Wake County teacher loses

According to the Wake County Schools blog,

As of April 9, 2014, more than 600 teachers have left their jobs since the beginning of the school year on July 1, 2013, an increase of 41 percent over the same period last year.

Here is some perspective: According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Wake County employed 10,331 teachers this year.  Moreover, 1,170 teachers left their Wake County school last year, although around three hundred of those stayed in education.

At this point, Wake County school officials should examine the district and school conditions that led to the rise, unless a similar phenomenon is occurring in other school districts.  If Wake is not alone, then state legislators will have to take action during the session that begins next month.

“Sustainability” crusaders at UNCW want every student to fork over some money

Among the current fads on American college campuses is “sustainability.” As we read in this piece, students at UNCW want the school to impose an additional $5 fee on all students to create a fund to be used for various “sustainability” programs.

If they think “sustainability” so important, why don’t the students work to raise the money through voluntary means? It’s telling that their first thought was to force every student to pay through a tax rather than trying to persuade them to contribute voluntarily.

Charlotte Observer editorial offers its own “education in politics”

I am not surprised that the Charlotte Observer editorial staff is attacking the Republican chairs of the North Carolina Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force, Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Jerry Tillman.

I am also not surprised that the editorial staff dedicated so much ink praising Democratic task force member Rep. Tricia Cotham, a legislator who I have always respected despite our ideological differences.

But I have to ask.  What, exactly, were Rep. Cotham’s contributions to the task force?

Do we have a record of email exchanges between Cotham and the co-chairs of the task force?  In other words, the editors assume that she was an active participant, but I see no evidence of that.

I do see evidence that Cotham used the task force as her personal soapbox.  Take her comment from the final meeting of the task force, for example:

It comes down to a few simple questions: Do we value children? Do we value teachers? Do we value education as an economic driver?

How did this inane statement advance the work of the task force or even contribute to the debate about teacher compensation?  It didn’t.  It was, in the words of Observer editors, “an education in politics.”

And let’s talk about the obvious.  The task force conducted four meetings, and the fourth one was a discussion of the final report.  Given that constraint, why would anyone expect a final report that addresses the mind-boggling complexities of teacher compensation?  As I mentioned in my weekly newsletter, had the final recommendations offered the specific policy recommendations desired by some members of the task force, they would have complained that there was insufficient testimony to warrant detailed recommendations. And they would have been correct!

After all, teacher compensation does not exist in a vacuum.  For one, it is situated within the local, state, and national labor markets.  Moreover, teacher compensation decisions are contingent on the amount of resources obtained from taxpayers, as well as the allocation of those resources to thousands of state government operations.  Many other functions receive a slice of the state budget pie, a point that is lost on those advocating huge increases in teacher pay.

Finally, let’s talk about this raising teacher pay to the “national average” business.  Observer editors think it is a cut and dry issue.  It isn’t.  Legislators could spend days examining pertinent issues surrounding the “national average,” such as cost-of-living, benefits, and the role of federal and local governments.

Sandy Ikeda on the problems of urban planning

Once again, Professor Sandy Ikeda has written a sharp and insightful piece for The Freeman, this time on the problems of urban planning. He expands on Jane Jacobs’ observations of 50 years ago on how urban planning (that is, efforts by government to control cities) gets in the way of the order that would emerge from many private plans.

Here is Ikeda’s conclusion:

What can government do? In the ordinary course of its activities a government can perhaps at best refrain from doing the things that would thwart the emergence of the invisible social infrastructure that gives rise to that diversity, development, and genuine liveliness.

The rest is mostly taxidermy.

Dispatches from the campaign trail, April 17, 2014

• We’re taking a break Good Friday and will be back in this space Monday. Happy Easter, everyone.

• National Democrats are pulling out all the stops to have someone other than House Speaker Thom Tillis face incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan this fall, according to National Journal. The Washington-based publication looks at a major ad buy from the Democrat-run Senate Majority PAC recounting the early days of Tillis’ speakership. Two aides were fired for having affairs with lobbyists and the Mecklenburg County Republican provided severance pay from taxpayers. National Journal notes that the timing of the ads — launched before the May 6 U.S. Senate primary rather than the fall general election campaign — seems designed to push Republican voters toward candidates Democrats see as more vulnerable than Tillis.

• The National Rifle Association’s PAC endorses Tillis in the GOP primary. The Washington Post takes note of Hagan’s successful fundraising efforts, saying the $2.8 million she collected in the first three months of 2014 is more than double Tillis’ total.

• State Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, is opening a fundraising lead in the contest for the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District. Adams had raised slightly more than $350,000 as of March 31. In second place is Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, who raised $249,000 — the vast majority from out-of-state donors. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools attorney George Battle has collected $227,000, trial lawyer Curtis Osborne reported $193,000, and state Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, got $167,000. With $115,000 in the bank, Adams easily has the most cash on hand.

• A poll of 7th Congressional District voters by The Wickers Group shows state Sen. David Rouzer with a small lead over New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White for the Republican nomination, with 29 percent to 26 percent lead. Fellow GOPer Chris Andrade was not included in the poll.

Ten questions that the media should ask

Today, Wake County school officials are holding a press conference to discuss ““the alarming increase in mid-year teacher resignations and the dwindling supply of NC-trained teachers who are qualified to fill the empty positions.”  Here are some questions that the media should ask those participating in the press conference:

1. Is this a Wake County phenomenon or is there a consistent pattern of mid-year teacher resignations in districts statewide?  I suspect that some will hurl blame on Republican legislators, but if it is truly the result of policy changes, then we should see “alarming” mid-year resignations elsewhere.

2. Do we know why these teachers are leaving?  Having aggregate figures on resignations is one thing.  Knowing why they are resigning is another.

3. Has this happened in Wake County before?  If so, why?  It is vital to examine trends, rather than just one year of data.

3. Why is there a dwindling supply of NC-trained teachers? I am talking about data, not anecdotes.

4. Are the shortages in NC-trained teachers limited to certain subjects and grade levels? As a state, we’ve always struggled to produce teachers in certain subjects.  Science, math, and special education teachers are always in short supply.

5. Does it matter if they are trained in North Carolina or somewhere else so long as they are qualified?  According to Title II data, about one-third of North Carolina teachers are trained in other states.

6. Are there an “alarming” number of resignations of Wake County employees in other areas, such as administration or support staff?  If not, why?

7. What are the experience levels of teachers who are resigning? If the resigning teachers are in their early years in the profession, it would appear to validate the Republicans’ plan to raise base pay for those teachers.

8. Are the press conference participants interested in finding solutions or placing blame?  If it is the latter, then this is nothing more than a publicity stunt designed to score political points.

9. Speaking of finding solutions, have members of the Wake County Board of Education and central office administrators reached out to Governor McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis, and President Pro Tem of the Senate Phil Berger?  If not, why?

10. What role did Common Core play in the resignations?

Never met a tax hike he didn’t like?

In contrast to Tuesday’s discussion in Raleigh about the benefits of tax rate cuts for North Carolina families and businesses, we feature in this entry an assessment from Americans for Tax Reform about the Obama administration’s record on taxes.

Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has formally proposed a total of 442 tax increases, according to an Americans for Tax Reform analysis of Obama administration budgets for fiscal years 2010 through 2015.

The 442 total proposed tax increases does not include the 20 tax increases Obama signed into law as part of Obamacare.

“History tells us what Obama was able to do. This list reminds us of what Obama wanted to do,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

The number of proposed tax increases per year is as follows:

-79 tax increases for FY 2010

-52 tax increases for FY 2011

-47 tax increases for FY 2012

-34 tax increases for FY 2013

-137 tax increases for FY 2014

-93 tax increases for FY 2015

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Obama budget with the lowest number of proposed tax increases was released during an election year: In February 2012, Obama released his FY 2013 budget, with “only” 34 proposed tax increases. Once safely re-elected, Obama came back with a vengeance, proposing 137 tax increases, a personal record high for the 44th President.

In addition to the 442 tax increases in his annual budget proposals, the 20 signed into law as part of Obamacare, and the massive tobacco tax hike signed into law on the sixteenth day of his presidency, Obama has made it clear he is open to other broad-based tax increases.

Stossel cautions against falling for climate hyperbole

John Stossel‘s latest column posted at Human Events offers some skepticism about alarmist environmental arguments.

A few years back, we were going to be killed by global cooling, overpopulation, pesticide residues, West Nile virus, bird flu, Y2K, cellphone radiation, mad cow disease, etc. Now it’s global warming.

Reporters don’t make these scares up. The recent hype about global warming comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Most of its members are serious scientists. But reporters don’t realize that those scientists, like bird flu specialists, have every incentive to hype the risk. If their computer models (which so far have been wrong) predict disaster, they get attention and money. If they say, “I’m not sure,” they get nothing.

Also, the IPCC is not just a panel of scientists. It’s an inter governmental panel. It’s a bureaucracy controlled by the sort of people who once ran for student council and are “exhilarated by the prospect of putting the thumb of the federal government on the scale.”

Actually, that wasn’t a quote from a global warming alarmist. It’s from anti-marijuana alarmist and former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joe Califano. But it’s the same crisis mindset. Scientists who disagree, who are reluctant to put their thumbs on the government scale, don’t feel welcome in the IPCC.

It’s possible climate change may become a problem. But even if industrialization brings warming, we’ve got more important problems. On my TV show this week, statistician Bjorn Lomborg points out that “air pollution kills 4.3 million people each year … We need to get a sense of priority.” That deadly air pollution happens because, to keep warm, poor people burn dung in their huts.

Yet, time and again, environmentalists oppose the energy production most likely to make the world cleaner and safer. Instead, they persuade politicians to spend billions of your dollars on symbolism like “renewable” energy.

“The amazing number that most people haven’t heard is, if you take all the solar panels and all the wind turbines in the world,” says Lomborg, “they have (eliminated) less CO2 than what U.S. fracking (cracking rocks below ground to extract oil and natural gas) managed to do.”