Education Jobs Bailout Makes Even Less Sense In Light of the Big Picture

It’s a remarkable thing — or maybe it just says that much about Congress — that our representatives in D.C. are still considering the bad policy known as the $23 billion education jobs bailout. Maybe some members of Congress are searching desperately for a way to justify more profligate spending in the face of an especially angry electorate.

Why else is the issue still alive and kicking? Well, because of the National Education Association (NEA), of course, seeking to play the sympathy card for teachers who face layoffs. My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has brought due attention to debunking the education jobs bailout. But no one can keep up with Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, who as recently as today notes once again that teacher layoff numbers are inflated in part by the fact that “most get rehired back anyway.”

Above all, what’s desperately needed in the ongoing debates and discussions about budget cuts and downsizing teacher workforces is the big picture context. Over at the Big Government blog (which I’m pretty sure is not a site that actually advocates for big government), Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute lays it all out, including a big graph (re-posted below) that helps to tell the story:

Over the past forty years, public school employment has risen 10 times faster than enrollment (see chart). There are only 9 percent more students today, but nearly twice as many public school employees. To prove that rolling back this relentless hiring spree by a few years would hurt student achievement, you’d have to show that all those new employees raised achievement in the first place. That would be hard to do… because it never happened.

Coulson has another graph and more analysis. I invite you to read and digest it for yourself. Without basic facts such as these out there, we can’t even begin to have sensible and productive conversations about what to do with public school funding and hiring practices. Nor can we achieve needed clarity about whether we want public schools primarily to be centers of learning or jobs programs.

Look, no one said change is easy….

Antonucci concisely nails down the kind of thinking that’s paralyzed the education status quo:

If the retirement of a veteran teacher is bad, and the layoff of a new teacher is bad, and trying to differentiate between an effective teacher and an ineffective teacher for dismissal is bad, then we’re paralyzed. And that’s worse.

Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.