Archive for the ‘Omaha’ Category

FDR was right

January 13, 2015

Government employees should not be able to bargain collectively for wages and benefits. It has led to the pension crisis in this country that is going to cause enormous amounts of upheaval and civil disruption. Stephen Moore’s account of what’s going on in Scranton, Penn., is one example, though the number of examples from California make the point more vivid.

My current hometown, Omaha, Neb., for all its midwestern sensibility, has allowed its public employee pensions to get out of control, becoming what Warren Buffett described as a “gigantic financial tapeworm” eating up the resources of its host, the city government, funded of course by the taxpaying private citizens. There does seem to be signs of hopeful progress, as at least one of the unions has agreed to a new contract with pension reforms starting in January 2015. But nationwide, it doesn’t seem the problem is generally improving as a function of government reforms; recent stock market returns have helped, but that’s not a very reliable plan.

The question that nags at me as a citizen, of course, is what happens when the next crash comes and cities start failing?

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Union educators and student achievement

March 18, 2011

This is a little old, but it’s so significant to what’s going to be discussed over the next several months in many states, it deserves to be highlighted. One of the claims about why teachers in Wisconsin should retain their union privileges is that students do so much better than in a non-unionized education system like Texas. Paul Krugman in the New York Times promoted this claim.

This led to one of the most crushing replies I’ve ever read. It is breathtaking in its elegance.

It needs to be said that the issue is not whether standardized tests accurately evaluate the process of education. In my opinion they are very unreliable guides to the effectiveness of districts, schools, or teachers. However, for the purposes of comparing student achievement in different areas of the country, what Dave Burge has done is far more useful as a comparison of Texas and Wisconsin than what Krugman offered.

There’s a follow-up post here that addresses some questions and issues raised by his first response to Krugman. It is also well worth the time to read.

on implementing change

March 14, 2011

The administration of the high school my kids attend has announced a new arrangement for funding extra-curricular activities. Generally understood, rather than each program charging association dues and planning fund-raisers of various types, there will now be an umbrella booster club from which all the activities will be funded. The organization and formula for disbursement decisions is unclear at this point, but as you can imagine this has created a lot of anxiety among various groups, parents, and students.

One of the associations we are part of due to our kids’ activities is meeting later this evening. Hopefully more light will be shed on this deal. And I hope it’s mostly light, not heat, though the two may go together naturally in this case.