December 2010
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  • Karrie E. Alms: Amazing insight into the world of politics awaits any reader at pibgorn … from a Demon’s...
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  • Paul Wilkinson: CJ, am sorry you have ended your blog. It was well done. It seems many have given up as we keep...
  • Sharon Crews: Your voice is definitely needed in this community. Thanks for all your insights.
  • emergepeoria: Your blog is great resource to research Peoria issues. I hope you leave it up.
  • BucketHead: I was not suggesting that, I believe the both of you had very strong common sense and that lead to your...
  • C. J. Summers: Without anonymity, there is no courage among my detractors. Take a look back at the wide variety of...
  • Of course the Chronicle is done: Without Sandberg to give stores to the Chronicle there is no Chronicle.

New York Times and George Will have different answers to state crises

Yesterday I read George Will’s column in the Journal Star (here’s the same article in the Washington Post), and then the New York Times editorial. They both happened to be on the same subject: States in crisis, with Illinois in the limelight.

The New York Times says the Feds should step in and give more money (emphasis added):

A state or city unable to make its bond payments would send harmful ripples through the financial system that could cause damage even to healthier governments. But if states act quickly to deal with their revenue losses and address their debt — and receive sufficient aid from Washington — there is still time to avoid a crisis.

…[F]ederal stimulus money — which has been keeping many states afloat — is largely scheduled to expire. Renewing a portion of that aid would be one of the most effective ways to assist the economy.

And they think states and cities should raise taxes on the rich — something they criticize the federal government for being unwilling to do.

In contrast, Will says the Feds shouldn’t give another penny to states or cities that have brought this all on themselves, unless they’re willing to reform.

San Francisco voters defeated Proposition B [which would have required city employees to contribute up to 10 percent of their salaries to their pension plans, and to pay half the health-care premiums of their dependents]. If they now experience a self-inflicted budgetary earthquake, there is no national obligation to ameliorate the disaster they, like many other cities and states, have chosen.

Furthermore, any existing aid they receive should come with strings attached, he says:

[Rep. Devin] Nunes’s bill [H.R. 6484] would require [states and municipal governments] to disclose the size of their pension liabilities – and the often-dreamy assumptions behind the calculations. Noncompliant governments would be ineligible for issuing bonds exempt from federal taxation. Furthermore, the bill would stipulate that state and local governments are entirely responsible for their pension obligations and the federal government will provide no bailouts.

Nunes’s bill would not traduce any state’s sovereignty: Each would retain the right not to comply, choosing to forfeit access to the federally subsidized borrowing that facilitated their slide into trouble.

Tough love, as it were. I’m more inclined to agree with Will. The problem with the New York Times’ solution is that it doesn’t do anything to deal with the root problem. In fact, it exacerbates it. Extending stimulus benefits to states and municipal governments without requiring any change in the way they operate will only help them slide into insolvency quicker and result in bigger losses. Will’s suggestion requires reform if federal benefits are to continue and mitigates losses to taxpayers and investors alike.

32 comments to New York Times and George Will have different answers to state crises

  • Give Federal Money to corporations to fatten up that 1/2% of CEOs and Board members, but don’t give it to the states that actually use it for the people.

  • Charlie — Use it for the people? You mean like the way the County is using Build America Bonds to build the museum instead of using the bonds for infrastructure like they were intended? We’re going in debt for non-essentials that only help certain politically-connected people. Maybe those are “the people” to whom you were referring.

  • vonster

    Charlie has a point but…what CJ said.

  • Frustrated

    I am all in with the Will plan. Bloated pension obligations are bringing Illinois down. My husband’s private employer just eliminated the pension plan and also cutback and/or eliminated the 401K match for some employees and so it goes . . .

    Government pension plans and compensation, for that matter, need to be right-sized in order to fall in line with what is happening in the private sector.

  • Not everything the government spends helps the people, but a lot more of government money is used by the people than the corporate subsidies. At least the government is always creating jobs… can’t say that about big business.

  • GenerationWhy


    Your posts indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the economic system within the United States. First and foremost, the Federal Government does not give anyone any money. They do not have any money to give. The money that the government is “giving” is a redirection of funds from the private sector. Second, because the Federal Government, or any government, does not produce wealth they take it in the form of taxes, they cannot create jobs. They only use existing wealth to employ people. Businesses, whether big or small, create jobs because they create wealth in the form of profits.

    How does this happen? Well think of it this way; if Joe buys something from Sally and Sally employs Pete, and Pete invests in Joe’s company then they are all contributing to each other’s success. This is how the economy grows. However, if at every level they are taxed, then this money gets taken from the private sector. What does the government do with this money? They make more rules and increase regulations making it more difficult for Sally to produce what Joe bought. Then Sally has to charge more money for Joe to buy the product. The government takes more, and gets bigger; it creates more regulations and more laws. It starts new departments that make it even harder for Sally to stay in business. Sally then has to close, and Pete loses his job. Pete can no longer invest in Joe’s company, and then Joe loses his job. That is what is happening now.

    Don’t fool yourself; the government is the main cause of what is happening now. It is not the answer. The government’s tax policy is now to promote “fairness” not gain revenue. It is now choosing the winners and losers. This means destruction for our economy. It also means everyone’s eventual decline into poverty. Just look at Joe, Sally, and Pete.

  • RightSide

    As a state employee I’d like to point out the following:

    Employment as far as I can tell with the state of Illinois is at an all time low. We already were told a couple of years ago we had the lowest state workers per capita of any state in the USA…I’d venture to guess we still hold that title since there has been little to no hiring the last two years. Vendors are getting slow paid (9 months after currently), my office locks their office supply cabinet since purchases can’t be made everyoneis scrounging, job positions which require an advancement in salary have been locked up for almost two years….

    I already pay more than the 10% mentioned in the San Fransisco article above into my pension plan. The actuarial shortfall doesn’t come from my end. If the state would put 6+% (the amount they would have to pay if I was social security eligible) of my salary into the pension fund every year without delay would we be having this discussion?

    I’d also like to point out that changing current govt. employees pension benefits package is contrary to Illinois’ constitution. An amendment would probably be necesary. Anyone who tells you otherwise needs to remember that one of the most lucrative pension plans in Illinois is the one the Judges are in.

  • Sharon Crews

    RightSide is right about the constitutional provisions for the pensions. Also, I do not understand why those of us getting pensions are the bad guys. District 150 teachers all put much of our own money into the pension fund–directly at first and later instead of raises in District 150). Isn’t the problem due to the State of Illinois putting its hand into the cookie jar and not replenishing the supply over and over again? The money did not belong to the State of Illinois ever–they borrowed it (that alone proves it did not belong to the State). Not paying it back is essentially what I would call robbery. Blaming those receiving pensions is certainly disingenuous.

  • my 2 cents

    Sharon–thank you for your continued committment to D150. I hope you had a blessed Christmas and wish you a healthy, prosperous 2011.

  • thats why

    the teachers union was the biggest financial backer to NOT have the much needed Constitutional Convention. They knew what path it would lead them down….not a pleasure trip, but the right road, nonetheless.

  • Sharon Crews

    That’s why–you didn’t deal with the problem of the state stealing our money. What is your response to that? If you have money in savings, do you expect the state to be able to borrow your savings and never return it? As far as I understand the problem, that is exactly what the state has done to the retirement funds of teachers. Now the thieves are claiming that we retirees are keeping them from meeting the state’s financial obligations. Without our “borrowed” money, they would have been broke years ago.

  • Karrie E. Alms


    What the state is doing with the teacher’s pension is regrettably the same course of action as the Feds with Social Security IOUs — same song, different singer. Local governments proceed along the same failed policy path and citizens do the same — spending what they don’t have — always wondering when the houses of cards will all fall down. Very sad state of affairs.

  • one

    Public employees should have to fund a 401K much like most of the private sector. Many corporations have had to scale or eliminate private pensions due to their burdensome cost. Sharon is right however that the state Constitution would make it very difficult to do this to state pensions.

    I find it unjust to force taxpayers to fund a persons retirement. I think with a 401K like option would put the retirement in the government employees responsiblilty vs having the taxpayers having to pay for any pension short comings.

  • first post


    your logic is failing to see the point. The teacher’s retirement system was set up to be a fully funded system. The state agreed to pay a minimal contribution annually. Most (over 90%) of the fund is paid for by the 11.4% that teachers have taken out of their checks every pay period. (side note, social security isn’t that high). If the state would have kept their obligation all along (the minimal contribution) and quit “borrowing” with no intention of repaying, the fund would have been self sufficient and we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all.

  • second post

    While I am new to these forums, I hope this message will get some people riled up. I know there will be people who think that this message is a “good thing” and will fight it at every opportunity. I hope they are the minority and that the majority will see this as a really bad thing.

    Teachers, and teachers unions, are under attack…again. For some reason, it is easiest to blame the teachers union for everything that goes wrong in education (bad parenting skills, poverty, broke school districts, failure to make AYP, etc.). You have heard the rhetoric over and over.

    However, now there is a sneaky hearing that is trying to get rushed through the house and senate (similar to the two-tiered system the legislators were successful with last year). The committee met in late December (when they thought no one would notice) and are planning on having a hearing (and possibly a vote) around January 3 (before most in education are back at work). This is simply a ploy to get the proposed legislation pushed through before anyone knows what happened. Here are some lowlights:

    Teacher Tenure – it would be almost useless, even if a teacher were to gain tenure. It would not provide protection for teachers.

    Seniority – it would have no bearing on being placed or moved. Furthermore, if a school closed, the district could decide which teachers to keep and which to let go. A 25 year teacher could be let go simply because the district doesn’t like them or because they make too much money.

    Right to Strike – it would be illegal for teachers to strike for basic rights. If the teachers did strike, they could lose their teaching certificate.

    Make no mistake about it, this legislation has one purpose only, to bust up the union and collective bargaining.

    Read more about this here:

    While there is no argument that there needs to be some reform, it just needs to be talked about. Let’s have a democratic discussion about what is best for the system instead of making hasty changes. This legislation comes at a time when Illinois has already passed a new teacher evaluation system designed to give districts a way to remove ineffective teachers. Why not let that law go into effect and see what the outcome is before we already try to change it.

    Please contact your legislators and ask them to just SLOW DOWN and talk about this instead of ramming it through. You would do the same if they tried to ram a tax increase through without any discussion. Let’s let the democratic process work for everything instead of just some things.

  • Sharon Crews

    I still believe that some taxpayers believe that teaching is on a par with volunteer work and that they do not understand the value of the protection offered to society by policemen and firemen. Take away pay incentives and there is absolutely no reason for people to risk their lives day after day serving the public. Teaching in public schools is losing its appeal, also. If public school pay is reduced to the levels of many of the private schools, why would teachers opt to teach in public school where they are blamed for all the problems? Private school teachers aren’t under that pressure.

    The fact that no one from District 3 wants to run for school board is indicative of the attitude toward public education among the most affluent in our city. NCLB has met its hidden goal of ending public education. Sad days are ahead.

  • Frustrated

    Second Post – there are employment laws to protect employees, you know, right? That is only protection private sector employees have and if you ask private sector employers, I imagine they would say they are MORE than adequate.

    If the law passes and a school district make a decision to eliminate higher compensated, older teachers due to budget cuts or a school closing . . . well then, if they do not have the performance documentation to backup their decision, they will be in violation of the ADEA.

    There are measures already in existence that contrain employer decision-making and protect employee rights.

  • Sharon Crews

    Frustrated, please–you already said on Emerge’s blog that administrators evaluating teachers are not properly trained. Also, most private sector jobs have very objective measurements by which to judge employees–production rate, quality and quantity of work produced, time constraints, etc.

    None of those measurements apply to teachers. At least, no one–I mean no one–ever asked or cared how much work I did. Some teachers rarely graded papers–and, therefore, had to give students high grades because they could not substantiate low grades. In my experience, those high graders were frequently the ones held in the highest esteem by their evaluators.

    Also, there is one other major difference between private sector employees and teachers. Almost no one observes teachers on a regular basis–just yearly, planned observations, giving teachers the opportunity to put on their best “show.” Also, there is little opportunity to watch how teachers interact with students on a regular basis–most of that information comes secondhand to administrators and the “reporters” aren’t always objective. Teachers are far more autonomous–the nature of their jobs calls for little interaction. Also, interaction with other teachers isn’t a fair way to judge a teacher’s ability to interact with students.

    Without tenure, teachers can be the victims of students, parents, other teachers, and administrators. Those are much more “unqualified” evaluators than are private sector evaluators. The evaluation of teachers, in my experience, is very, very subjective.

    As yet, no one has come up with a fair way to evaluate teachers. Certainly, NCLB AYP is not the way. Besides, at the high school level, the only subjects tested are English, math, social studies–they are the only ones on the NCLB chopping block.

  • Frustrated

    Sharon this is what I actually said:

    “Making merit pay and employment retention decisions based on performance requires savvy administrators and principals that are properly trained in writing and communicating about such issues. I don’t see cash-trapped school districts taking the time to properly instruct on such matters and monitor the overall system.”

    I don’t see that in conflict with my post above.

    I believe school systems have become lazy and sloppy due to a legally mandated teacher evaluation system that is rigid and impractical. If the new law comes to pass, school districts will have to get busy on devising evaluation plans (ideally in conjunction with teacher representatives) that reflect what a particular school district values in regards to teacher performance. The matrix for District 150 might be quite different from say Dunlap or Morton. And, as you suggest, administrators will have to spend more time knowing what their staff is doing in order to properly evaluate them.

    As indicated in my above post, I expect some districts will make HUGE mistakes, initially, that will violate employment laws and they will pay dearly for those mistakes.

    My children currently attend a private school which is developing a multi-prong evaluation plan so that no one factor, i.e. parent complaints, is a deciding factor. I think a fair evaluation plan can be devised for teachers but it requires a proactive board of ed. to make it priority.

  • Sharon Crews

    Frustrated, you admit that there is no fair way to evaluate teachers–yet–and that the current evaluators aren’t savvy enough to evaluate teachers–yet. Yet you want to end tenure now! Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Talk about a recipe for disaster! What kind of evaluation tools are used in private schools?

    I don’t believe that anyone has yet come close to finding an effective and fair way of evaluating teachers for all of the reasons I mentioned above. Why do you believe that forcing the issue will cause someone to come up with that tool? How many different evaluation tools will be invented in Illinois and by whom? Of course, you keep forgetting that there is a way to terminate ineffective teachers–but administrators haven’t wanted to go through the procedure. Administrators have four years before teachers get tenure–why aren’t they letting teachers go during that time period?

    When I first started teaching there was a shortage of teachers, so letting teachers go just wasn’t practical. Statistics, I believe, show that many teachers leave the field by their own choice before they ever get tenure. I believe we will soon face another teacher shortage in the public schools.

  • bob

    Put cameras in the classroom and evaluate teachers on a regular random bases without preplanned dates or times. Give all teachers detailed lesson plans with “exactly” what they are to teach. Use the cameras to see if they are effectively managing their classrooms and teaching that material. Give the teachers the same tenure those of us in the private sector enjoy. If you are doing your job well you keep your job, if not even after 20 years, you loose your job.

    Problem solved!

  • what?

    Sure bob, putting a camera on a teacher to evaluate them won’t land the district in a lawsuit…..will it? How about we put a camera on EVERYONE in the public sector for evaluative purposes. Better yet, put a camera on everyone that collects a paycheck and pays taxes. Are you getting it yet? You do not need to put a camera in a classroom to SPY on a teacher to know whether or not they have good classroom management and are teaching the curriculum. How about mandating that administrators come out of their offices WALK around their buildings unannounced DAILY? How about central administration quit having meaningless meetings during the school day and allowing their principals and administrators TIME to evaluate their teachers? I always teach with my door open and love to have my administrator come into my classroom. Trust me, other teachers know who the “not so good” teachers are and so does the principal.

  • Candid Camera

    You’d be surprised how many teachers would invite cameras into their classrooms. They would love to show parents how their little darlings act up when they are supposed to be working. Parent/teacher conferences would take on a whole new meaning. “Oh, here’s your darling Johnny disrupting the entire class with his antics. This could be why he has a D in conduct.”

  • bob

    I have had employers who use cameras to monitor the work environment. Most retail stores have cameras. The employer of my wife has software that tracks work place computer use. I never thought of a lawsuit over the situation. The expectation that my employer wished to ensure they were getting what they paid for seemed reasonable. I however have never been a public employee and would suppose that makes all the difference.

  • BTW, they have intercoms in every classroom and the Principal can listen in at any time. Why buy cameras?

  • Sharon Crews

    Everybody, especially schools, monitor computer use–how else did the latest Lindbergh principal get fired. I do believe there are some rules about not using the intercom system to “spy” on teachers. Blogger “What” is right, though; I have to admit that everyone knows who the consistently bad teachers are–but sometimes they are the favorites of administrators because they do not give them any hassles–grades are high and discipline problems go unreported.

    Honestly, my fear is that teachers who expect students to hold to academic and disciplinary standards will be the ones on the chopping block without tenure. Those teachers are the ones who most often “cause” the administrators problems because of complaining parents, etc. Therefore, they are the ones the administrators would go after. Taken out of context or one-time situations–any event in any classroom could be questioned by administrators seeking to get rid of a teacher. There is just no guarantee that all teachers would be evaluated fairly–some teachers just know how to stay “out of the radar.” Certainly, those allowed to coast will be the ones who always agree with the administrators, etc. Without tenure, there will be few, if any, whistle-blowers.

    I have never been sure about the use of cameras in the classroom. First of all, no administrator is going to sit around watching all teachers that often. I fear the cameras would be used primarily as ammunition to get rid of teachers. First of all, I would want to know how the administrator defines “good” teaching–that isn’t as easily defined–very, very subjective.

    The presence of cameras at Walmart is not quite the same as in a classroom. However, I would go along with cameras in the classrooms if there are, also, cameras in the administors’ offices and in the deans’ offices–especially, in the deans’ offices. I would be very interested in hearing the questions the deans ask students about the classroom behaviors and the subtle and/or even overt criticisms of teachers that deans make in front of students. I have heard and seen some very unprofessional behavior in some of those offices–inappropriate language, shouting abusively at others (adults and students), threats, etc. Maybe the administrators would be on their best behavior if they were on camera all day.

  • my 2 cents

    At least he fessed up and didn’t blame it on his house being burglarized.

  • second post


    I am glad that I started some discussion. But the one key point that is being overlooked (Sharon neared it with a comment) is that there is ALREADY a law in place in Illinois to create a teacher evaluation system where teachers are evaluated by trained evaluators. That law has already passed (with the support of the two state unions) as a way to give districts a way to better evaluate and remove teachers that aren’t performing.

    The ink isn’t even dry on that law yet. The evaluation system is still being worked on. The law isn’t set to take effect until 2013 (to give the state time to make the evaluation system and to train evaluators). So why does the state want to try to pass ANOTHER law that will, in effect, kill the first law? We should be encouraging our lawmakers to SLOW DOWN and make sure we are not destroying education in our rush to “fix” it.

    For all of you that compare this to the private sector, how would you feel if your private sector company implemented a five year plan, funded it for millions of dollars a year, and then a year before it was to be rolled out to the customer, the company decided to scrap the project and do something different, without even asking the customer? I think you would agree that it would be a waste of private sector resources, and a poor company decision. This is the same thing.

    Just tell your legislators to slow down and talk about this instead of trying to sneak this through with no one looking.

  • Sharon Crews

    Second Post, I wasn’t sure of the details about the evaluation system and whether or not it had been finalized. Thanks for the clarification. I hope there are a majority of rational people making the decisions in Springfield. There is only one reason why lawmakers want to get rid of tenure and it has absolutely nothing to do with getting rid of bad teachers and keeping good ones. It has absolutely everything to do with money–which means getting rid of more expensive experienced teachers and hiring first-year teachers at the lowest wagest possible once the unions are broken. In this economy, these people are hiding behind the “good” teacher argument–they just want cheaper. The decisions will have nothing to do with quality education or educators.

  • Generation Why, I will put up my economic theory up against yours any day…

    Money originates with the government. Look at whose name is on it. VALUE originates with labor and natural resources. Business is nothing but a conduit for labor and resources to come together in order to benefit society. In return society ( either in the form of government or individual consumers)reward the businesses with money. The government prints it, and determines its value in relation to labor and resources, and the consumer receives it in an EQUAL EXCHANGE for their labor thereby defining the value of the money.

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  • Anon E. Mouse

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