Friday, February 10, 2017

Chicago Public Schools CEO Receives F for Letter Writing

In Chicago, those who can't do, write angry political letters. The CEO of Chicago Public Schools sent a letter home with all 381,000 students, blasting Gov Rauner and President Trump for budget reductions to CPS. The letter made no mention to the fact that Chicago has been run by Democrats for decades and schools have failed under heavy funding. Chicago schools are funded 40% higher than the OECD average. (here and here). US schools still fall at the back of the pack in science and math scores (here) despite borderline obsession with those subjects, and Chicago falls well short of state and national levels.

If you're a rational thinker you'll realize the problem with Chicago schools is not funding. However if you're an administrator accustomed to free and nearly unlimited resources from the state and federal governments, then any threat to funding hits at a level so personally enraging it drives one to send home a highly unethical (and possibly illegal) letter with half a million kids, the same ones the the administrators have been routinely failing.

In response to budget cuts schools administrators will typically act first to defund in areas that have the most impact on parents. Buses will be reduced, classrooms supplies won't be provided. How often do you hear complaints of the form teachers shouldn't have to be buying supplies for their classrooms. In principle no, but let's look at those teachers. In Chicago, the median teacher salary is $78,169 (source)*. That's pretty good, don't you think? This is in a city where the median income is $38,625 (source). They make over twice what a typical Chicagoan makes. But mostly they only work 9 months of the year. Pro-rated that's the equivalent of making $104,225, if they worked through the summer. (I would love to make 80Gs and get summers off). And that ignores their highly generous benefits and pension packages**, which are estimated at a median $27,564, bringing the total pro-rated benefits package to over $130K. (These number may skew high because some of them probably do work summers).

While the state's decision to defund public schools does put the CPS CEO in quite a bind, the truth is that teachers are well-paid and the schools are if anything overfunded to begin with. And while it may be therapeutic for him to lash at any convenient government official with an R next to his name, it totally ignores the reality that both the CPS budgets and the heavy liabilities of generous pension programs were done under Democrat leadership. Now of course it's hard to attack those Democrats when they've long retired, but the Republican lead state apparatus is trying to keep from being drug under by Chicago's spendy ways, so they make a convenient scapegoat for all the problems CPS has brought on itself. I propose that every state pass a law to the effect of: no deferred employee reimbursements. No pensions, only cash payment. It is far too easy for the politician of today to gain power by taxing the people of tomorrow. It is extraordinarily unethical and the practice must be ended.

* Granted this is the highest median salary listed. The numbers provided range from $57K to $78K depending on the source. I didn't dig into to finding out an explanation for the large discrepancy. However if you use the low end the pro-rated total benefits package still amounts to over $100K.

** For more on what pension liabilities are doing to Chicago, see Stefan Molyneux's podcast on the subject.

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