## The Problems Go ‘Round and ‘Round

Following up on my (probably poorly stated) previous post, a specific instance of the conversation’s various subthreads is illustrative, beginning with the following, from Thomas:

The average teacher salary in RI for 04-05 was \$53,473 (I know Frank will say it’s higher, but I don’t think he’s given us figures and a source yet, so I’ll stick with the RIPEC figure). That put us 8th in the nation, right after Mass.
In order to reasonably compare states, you need to control for cost of living. (\$50k goes a lot further in Kansas than in RI). Using the MERIC-COLI to do so, RI ‘s indexed teacher salary is \$41,841, which puts us 34th in rank (national average is \$43,647).
John says, “…, as a percentage of its average private-sector worker’s salary, is the highest in the country, and has been since at least 1990.”
Looking at Bureau of labor stats for 2005, John is correct. RI teacher salaries are 1.44 times the average private salary, which is higher than any other state. However, we have to ask whether this ratio is generated by very high teachers salaries, or something else.
The BLS average private industry salary for RI for 2005 was \$37,067. That put is at 22 in rank. The national average was \$37,374, so we were slightly below the average, but slightly above the median.
However, if you index this figure as well, RI’s becomes \$29,004, which puts RI private salaries at 47th in rank, and substantially below the average of \$36,338. (The ratio of indexed teacher salaries to indexed private salaries remains 1.44)
So, here’s another way of looking at the data John gives us: RI teachers make more, relative to private sector workers, than teachers in any other state. However, relative to cost of living, our teacher salaries are about at the national average. The primary reason for the high ratio is that, relative to cost of living, our private sector salaries are very, very low.

Tom W responded, in part:

The premise that we must factor in cost of living one the one hand is valid, but on the other is not. In the private sector few companies say “gee, just because you live in RI we’re going to pay you more.”

On which John expands, (again) in part:

Of course, some will immediately point out that this reflects our mix of businesses — output per hour worked in retail and restaurants being lower than, say, biotech. But that only begs the question of what has caused RI’s mix of industries to tilt toward low labor productivity operations. Which, of course, brings us back to our education system, and the quality of the work force it produces (as well as the extent to which our generous social programs are attracting an influx of low productivity workers, and our high taxes and poor schools are keeping high productivity industries from investing here). All food for thought.

I’d rework the workforce-supply side of John’s reply — implying that inadequate schools produce a low-quality workforce, which, I gather, attracts low-paying employers — to suggest that, whatever the quality of their education, Rhode Island youths on their way to promising careers find it necessary to leave the state. Thus, not only do we attract that “influx of low productivity workers,” we also keep only that segment of our native sons and daughters. As Tom W correctly noted, private businesses don’t readjust salaries based on employee location; rather, they conclude that they can’t afford to pay workers what they would require in Rhode Island and therefore locate elsewhere.
So one of the a priori positions that affects the debate over statistics is to what teachers’ salaries ought to be compared in order to determine whether they are fair. After justifiably calling me on an aspersion against him in the comments to the previous post, Bob Walsh calls it “spin” to “compare average private sector wages in total to teacher wages.” Given the degree to which these issues are all connected, however, it seems a perfectly legitimate comparison, especially if we’re looking at it in a national context.
A few years ago, I posted a pie chart on Dust in the Light illustrating (with very rough data) that the average teacher could afford to pay one other family’s housing costs (including mortgage) and still have the state’s average post–tax and housing remainder. (And that didn’t include benefits.) The national pie chart is substantially different.
Furthermore, with the need to “attract good people” leveraged so often to justify teachers’ compensation packages, it’s surely relevant that Rhode Islanders would hardly need more than the national average incentive to leave their below-average private sector for the education industry. That is especially true in a state in which all industries that are not tied to the location (e.g., because they offer services such as healthcare and retail) are fleeing. As I pointed out the following day those few years ago, almost all of Rhode Island’s fastest-growing occupations are location-specific, and Elementary and Secondary Schools topped the list, exactly an area of the profession in which Mr. Walsh admits that supply exceeds demand.
What other than — or perhaps I should say “in addition to” — unions is keeping teachers’ salaries moving in the opposite direction of that which market forces would suggest?
Looking back at the sorts of posts that I was able to write in the mid ’00s, I can’t help but lament their falling away. The specific examples linked above helped to provide the impetus for me to join with Andrew and Marc and start Anchor Rising. For those wondering about my motivations, that is the sort of thing that I wanted, and continue to want, Anchor Rising to provide.
Nowadays, I frequently wonder whether the effort that I’m actually able to make is worthwhile. Would that I could quantify and analyze every problem that Rhode Island has, but those very problems require me to put aside the unpaid research for labor. This damned, damned state.
Somebody else’s Google search reminded me of a post that I wrote about a year ago in response to a statement by Bob Walsh that “working on the issues related to poverty will help teachers help students,” with reference to SAT scores. A chart that I put together back then seems relevant to the current discussion:

The key point is that, at least in these three towns, SAT scores correlate with average income, but not with the poverty rate (by which measure Barrington and Tiverton are nearly identical) and certainly not with teacher salary. As I said when I first published this chart, a town such as Central Falls (or Tiverton, for that matter) would be well advised to lower teachers’ salaries and redirect the savings toward such improvements as will increase average household income — and with the emphasis not on welfare-style poverty programs, but on working/middle-class economic activity programs.

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Thomas
16 years ago

I think, but am not sure, that Bob Walsh’s point about “spin” may be that the fair salary comparison is not between teachers and the average worker, but between teachers and other college-educated workers. If so, I think he has a fair point.
In thinking about the education/jobs equation, I also like to remember the difficulty of business-owners in attracting managerial employees who often face the choice between expensive private schools and poor-performing public schools for their kids.
My real point in commenting is this:
Justin said: “Nowadays, I frequently wonder whether the effort that I’m actually able to make is worthwhile.”
I’m new here, so this may be out of line, but I hope you’re not really serious. I’ve found AR to be an excellent place to discuss RI politics and policy with a diverse group of people, and fewer trolls than other blogs. You obviously work hard to keep that discussion going and interesting. I think what you’re doing here is great, and I wish I’d discovered it sooner.

16 years ago

That’s clearly what Bob meant, but my point remains: in a state in which the average worker makes less than the national average (and where the cost of living is particularly high), the education establishment shouldn’t need to pay more for teachers. There’s already a relatively high incentive to jump through the hoops to become a teacher. That’s one reason that there’s a surplus of candidates for the less-specialized teacher jobs.
I’d also note that the market dynamic around here has led me to become a college-educated carpenter (and I’m not alone). Surely such as myself are a fair subset when considering whether schools need to pay so much to attract candidates.
As for the addendum, I absolutely think Anchor Rising is worthwhile. It’s the value of my own contribution that I sometimes find myself questioning.

Tim
16 years ago

Is it not ‘spin’ to suggest comparing the annual salaries of those college educated professionals working 12 months out of the year to those working 9 1/2 to 10 months out of the year is somehow an accurate compensation gauge?
Sadly Rhode Island’s rate of teacher compensation is much more impressive than the mediocre results produced by those receiving that compensation.
Bob Walsh,
Saw you on Lively Experiment last week. Loved your references to ‘talk radio’ and the first 10 minutes of the show. That medium is so in your head it’s absolutely hysterical. What is the problem Bob? lol
Btw what is it with you not taking ownership of ‘your’ own efforts to rally the union troops with ‘your’ recall the governor propaganda? That was you speaking at that rally Bob. Your attempts to keep that embarrassment at arms length and off your lap is really weak. We both know better don’t we Bob?
Keep spinning!

Bobby Oliveira
16 years ago

Let’s define this a little further which may help:
Are teachers as important to the economy as corporate trainers? The skills are roughly the same, the end goal is roughly the same. The “students” are very different.
I know what I get paid for sales training. Shouldn’t teachers be roughly in that category?

Tom W
16 years ago

Are teachers fungible workers manufacturing widgets, or are they skilled professionals? Their union(s) public pronouncements say “professional,” but their actions say fungible widget-makers. Exhibit 1 – a pertinent editorial from the Aug 7th Newport Daily News: In a nutshell, here’s what’s wrong with the public school system in Rhode Island: Middletown’s Teacher of the Year will not be returning to the school system this year, and not because she got a job somewhere else. Ann Sullivan, a high school history teacher, lost her job in the latest round of budget cuts. A nine-year veteran of the Middletown system, she did not have seniority. Along with about 20 other teachers, she received a “pink slip” in March, as required under state law, and will not be returning in September. “You may have the most highly qualified, best teachers around, but with a school system that’s getting older, tighter funding and declining enrollment, this is what happens,” said School Committee Chairman Michael F. Crowley Jr., a former Middletown teacher himself. The Middletown teachers contract makes seniority a major factor in determining who makes it through the layoff notice period, according to school officials, although union officials stressed it isn’t the only one. State and federal mandates and funding also determine local priorities. School officials also cited a litany of other reasons for the move, a loss of federal aid and a reduced state-mandated cap on municipal property-tax levies among them. But while Crowley said he would prefer seniority not to be the major factor in deciding who stays and who goes, he expressed doubt that it could be changed, even with a statewide teachers contract. “This is an example where seniority determines layoffs and promotions when it would be better based on merit,” he said. “I understand the function of it, but… Read more »

Tom W
16 years ago

>>Are teachers as important to the economy as corporate trainers? The skills are roughly the same, the end goal is roughly the same. The “students” are very different. I know what I get paid for sales training. Shouldn’t teachers be roughly in that category?
There are several major differences.
Presumably you are held to fairly stringent standards of performance; public school teachers are not.
Presumably you are accountable for your performance, and if you don’t at least adequately perform over a period of time, you will be subject to prompt termination; public school teachers have tenure and the interminable contractual process making it near impossible to terminate (e.g., hence NYC’s “rubber rooms”).
Presumably if you are a stellar performer, you will be eligible for bonuses and/or promotion based on that performance, which you will enjoy over less-stellar and mediocre performers; public school teachers are compensated and “promoted” strictly on seniority without regard to performance.
The lack of accountability, performance requirements and grossly excessive job security warrants a large discount on public school teachers’ compensation.

Tom W
16 years ago

Mr. Walsh, in the August 9th “What’s Wrong with RI Education” posts mentioned a series of articles between myself and he that appeared in the Narragansett Times a couple of years ago.
My first installment was entitled “The Temple of Taxpayer Doom,” and while it discussed the then-new South Kingstown teacher contract, the points made are universally applicable within RI. Mr. Walsh (understandably) took umbrage at most of what I had to say, such as “… teachers unions regard meritocracy the way vampires regard sunlight, and for similar reasons …”
You all may recall that recently a Hal Meyer had a letter in the ProJo discussing how he decamped RI for the economically greener pastures of Idaho. My understanding is that Tom Coyne, who established the great RI Policy Analysis web site decamped RI even before Mr. Meyer (which begs the question, “where are RI’s John Galts?”).
Anyway, the RI Policy web site is still up, and he had posted the “point-counterpoint” between yours truly and Mr. Walsh, and for anyone interested it is available at this link:
http://www.ripolicyanalysis.org/NarragansettTimesFull.pdf

16 years ago

Tom W,
Your response to Bobby O. needn’t go to those lengths, because his “definition” is flawed on principle.
The market creates an abstract value for a given job. Attempting to consciously pick two similar jobs and insist that they receive comparable remuneration can distort that form of information. (Of course, for jobs that are newly created or substantively changed, such comparisons can be a useful guide, but public teacher is hardly an unexplored job category.)
If the pay rate for public school teachers grows well above its natural value, more people than necessary will direct their attention toward that role, pulling them away from other options in which the value of their production might be maximized. Arguably, companies considering whether to open up shop in Rhode Island find there to be a lack of adequate educated workforce partially because too many of Rhode Island’s workers have invested time and effort toward artificially inflated career paths.
It’s not a matter of beginning with one job — sales trainer — and making adjustments to find the fair pay of another — school teacher. It would be more reasonable to consider whether school teacher pay must be increased to attract good candidates away from sales training, or vice versa. Based only on general impressions, I suspect that a significant decrease in public education salaries would barely affect, much less flood, the market for sales trainers.

Bob Walsh
16 years ago

Tom W
16 years ago

>>Yes, that was my point exactly – wages need to be competitive with professions requiring similar education, etc. We already lose potential teachers on a compensation basis when college students elect paths with higher potential earnings at the outset.
Buttressing my earlier post stating that actual teacher compensation is underreported in the media.
We could freeze the pension system (no additional vesting), offer a 401K type plan with a match comparable to those offered in the private sector, health care with plans and copays comparable to those in the private sector, and offer teachers 80-90k a year (roughly equivalent to 120k for a full-time position). That and provide meaningful alternative certification avenues to bypass the education college hegemony.
Eighty to ninety thousand a year, plus a competitive benefit package, plus summers off (and lots of time off during the school year)!
This would still be a significant savings over what is offered now, and yet highly qualified people would be lined up around the block trying to get those positions.

Bob Walsh
16 years ago

The pension system quesiton provides a perfect example of bad facts leading to bad conclusions. This is an extremely important point regarding pensions – teachers already contribute 9.5% of salary towards their own pensions, and while the combined management contribution (state and local) is listed as over 22% of salary in the coming year, the vast majority of that contribution is related to the existing unfunded liability, and the sustaining contribution needed to actually support the pension for the individual teacher is less than 4%. So, if you did manage to stop the pension system on a going forward basis, the vast majority of the contributions would still need to be made in addition to a match for a 401-k type system. We need to stay on the path toward full funding of the system, without any more game playing, and when full funding is realized, the state and local contribution needed will be under 4% combined.
Check with the pension board, do your own math, consult with the experts, etc. – these are the actual mathematical facts – keeping the pension systme intact is cheaper, and it provides a better benefit in almost all respects.
(Explained another way – every time the pension system was underfunded in one way or another – early retirements, banking crisis, marked to market, less than market rate return, etc. – it was as if the state borrowed the money at 8.25% (the average expected annual yield on the fund.)

Bobby Oliveira
16 years ago

Dear Justin,
Let’s try and follow your advice for a moment(forgetting that some things the chart says are statistically insignificant due to sample size, we’ll ignore that for now):
What are you going to give up in order to lower salaries??
(Again, there’s no wrong answer, this is one of those priority things)

SusanD
16 years ago

Excellent chart, Justin.
Please consider re-posting items like this once a year. Some people will not have seen them the first time; others of us would like to be reminded of them.

Thomas
16 years ago

Justin,
I agree with SusanD that was an excellent chart in your addendum 2. I appreciate your effort to get at the facts. I think you are asking all the right questions. However, I disagree with your conclusion.
Your chart shows that SAT scores track median income. It also shows that SAT scores do not seem to be affected by teacher pay. Your sample size is 3, which is much too small to be statistically significant, but I’m willing to accept, for the sake of argument, that you would find more or less the same relationship if you included a larger number of communities.
What you seem to argue is that, since teacher pay doesn’t affect SAT scores, we should cut the pay in the lower-performing districts because they are producing less for the same cost. I think that this does not follow.
In Barrington and similar towns, parents are well-educated and have incomes that allow them to do more for their children. SAT scores in these places will be relatively high even if the teachers do little, since so much is driven by parents and peers.
In Central Falls, teachers are working against the odds. Low income, language barriers, and parents who don’t know what a good education looks like, make it so much harder to engage children and help them succeed.
Take a look at the SAT line in your graph. If income was the only thing that mattered, that line ought to drop proportionately to median income. However, SAT scores drop much less dramatically than the bars representing income. That says to me that the Central Falls teachers are producing more “additional value” than the Barrington and Tiverton teachers are. If anything, we should be paying them more than the Barrington teachers. Certainly not less.

16 years ago

Thomas,
I originally created the chart in response to Bob Walsh offering just a few communities’ SAT scores to support the argument that we ought to fund poverty programs and (with some audacity) give the schools more money to help counteract poverty’s effects.
Of course, a more thorough analysis would be required prior to concrete policy changes, but if community wealth (as distinct from “poverty”) is such a determinant factor of SAT scores, and if the goal is to increase those scores, then the most important thing a town can do is to increase its citizens’ wealth. Burdening the market with additional taxes and fees, not to mention exacerbating insidious dependency on government, is actually a hindrance to that goal. Therefore, since education is by far the largest expenditure of towns, cuts ought to be made there in order to direct funds where they will do the most good.
Of course, I also have no problem arguing that Barrington’s teachers ought to be paid less on the grounds that their job is probably easier and likely carries the perk of being performed in a more pleasant environment.

16 years ago

Tom W
16 years ago

>>The pension system quesiton provides a perfect example of bad facts leading to bad conclusions. This is an extremely important point regarding pensions – teachers already contribute 9.5% of salary towards their own pensions, and while the combined management contribution (state and local) is listed as over 22% of salary in the coming year, the vast majority of that contribution is related to the existing unfunded liability, and the sustaining contribution needed to actually support the pension for the individual teacher is less than 4%. So, if you did manage to stop the pension system on a going forward basis, the vast majority of the contributions would still need to be made in addition to a match for a 401-k type system. We need to stay on the path toward full funding of the system, without any more game playing, and when full funding is realized, the state and local contribution needed will be under 4% combined. While it would take an actuary to run the numbers – and I suspect that, for obvious political reasons, our State has not done so – common sense dictates the recognition that if we immediately freeze pension accruals, the almost FIVE-BILLION DOLLAR unfunded pension liability would be greatly reduced, and perhaps turn into a surplus. The current figure is based on the current workforce continuing to vest additional benefits on the existing schedule, and the consequent increases in estimated payouts that follow. (By the way, for those of you listening at home, that five-billion dollar figure is just for state workers and public school teachers, it doesn’t include what is presumably a multi-billion dollar unfunded liability for retiree health care benefits for those same groups. Nor does it include the unfunded liabilities for the municipalities across the state.) Further, freezing the pension system… Read more »

Tom W
16 years ago

>>This is an extremely important point regarding pensions – teachers already contribute 9.5% of salary towards their own pensions
Yes, but many (most in RI?) teachers and state employees are free of the Social Security system. That “pension” contribution rate falls right between the employee / self-employed Social Security tax that those of us in the real world are forced to pay.
Yet we have no “vesting” in Social Security benefits – Congress can reduce or eliminate our “benefits” AT ANY TIME (so sayeth the U.S. Supreme Court).
Also, Social Security benefits are not only capped, but the formula is based on lifetime earnings, not (as with RI pensions) the “highest consecutive three years.”
The potential RI pension benefit is multiples of the maximum Social Security benefit.
I’m self-employed and thus stuck paying the 12.4% Social Security tax; but even at the 6.2% employee rate, I’d still gladly make that 9.5% pension contribution and trade my Social Security “benefits” for a Rhode Island pension.

Thomas
16 years ago

Justin, It seems you and I agree on the importance of parents’ economic circumstances to student success. Since one of the best ways to improve the economic circumstances of adults is to do our best to make sure they get a good education when they are children, the problem is circular. The question become how best to turn the vicious circle into a virtuous one.
MikeinRI: I agree both sides (or however many there are) ought to be respectful, even as they disagree and argue their points. I’ll bet Mr. Walsh agrees. I’d cut him a break on this, as he was responding to those who were rude directly to him.
RIFuture has been thoroughly overwhelmed with nasty trolls who have nothing positive to offer and only want to provoke. Most of them, you’ll note, are on the opposite side of the ideological fence from the blog’s owner, so I don’t think he bears responsibility for what they say. I can also appreciate that he does not want the role of censor. They sure have messed up his blog, though.

Thomas
16 years ago

I just went over to RIFuture, with a suspicion I had treated it unfairly in my last comment based on selective memory. In fact, things aren’t really as bad as I indicated. There are indeed some nasty trolls, but I think I overstated the problem. There’s also a lot of very worthwhile discussion. So, my apologies to Matt.

SusanD
16 years ago

“we all know the power of the public sector unions within the Democrat General Assembly (indeed many of your “union brothers and sisters” serve within it) – and know that collectively (no pun intended) they have the ear of the Democrat powers immeasurably more than do the citizens at large. You folks are in the proverbial “back rooms” with them when they make their annual budget “decisions.” So you and yours have more than a little culpability.”
I am loathe to remove too much of the culpability from our elected officials on the state and local level. There is no denying the public labor unions power, however, and the attendant ability to suggest solutions and budget adjustments.
“Perhaps Mr. Walsh you could point us to data indicating the latest and best estimates of the unfunded pension and health care liabilities for our State and its municipal entities, and once we have that total figure, tell us NEARI’s position as to how it should be paid for – tax increases, budget cuts (and if so where), etc.”
Yes, please; that would interest lots of people.
“And by the way, if you propose floating bonds to remedy some or all of the unfunded liabilities …”
TomW, you’ve given me the hives with that suggestion. Bonds can only be used for one time capital projects. It is fiscal suicide to use them for recurring operational expenses.

Tom W
16 years ago

>>TomW, you’ve given me the hives with that suggestion. Bonds can only be used for one time capital projects. It is fiscal suicide to use them for recurring operational expenses. Float a bond issue and then “donate” the proceeds into the pension system to fill the unfunded liability. Of course, this incurs greater expense to the taxpayers, for in addition to funding the unfunded liability, they’d now be paying interest on it to boot (probably for 30 years or more, meaning that the total taxpayer hit would easily double or triple)! Cicilline has already floated this trial balloon to bailout the Providence system. I’ve read that bond underwriters – seeking the potentially huge underwriting revenue – have been pushing this idea to politicians around the country (RI is not the only state with this unfunded liability problem, though my understanding is the we have the worst per capita unfunded pension liability in the country, surprise, surprise)! The unions would want this because once the bond proceeds go into the pension system they can only come out in the form of pension checks, thus the proceeds would permanently secure their pension funding and take pensions “off of the table.” And to hell with the citizens / taxpayers who’d be left with the principal and interest payments … INCLUDING UNION MEMBERS members who are employed in the private sector (despite all the spin about “working families” the dirty little secret in organized labor and the Democrat Party is the the labor movement today is primarily about feeding public sector employees at the expense of everyone else, including private sector union members). The union sycophant politicians would like it because they could sell it as “solving” the unfunded pension issue, it would curry big favor (and big campaign contributions) from the public sector… Read more »

Tom W
16 years ago

To see how bad things are for RI, see for example:
1. (Substitute “RI” for “NJ” while reading – the parallels are uncanny): “The Mob That Whacked Jersey – How rapacious government withered the Garden State” http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_2_new_jersey.html
2. Yankee Institute: “America’s Second Civil War: The Public Employment Complex vs. Taxpayers” (April 2006): http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/files/2/pdf/64533%20Final%20lews%20study.pdf
3. “Is The United States Bankrupt?” – Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/06/07/Kotlikoff.pdf
4. The Conspiracy Against the Taxpayers – City Journal – http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_4_taxpayers.html (“Rhode Island is an especially telling example …”)
5. The New Unionism and the new politics: Public sector unions use new clout to influence public policy – Professor Leo Troy, Rutgers University – http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/0500newunion.htm
6. \$1 Trillion Shock Awaits States, Local Governments: Joe Mysak – Bloomberg – http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aITbEuT1.SN4 – (“Where are the problem children? Nobody knows. If I had to bet, I’d say that this is a local rather than a state problem, and that the localities with exploding other-post-employment benefit liabilities are going to be located in the same states that have the worst-funded pension plans — West Virginia, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois.)

Tom W
16 years ago

>>Perhaps Mr. Walsh you could point us to data indicating the latest and best estimates of the unfunded pension and health care liabilities for our State and its municipal entities, and once we have that total figure, tell us NEARI’s position as to how it should be paid for – tax increases, budget cuts (and if so where), etc. And by the way, if you propose floating bonds to remedy some or all of the unfunded liabilities, would you please tell us what the figure would be for the taxpayers now that they will pay principal AND interest to close the unfunded liabilities, how NEARI proposes funding same.
Hey, “where in the world is ‘Walsh-o?'”

SusanD
16 years ago

It’s August, TomW – several cities and towns are negotiating teacher contracts. Mr. Walsh is busy giving guidance and instructions to those School Commi … er, those NEA local affiliates.

Tom W
16 years ago

>>It’s August, TomW – several cities and towns are negotiating teacher contracts. Mr. Walsh is busy giving guidance and instructions to those School Commi … er, those NEA local affiliates.
Oh, silly me, I forgot.
Methinks the NEARI folks are in sync with that Staples TV ad with the background music “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
As for Mr. Walsh giving “guidance and instructions” it’s probably closer diktat – the book “The Worm in the Apple” discusses at length how the NEA is very much a top-down, command and control operation.
They even have folks (called “Uniserve”) that are in many respects analogous to the “political officers” implanted in the old Soviet Army ordered to keep on eye on things and report back to Communist headquarters any “suspects” who might be disloyal to the state.