Arnold Kling  

The Looting of a County

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Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, is one of the nation's richest counties, thanks to its proximity to the capital of the empire. A local newspaper reports,


The core belief for Prouty and members of the MCEA is that the value of their annual salaries and benefits is commensurate with the value the county has placed, monetarily and philosophically, on strong public schools.

Read the whole story. Note some of the figures. The average employee's salary is over $60,000, and that does not include benefits. Average compensation in total is almost surely over $100,000. And there is one employee for every 7 students (the majority of employees are not in the classroom.)

The MCEA is the local teachers' union. If teacher salaries reflect the will of the people, then why does the union have to engage in political activity at all?


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (14 to date)
Mike Rulle writes:

This comment is great in conjunction with your comment on democratic process. Our process produced this result. I don't really know how these kinds of economic sink holes managed to become so prevalent. But we are now as a nation becoming more aware of their existence. We now also have hope that our process can change them, as difficult as that will be both politically and "procedurally". But it will most definitely make many people unhappy---those who previously benefited if change occurs and those of us who are on the hook, if it doesn't.

Steve writes:

Fist of all, $60,000 ain't what it used to be. If these employees make the usual 10% contribution to a retirement plan, and don't claim dependents, they would take home around $45,000. After rent, groceries, and gas, you could probably afford a new car, but it won't be a BMW. Secondly, average total compensation is not "almost surely over $100,000." It is rather, almost surely not more than $80,000. $60k salary plus a health plan benefit of say $12k and a retirement contribution of 10% would be $78k. I don't know where you would find another $22k, Arnold. Thirdly, what exactly is your point? If you concede that children should be educated and that the costs should be borne by the entire populace and not parents alone, where is the looting happening? How much do you really think you could save if you were in charge of the school system? Do you think you could do it for half of what they spend now? Three quarters? Kind of strains credibility, no? I'm sure the system could be run more efficiently, but unless you are advocating the complete abolishment of taxpayer funding for K-12 education, I don't think there's any "looting" going on. It's a big job and people in your county want it done well. Yes, there is a union involved and that no doubt raises costs to some extent, but, again, think about the margin. How much less, exactly, do you think you get pay and still attract qualified candidates? How many less administrators do you think you would need? Maintenance personnel? Security? Cooks? Bus drivers?

Morgan writes:

Steve:

You forgot to include time off as a benefit.

rjs writes:

Looting of a County? just how much of the county GDP do these teachers steal from you?

cesar writes:

Education and safety are among the main drivers of location choice, besides price. Shouldn't home price differences between Montgomery county and surrounding counties be strong evidence that county services are very good and efficiently produced?

effem writes:

I'll take teachers unions looting tens of $millions any day over the finance industry looting hundreds of $billions.

Arthur_500 writes:

There is an often overlooked Harvard study that showed an inverse coorelation between teacher compensation and student achievement.

Nine months of work; a full week off every six weeks; time away from work to do paperwork; minimal education required for the position. Sounds like a pretty good gig. In fact, a great deal of people take the teaching job because it is a good deal. Regretfully, those who can do and those who can't teach is all too prevalant throughout our educational systems.

$60K, isn't all that much? Waa. Talk to the hard-working employees of your local Wal*Mart and ask them about the deal the teachers get. Tell me about how much teachers are worth.

In the private sector an employee must earn his keep every day. Teachers consider themselves artists and "deserve" artistic license to teach. If the kid doesn't learn, too bad, now send me my paycheck.

In the private sector a Union needs to earn their benefits and yet in the public sector we hear the same refrain, " you have money, give it to us. You don't have money, raise axes or kids will be stupid."

Sorry, no real support for the excesses of teachers who refuse to show their value to the students or society as a whole.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick writes:

(effem): "I'll take teachers unions looting tens of $millions any day over the finance industry looting hundreds of $ billions."

More than $700 billion per year flows through the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's K-PhD schools (the "public" schools). This figure understates the total cost of this system (compare to this). The $700 billion figure does not include the cost of pension and benefit promises to current employees. It does not include the opportunity cost to students of the time they spend in school. It does not include the opportunity cost to society of the lost innovation which a competitive market in education services would generate.

If the "public" school system is not a make-work program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction, supplies, and consulting contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination, why cannot any student take, at ang age and at any time of year, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition at any VA-approved post-secondary institution or toward an employment subsidy at any qualified private-sector employer?

mark writes:

That statement "the majority of employes are not in the classroom" ought to be a headline. Right up there with "The Department of Education costs $80 billion a year and doesn't educate anybody".

Noah Yetter writes:

If you concede that children should be educated and that the costs should be borne by the entire populace and not parents alone...

I, for one, concede neither of these points. The standard model of education is proven ineffective. And I see no reason, neither moral nor economic, why anyone other than parents should pay for its costs.

Kevin writes:

As long as the state is putting liabilities on future generations to finance current consumption, I see a moral reason for the populace to bear the costs of education and then some. At least to the extent that the populace is complicit in the incurrence of the debt.

Guy in the veal calf office writes:

Kevin makes a good point. Non-parents elected representatives who passed laws that place debt (or defaulter's pain) on all children living here. Those electors ought to pay something for the benefit of the kids whose piggy banks they are robbing, and the parents whose reliance on their kid's financial support is eroded.

Dave writes:

So, how many of you cheap skates are applying for these cushy, overpaid 50+hour a week jobs? (and don't forget to save for the down time in the summer, when you don't get a check.)

Median house price is just under $500,000. To get the 60K as a teacher, you'll need a masters degree (Plus 20 or 30 hours) (add that to your student loan). The national cost of living index for Montgomery county is 123.8.

Oh... don't bother with retirement plans, your "friends and neighbors" get to vote on your benefits every couple of years.

Andrew writes:

Lots of commenters keep reusing this argument that teachers aren't paid enough for their troubles. More employees are administrative staff than teachers! Thats who is being described as looters. When you vote for more money for teachers these administrators suck it all up. So I believe anyone who believes that teachers aren't paid enough therefore we don't spend enough on public schooling is wrong.

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