etc. I have tried really hard to get any town to permit me to build a 100k house on a 40k lot of land- nope, sorry, we only allow massive houses built out of expensive materials here because we want you to pay as much property tax as possible.
Holy MOLY that's a lot of money!
Out here in "Flyover Country", (Wisconsin), most teachers wouldn't even make half that much. And I'm assuming by the way you described her salary, that none of that included any of the benefits! That's an incredible amount of money for a teacher. I would think a lot of teachers would like that salary.
I'm pretty sure you can safely assume that your mother is nowhere even CLOSE to being the norm for teachers across the nation. There are many, many teachers out there who are very much underfunded.
Any school district on Long Island NY will have minimum salaries of like 60-70k I think. 90% of property taxes here (~10k USD per house) go to the school district.
It unfortunately shouldn't be a surprise that someone in Wisconsin paying $600 in property tax per year also has a school district with teachers making 40k, which, once again, isn't even a bad salary for the profession and value delivered. Maybe I'm just jaded, but 13 years of schooling qualified me for barely gainful employment. I could have home-schooled myself for way cheaper and with the same outcome.
I live in the #2 salary district in upstate NY. The 50th percentile salary is about 75k and the 95th percentile is 95k. Pensions are usually (final average salary over 3-5 years) * (years of service / 60), and are free of state tax. If you retire, you have different options, and full payments to both spouses reduce your benefit by 15-35% depending on age of your spouse.
My cousin is a high school teacher with 15 years of work. He makes ~$65k and gets a $5k stipend for coaching two sports. (ie. working 12 hours days September-March)
So, at 55 she retired with an after tax pension that was quite literally equal to her after tax salary. When you factor in commuting costs, she was paid to retire early.
The whole point here for me is the guaranteed nature of this employment. It's incredibly hard to be fired. If teaching children is such a valuable societal tool, we shouldn't be restricting the number of teachers to x and their salary to y.
We should encourage 1000x people to be teachers and pay them 0.03y
As for individual teachers "sitting fat [on] the money"... of course they aren't. Average teacher salary in California (according to California Teachers Association) is $78k -- and California is a very expensive place to live. FWIW, the CTA chiefs are making $300-400k+ and CTA controls a $300+ million annual budget. There's definitely plenty of money sloshing around the system, it just doesn't make its way to the teachers.
Teachers and other public workers have definitely created for themselves a bubble where they're insulated from the competition and stresses of the private sector, and they've done that at the public's expense. It's not a scam, but it's not innocuous either.
At the end of the day, tax money is a scarce resource. Money that goes to providing retirements for teachers more comfortable than what people with similar qualifications could get in the private sector is money that doesn't go to school lunches for hungry kids, etc. Teachers use the plight of disadvantaged kids to get more funding for schools. But that funding goes primarily to paying teachers, who are relatively privileged to begin with (being college educated and disproportionately white).
(Which is not to say that everyone shouldn't have a comfortable retirement--I'm all for raising taxes to Norway levels and funding a proper welfare state. But until we have Norway levels of tax dollars rolling in, our current expenditures on public employees is a misallocation of resources.)
No wonder why some people fight to maintain the status quo!
It's not, though.
The systems needed to deal with the social problems outside of schools that create difficulties for schools are chronically underfunded (and often designed poorly, as well), and teachers in many districts have impossible jobs as a result, but education itself isn't underfunded.
But “the schools are broken” is a more mentally manageable idea than “the entire socioeconomic system is broken”.
Consider a scenario where there are two retired teachers for every working teacher. To the working teacher they are underpaid. To the voters they are overpaid. The problem lies in the middle. If you stopped paying retired teachers you could triple the salaries of working teachers. Both parties would be satisfied with this arrangement.
Of course retired teachers would hate this and rightfully so. They were promised a pension and now you're denying it to them.
It calls into question the structure of compensation. Throw their money into a 401k rather than giving them 80-100% pay for the rest of their lives.
On the other hand there's evidence that teacher collective bargaining wastes hundreds of billions annually.
Just because they're not conspicuously wealthy does not mean that they're blameless or virtuous or unsuccessful as a special interest group.
Of note, teacher salary comparisons should be made to those with similar education attainment and should take into account the many hours they spend working outside of the school day.
Teaching does have its downsides, but I know a lot of people who became teachers or stayed teachers (like my mom) because it can give you a great work life balance. You’re off during the summer when your kids are out of school and your holidays mostly correspond with thiers.
When we got married, we were an “instant family” - my wife had two kids. We also got laid off at the same time before we got married - we worked together. I ended up with a contract job and she ended up with a job with crazy hours (nights and some weekends). That didn’t work for us. She took a significant pay cut to work in the school system at a job she liked a lot more and she had the same schedule as our sons.
She has a stable job with good - expensive benefits. That allowed me to jump around from contract to perm back to contract and chase jobs solely for the money without worrying about benefits or the stability of the company.
I know a small business owner whose wife works in the school system for the same reason - benefits.
There are other non monetary benefits to being a teacher - especially in a two income household.
If another school came in the same environment with the same socio-economic issues would the outcome be that much different?
The whole charter movement at least in the south is an attempt to funnel public money into private either for profit schools or “faith based education”.
The CFPB can’t make laws (that's Congress’ job) and neither the current administration (including the current CFPB leadership) nor the current Congress even support the general mission of the CFPB.
When you're being underpaid, work a second job along with teaching, and have no savings for retirement because you are underpaid with the guise of a "pension"... you're gonna make a sign, and you're gonna try and get some funding bills passed.
Teachers have to participate in the broken system today, and I think categorizing their efforts to get more funding as a "shakedown" isn't representative of their motivations.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937
There is a glut of adjunct candidates with a PhD and a postdoc who can't get TT but there are relatively few with teaching degrees. The oversupply of adjuncts happens because they are the unsuccessful seekers of a much better job -- tenured professor -- but there is no similar situation for teachers. The economic analogy therefore won't fit, because the supply of teachers will respond to price signals more than the supply of adjuncts.
When I was an adjunct, I had no interest in getting onto the tenure track, or in teaching as a career. I was simply new in town and needed a job.
On second thought, what will probably happen is that they will flee to private schools, the more affluent will lobby for “private school tax deductions” and leave only the worse teachers in public schools and only the less affluent will go to public school.
Everyone is complicit - the union, the politicians, and the taxpayers. If the unions were honest and told the teachers that the pensions they bargained for were illusory, the teachers would demand more pay now.
Maybe we can sum this up in 140 characters?
It's like if private sector unions got to choose the board and executives at their company. While that would doubtless be good for union employees (or at least leaders), it would be quite deleterious to the interests of shareholders.
Public employee union dues are especially odious since the government is effectively collecting a payroll tax to bribe itself by way of a colluding intermediary. This is morally even worse than politicians being bribed by some private sector party.
Fun aside: given the empirical proof that only money speaks already given, the statement "If you deprive labor of a voice then only money speaks" is always true, regardless of whether or not labor has a voice.
Why can neither side just follow a sane general strategy of setting taxes and choosing the best benefits to fit under the revenue generated?
Parents are just as culpable as they want a great education for their kids but don’t really want to pay for it, coupled with proposition 13 many schools in california are a mess.
If you get rid of pensions and try to pay the teachers the same amount as you pay them now, there will be a teacher shortage forcing the government to pay more. They will have to raise taxes to cover it but at least all sides will know the true costs.
I don’t think the pension system in my state is too out of whack. It’s only 2% every year worked of your final salary up to 60% (80%?).
The only way to switch is to put more money aside than you 'need' so you have a pool of money to pay for each teachers pension on the day they retire. At that point you can then swap new teachers to 401k's without added costs.
But at that point you understand pensions when fully funded actually cost less than 401k's, assuming similar investments. Because 401k's end up with some dead people having large surplus's and pensions don't.
a) 401(k) and 503(b) plans are expensed and accounted for in the present. You may have the best actuaries in the world but if your current pension-expecting workers beat the odds you're in a world of hurt, even without over-promising and under-funding pension benefits. (No less than Warren Buffett himself famously warned of this problem back in the 1970s, and if there's one thing Buffett knows it's risk assessment and insurance.)
b) 401(k)s are only more expensive than pensions assuming everyone retires at the same age and gets the same benefit on retirement between the two investments. However, as is common, pension retirement age can be as low as age 50. Paying out those pension benefits for those extra 10-15 years (vs. retiring at age 60-65 for 401(k)) probably adds up to paying more for pensions than 401(k)s, especially given that some employees can apparently goose their pension eggs by working overtime in the last few years of employment.
B) This just comes down to discounting the pension properly or limiting retirement age to 65.
In the real world doing pensions correctly has not worked out. My point is simply they have an innate mathematical advantage not that it's directly applicable.
But didn’t the private sector basically contribute the value of the pension to the 401K using some type of present value calculation?
There is one other fix - make immigration easier. But in the current climate, a politician could never suggest that.
School districts are local so bad schools / poor areas will just suck more, good ones might do ok. Nobody will fill the gap where education is needed but there is no money....
It’s so bad in some places that the more affluent parts of a district are trying to break off and form thier own district so they won’t have to fund the poorer parts.
What’s really bad is that California in particular pays the federal government more in taxes than they receive. The new federal tax laws made it even worse.
It’s not fair and I live in a state that sees net inflows of federal tax money.
While obviously that court decision is unique to California, the broad idea of statewide funding equalization is not a policy that exists only in California, and, in fact, the vast majority of states have most school funding driven by state-set formulas.
Why be reasonable when you can get benefits for yourself and have someone else down the road pay for them?
I wonder when this will break though. California has had it comparatively easy with a surging economy (at least in the Bay area), but the next recession will likely send all the pensions even further into the red.
The only reason someone down the road has to pay for them is because the state/municipality reneged on its half of the bargain to actually fund the pension at the time, counting on future earnings to skate by. The teachers unions accepted lower pay raises or frozen wages in exchange for a good pension. Don't blame them for the malfeasance of the counterparty.
The oldest baby boomers were still fairly early in their working life when the gains from the economy stopped broadly reaching the working class.
The generation who benefitted the most from the long post-WWII economic boom with wide distribution of gains were the Boomers’ parents.
They were just the right age for reaping all the benefits from rising land and real estate prices, despite the real wage flat-lining at the end of 1970s
Not to mention that advancement and career progression were far more expedient in their day, allowing them to reap benefits earlier in their life than millenials today, who might still be working entry level jobs by their 30s.
> The generation who benefitted the most from the long post-WWII economic boom with wide distribution of gains were the Boomers’ parents.
And guess who inherited that wealth, since that generation is mostly dead now?
By that standard, Millennials are the eventual beneficiaries, too.
What is the easy fix, given political will, for social security?
Considering how easily we fund a war here, a tax cut there, Social Security could be made self-sustaining again fairly easily. We could remove the cap on taxed income while either NOT removing the cap on benefits to high earners (or give them increasing benefits but not in relationship to how much additional tax they're paying). We could adjust the retirement age (say, indexed for lifespan changes to provide some midpoint/average number of 'working years'). That's all without even changing the tax rate, which of course is always another option.
Ultimately, just by basic logic alone, there's no reason we can't fund X amount of benefits with Y amount of receipts by setting the numbers properly -- UNLESS AND UNTIL we have a massive greying crisis like Japan has.
Note that Social Security already has “bend points” in the benefit formula, so one or more additional bend points doesn't change the basic design.
I don't disagree with removing the wage ceiling, but if you word it like that you're pretty much guaranteed to fail, because the equal and opposite to that is "Cut the payroll tax so I don't have to fund the bozos that decided to party all through school instead of working their tail off like I did."
Why is this just a progressive thing?
"Some districts are predicting deficits and many districts are bracing for what’s to come by cutting programs, reducing staff or drawing down their reserves—even though per-pupil funding is at its highest level in three decades and voters recently extended a tax hike on the rich to help pay for schools."
Maybe CA should work on it's illegal immigration problem, which is probably a big drain on the schools. Funny to read about all the economic woes in CA despite it's supposed great economy. In reality it's a dump.
- Thomas Sowell
Whatever horror stories about rubber rooms come out of NYC are not indicative of the reality on the ground most places.
I left California 3 years ago, so maybe this has changed, but at that time there were countless stories about "teacher jails" where Los Angeles would send teachers who should have been fired, but the process is so expensive and fraught with appeals and obstructions that it was cheaper and easier to keep them on the payroll - permanently. They would isolate them so they couldn't have contact with students, but they'd go on paying them to go sit in empty offices - for years.
The argument that tenure only adds requirements for coaching sort of whitewashes over the practical challenges presented when a district needs to let a teacher go.
Because of management negligence (and worse) in dealing with, documenting, and preserving documentation of earlier incidents, including the district at one point systematically destroying records relating to sexual abuse at district schools.
The problem was not the rules requiring documented cause for firing, the problem was management repeatedly covering for him and other abusers, including by destroying evidence.
Management misconduct doesn't justify giving more arbitrary power to management. Though, of course, that's what management likes to argue for whenever its own misdeeds are at issue.
Sure, you can make a case that management failed to document his previous behavior so they had to start over from zero and document, counsel, coach, whatever the contract requires, but once he was actually busted for ejaculating in kids food - how is it reasonable that they couldn't fire him on the spot?
He wasn't actually caught (or even formally accused of by the district in its dismissal charges) doing that. Everything that came out and was cited as the basis for his dismissal was the result of a photo lab reporting pictures, and in the charges for dismissal what is identified as being on the cookies is “an unidentified milky-white substance”. Notably, none of the reports of sexual abuse that students identified were made around the same time to school officials, or even the reported sexual context of the events in the photographs used as the basis for dismissal charges, were even referenced in those (exceedingly nonspecific) charges.
The management failures continued into the suspension and firing process.
Listen, I don’t have a problem with firing teachers. I just don’t think the common perception of “infinite job security” for teachers is accurate.
A much larger and more concerning issue - in my opinion - is that we have very poor measures for teacher effectiveness. This is problem in at least two major ways. It inhibits districts from dismissing poorly performing teachers. It likewise prevents teachers from improving their performance because it often isn’t clear what problems might exist in their curriculum and instructional practices.
I also believe that if we were able to make teacher designed and administered assessment more universally trustable (as their results are now only [sometimes] trustable within the context of that specific teacher’s coursework) we could start to address some of these problems.
A much larger and more concerning issue - in my opinion - is that we have very poor measures for teacher effectiveness."
If bad teachers, by your own admission, are not being fired, teachers have the very job security you claim they lack. If being fired for bad performance is unlikely and schools are much less likely to run out of funding than a company (if run even semi-responsibly), these jobs may not have "infinite job security" but they're as close to that as can reasonably be found. After all, what is job security if not confidence you will not be fired?
Elaborate systems have been made measure and quanitfy teacher effectiveness; however, it’s not a solved problem. Obviously problematic teachers do get dismissed. Like I said elsewhere in this discussion, my first three years of teaching I could be fired without cause. After that, I could be dismissed after two poor performance reviews or with cause.
You’re arguing that teachers known to be “bad” are being protected from firing. I don’t believe this is true - at least in my experience as a teacher in the Midwest.
I’m saying that once you get beyond a certain threshold for quality it becomes very difficult to separate teacher effectiveness from other noise in the process. Because of this, there are some teachers who may be more effective than others (and possibly some who are only marginally effective); however, we can’t accurately identify them or what makes them better/worse.
In CA, teacher can retire making ~100k/yr, and get 105% of that as a pension for life. Do you really think one of the most polioactive lobbying groups in the state would let that disappear?
Additionally, they don't receive social security benefits.
While it may be a surprise for people who have worked in high demand fields, lots of workers in the private sector have no 401k offered, and of those that do, lots don't have any employer matching offered.
3 weeks between each trimester, year round, maybe slightly longer in the summer (4-5 weeks)
This seems like the most important sentence in the entire article.
Why are California teachers paying into a separate pension system rather than Social Security like everyone else?
What would it take to decommission STRS for CA teachers?
Lots of state and local public employees nationally don't pay into Social Security (and consequently don't qualify for SS benefits for the earnings while in public employment; these workers also get reduced Social Security benefits if they did qualify based on either other work of their own or as a surviving spouse.)
Nationally, this is true of the majority of police, firefighters, and other emergency workers, and a large minority of teachers, and smaller minorities of other public employees.
Many public employees, OTOH, pay into both SS and a public employee pension.
Public employers were originally completely excluded from Social Security, but were permitted (but not required) to participate after 1950.
That’s a very misleading statistic - it represents an average service time of about 24 years, barely more than half of a career. Full-career retirees average 105% of their final year’s pay in pension benefits, or about double what’s quoted here.
It sounds like you're not arguing that "most retirees" don't get that amount, but that they don't deserve the amount they get.
The federal government funds itself through bond sales and taxes. They could choose to do all of one or all of the other.
But they could just keep rolling over debt into more bond sales, in perpetuity, since the dollar is just a concept, and not a voucher for anything physical. There is essentially no risk, beyond the dollar itself becoming worthless. So if you need to park a million dollars for a few weeks, treasuries offer a nearly zero risk option.
So government could run completely off bond debt. It might even be fairer than taxes... the poor usually don't have a million dollars they need to park. Government funding would come from the rich.
The reason for taxes is power. You can use taxes to control and direct the population.
Before the US federal government believed they had the right to make drugs illegal, they controlled them through taxes. You had to buy a tax-stamp to move marijuana, but the government would rarely sell any such stamps. The drug itself was not illegal, but not having the stamp on it was.  Later they just went ahead and declared it "controlled" and didn't bother with the stamp shenanigans.
Also taxing removes the leverage that bond buyers have (which would be the decision not to buy). China owns a lot of us treasuries, and routinely uses that as a bargaining chip.
Ultimately the fed uses a mix. Bond sales for monthly adjustments in spending, taxation to control the populace. And there are various economic theories on which is better, but I doubt anyone with such pure motives actually controls any policy.
$55,000 is a modest pension? That is a lot more than social security is paying. Maybe we should move teachers to SSA?
Yes, it is, especially compare to public safety pensions it is compared to.
> That is a lot more than social security is paying.
Social security is a minimal safety-net pension designed to mitigate crushing old age poverty (and it's barely adequate even to that task) in the event of absence or failure of workplace-specific retirement plans, not a primary retirement vehicle.
> Maybe we should move teachers to SSA?
You want the Social Security Administration to take over delivery of classroom education from state and local agencies?
This is California's voters not wanting to pay for promises they made.