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Fox News Uses Resentment to Sell Privatization… oops… School Choice

December 18, 2017

Lance Izumi’s Fox News report– ostensibly on school choice opens with this:

America’s public school systems are going bankrupt, as they pour money they don’t have into programs that enrich employees at the expense of students.

The Los Angeles Unified School District could face an estimated $422 million budget shortfall in 2019. Baltimore’s schools are $130 million in the hole. Illinois officials recently failed to make a scheduled payment to K-12 schools for the first time in history.

These districts and many others across the nation are strapped for cash due to grotesque financial mismanagement. School systems continue to lavish employees with benefits packages that defy reason – even though such spending is unsustainable and diverts resources away from students.

State and federal lawmakers shouldn’t continue to throw money towards broken school systems. Instead, they should offer school-choice programs that empower students to escape dysfunctional districts.

And what are these “lavish benefits”?

…the Los Angeles Board of Education agreed to provide health benefits to 4,200 part-time workers, including playground aides and teachers’ assistants.

In 2007, for instance, (Los Angeles) extended health benefits to cafeteria workers, an action that created a cafeteria budget deficit.

Between 2001 and 2015, the (Chicago’s) contributions towards teachers’ pensions rose an astounding 618 percent.

The same pattern is evident in Baltimore. The city provides teachers with generous contracts that include perks like full-time day care. To help pay for these benefits, Baltimore City Schools recently implemented funding cuts totaling roughly $150 per pupil. And the city still faces a $100 million unfunded pension liability for school workers.

Mr. Izumi goes on to list other districts and states who face daunting financial challenges because of this “…epic fiscal mismanagement displayed by public school systems across the country” which he attributes to “…the lack of competition to the government’s near monopoly on K-12 education” reasoning that “…In such a situation, special interests, not students, wield power.” But Mr. Izumi does offer a solution!

What to do?

Parents and students should be empowered with school-choice tools, such as education savings accounts, tax credits and vouchers to escape mismanaged school systems and provide incentive for those systems to improve.

What Mr. Izumi really means is that parents and the public should stop thinking of public education as a public good and instead view it as a commodity that can be purchased from a private business… and If a private business operated the public schools they would quickly drive out the unions, suppress wages, eliminate costly benefits like health care and child care, and avoid legacy costs like pensions. In Mr. Izumi’s world the taxpayer-shareholders would benefit and the employees would work for the lowest wages possible.

But here’s the real bottom line, Mr. Izumi (and Fox News recipients): the costs for defined-benefit pensions Mr. Izumi decries were at one time a staple of the American business environment… as were health care benefits. In some instances where the job markets were tight some enlightened businesses even provided child care on site for their employees. But as CEOs decided to honor shareholders (and themselves) they found it cheaper to shed pension costs and benefit packages by offshoring and outsourcing leaving millions of employees without their benefits and pensions while, at the same time, diminishing the taxes they paid to local communities, states, and the federal government. In their wake they left millions of disenchanted employees, disenchanted employees who resented the treatment they received after working for years for a corporation that left them in the lurch… and left them with a high degree of resentment towards the beneficiaries of their taxes.

Some pundits claim that any effort to restore an economy where corporations value employees over profits is “turning back the clock”. They promote the vision of the plutocrats who want voters to believe that every worker should be required to live paycheck-to-paycheck, live in fear that an accident or medical problem could leave them bankrupt, and live without any hope of retirement. That is not the vision I would seek as a voter in a democracy that control’s the direction of the country, a democracy that presumably control’s the mission of businesses as well. I would want to see an economy that provides every worker with a meaningful job, requires them to contribute toward their pensions (as they do now with social security), and provides them with benefits. If the shareholders lose a little profit as a result of these regulations, so be it. Our country would be a better place if we voted based on charity and not on resentment.

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