Home > Uncategorized > NYTimes Editors Get the Message on Infrastructure… When Will They Get the News on Public Schools

NYTimes Editors Get the Message on Infrastructure… When Will They Get the News on Public Schools

I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read today’s NYTimes editorial on President Trump’s misbegotten rationale for privatization of infrastructure projects… and then found myself shaking my head in dismay as I realized he was basically using the pro-privatization logic being used to advocate “reform” in public education. As the editors noted, Mr. Trump was advocating the adoption of “reform measures” that were already in place, de-regulation, and “government red tape” as the primary reasons that infrastructure projects had not gotten off the ground. The wrote:

He repeated worn-out right-wing complaints about an overweening federal government that had built a “thicket of rules, regulations and red tape” and “blocked many important projects.”

But the Times editors saw through this canard:

Mr. Trump complained that public works projects were subjected to a prolonged permitting process in which officials must produce detailed environmental impact statements that can be hundreds or thousands of pages long. What he did not say was that fewer than 1 percent of federal projects require such exhaustive evaluations, with the rest needing no evaluation or a much less demanding environmental assessment…

It’s true that the government can take years to say yes or no to large or controversial projects, using its authority under the National Environmental Policy Act, a Nixon-era law requiring government agencies to consult with one another (and, importantly, the public) to determine how to proceed with the least environmental damage. These reviews have generally produced positive outcomes for the environment without damaging the economy.

The Times editors also saw through two other examples of either ignorance or disinformation:

The president called for an online dashboard, where people could track the progress of projects. Such a website already exists.

He said government agencies that drag their feet should be fined, which is possible under a 2012 transportation law signed by President Barack Obama.

The Times editors also identified the real issue:

What ails the country’s infrastructure is clear enough: the lack of serious investment. Mr. Trump promised during his campaign to increase investment by $1 trillion. So far, we have seen none of the money — and in its place, besides a gauzy plan that relies on tax credits for private investors, we have the straw man of environmental regulation.

From my perspective, the same analysis applies to public education. Public schools are not lacking in innovation because of federal regulations or, for that matter, union contracts. Most federal regulations are imposed to ensure an equitable opportunity for students of all races and abilities and most state regulations are designed to ensure that classes are led by qualified teachers. If they are deemed to be onerous, it is only because they require schools to be sensitive to the needs of handicapped and minority students even if state and local governments are not.

And while the Times editors didn’t note it in their list of “regulations”, I’m certain one of the major regulatory concerns of the “Transportation Industry” is the requirement that federal contractors pay their workers prevailing wages. That REALLY drives up the costs and diminishes profits! And heaven forbid that the nascent for-profit school industry be required to unionize! That would only add to their costs by requiring schools to pay teachers a wage that allows them to dedicate their full attention to the children in their class! Such regulations might limit the profits of this venture!

If the Times editors examined the public school issues through the same lens as they are viewing the infrastructure issues they would undoubtedly come to the same conclusion: What ails the country’s public education infrastructure is clear: the lack of serious investment.

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