A Freeze Would Preserve Everything
Well, it’s certainly not rocket science, but it’s nice to know that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie and I have come to the same conclusion when it comes to schools’ supposed funding problems (subscription required):
In the last three years, state and local government-employee compensation grew 9.8 percent, compared with 6.9 percent in the private sector. That’s $1.43 in compensation growth for public employees for every $1.00 in compensation growth for private employees.
Those raises cost money, at a time when state tax revenues have taken a hit because of falling incomes and less consumption. For a time, states were able to close much of the gap with stimulus dollars. In New Jersey, now that the stimulus is running out, teachers’ unions are urging the extension of a “temporary” tax increase inflicted last year upon residents making over $150,000 annually, and the elimination of the school-funding cut.
As Christie noted, this tax increase (as well as teacher layoffs and cuts to spending on classroom supplies) can be avoided by means of enacting a pay freeze. An April Rasmussen poll found 65 percent of New Jersey voters support a teacher-pay freeze. But while a handful of local unions agreed to accept one, the vast majority balked at the governor’s demand. In return, Christie urged voters to reject proposed school budgets in elections on April 20. (In New Jersey, school budgets must be approved by voters annually.)
It has amazed me that school committees across Rhode Island have been talking school closures and the elimination of extracurricular activities. Requiring public-sector staff to experience even just a small amount of the economic pain makes all the problems go away. Of course, that’s assuming that there really are problems. A frequent complaint about school departments is that their budgets are entirely their own concoction, and it’s clear whose side school committees and administrations are on, for the most part, when it comes down to it.