Friday, May 23, 2014

Would They Scapegoat Police or Firefighters, Too?

If 58% was a mandate, what do you call  77%? 
By now, you likely saw this Fisking and take-down of Lisa Thrun's dopey attempt to spin the school elections. She's trying to convince people it was a low turn-out, made up only of union hacks. She's wrong, of course, but people like her are all about the ideology, and never about the facts.

But chances are you totally missed her pathetic get out the vote effort.  (I base this primarily on the fact that no one was talking about it, no one saw it, and her little group has fewer than 30 Facebook likes, and very few updates).

They spent a few thousand dollars on slick ads, and some pancakes.

Let's take a look at the worst closing argument ever.
The choice has never been more clear.

Last year, the Clarence School board tried to kick the can down the road at the taxpayers by proposing a tax-cap-busting budget requiring a tax increase of nearly 10%.
Kick the can down the road at the taxpayers? That's a convoluted mixed metaphor. But yes, as was discussed at great length in 2013, that year the district found itself in a horrible budget jam due to a huge loss of state aid thanks to the gap elimination fiasco, as well as pension costs still being adversely affected by the stock market crash of 2008.

In order to maintain the same level of academic excellence that the district thought the community expected, a one-time hit above the tax cap was needed to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, it failed. Teachers were fired. The quality and quantity of programs, sports, electives, and music were harmed.
Common sense should have told them it was just too much, but they made the voters do it instead. The electorate responded with an overwhelming “NO!” A record number of District residents turned out and the 58%-42% margin sent a clear message to the District that they had to respect the taxpayers.
Well, yes. They made the voters do it instead. Thrun and her crew spent tens of thousands of dollars to whip the voters into a kid-hating frenzy, filled with half-truths, spin, and outright lying.
This year’s Clarence school budget fully restored all sports and extra-curriculars, protected all teaching positions and stayed within the tax cap. Cooler heads have prevailed, and it’s time to move on, right?

Not so fast.

It appears that three of this year’s school board candidates want to re-wind the clock. It one of the most unlikely political moves ever, the three teachers'-union-backed candidates all said that they not only approved of last year’s failed 9.8% budget, but they would do it again too.
Damn right they would. It was a test case to see if the community truly believed that maintenance of academic excellence was of paramount importance. It was a wholly democratic, transparent process. There was nothing objectively wrong with the district making the ask. To suggest otherwise is idiocy.
You can’t make this stuff up.

The event was Tuesday’s lightly-attended Meet the Candidates forum - and one of these three, who as a member of last year’s board actually approved the failed 9.8% budget, blamed its defeat on a “PR manipulation.”
That one must have stung, right, Lisa? It must suck to be the object of so much scorn and derision.

The whole episode seemed so inexplicably anti-taxpayer that it left us scratching our heads. Then, the next day, we saw this ad (see below) appear in the Clarence Bee.

Apparently these three are completely out of ideas, because they certainly didn’t offer any for voters. We really want to ask them what they were thinking, but we don’t think it was so scrupulously devoid of content by accident.
Lisa didn't bother to go into any detail about what the candidates discussed at the forum. She's merely regurgitating her own - ahem - PR manipulation into it. Spin. Propaganda. If you want to know what the various candidates discussed at the forum, why not read this?

Caution. Conspiracy theory ahead. 
We’re not sure if this declaration of blind loyalty was required by the teacher’s union in exchange for their endorsement, but it is certainly a message to the taxpayers – and a warning.
When in doubt, accuse the unions! When you lose an argument, and when you present a candidate who has contempt for taxpayers, public education, and students and the guy loses decisively through a record turn-out, then just shout "union!" and hope that no one notices.

Was there a warning? Yep. The warning is this: there are people in Clarence who hold our public education system in high esteem, and won't see it dismantled by angry, vicious, right-wing ideologues.
Last year’s failed vote awoke District voters, but these candidates are clearly hoping that this year’s “perfectly reasonable” budget will lull them back to sleep – while these hand-picked teachers' union candidates make sure future school boards return to the failed policies of the past.
Utter shit. Of the three "ASK" candidates, Stock and Kloss work in the private sector. Their interest in the school system has to do with them being taxpayers who want to preserve and protect our schools. Andrews is a stay-at-home mom and very active with the Harris Hill PTO.  Thrun and her handful of malcontents don't understand the notion of service for the greater good, so they denigrate Andrews as just another union hack.

None of these candidates was "hand-picked" by the union, but the CTU did support them.  You know why? Because, unlike Mr. Worling, they maintain an educational interest and investment in the district, and because the things that came out of their mouths did not scapegoat teachers and staff, and instead focused on the real problems - unfunded state mandates, a loss of state aid, and pressure on the system thanks to years of harmful cutting.

You don't, incidentally, cut your way to excellence. You don't divest your way to #1.
That’s why - even while the budget is not contested - we urge Clarence District voters to come to the polls and vote: YES to the budget, NO to the Bus Proposition and - most importantly - vote ONLY for candidates that Respect the Taxpayers!
The record turnout trounced you on the buses and on Worling.

But now is not the time to be complacent. You can see from the tenor in her comments that Thrun is now launching an anti-school jihad. It's altogether possible that next year will be even more ugly than 2013, because they are now going to target the teachers.  It's going to be easy for them in a conservative town - teachers are public-sector employees who earn reasonably good wages, enjoy good benefits, and have a generous pension program. The latter two are things that used to exist in the private sector, but 30 years' worth of the erosion of the middle class to help further enrich the already wealthy has brought about this result.

We're still waiting for the wealth to trickle down.

And Thrun is so enraptured by her phony faith in supply-side economics, that she thinks taking away teachers' pensions and benefits is going to solve the district's fiscal problems. They continuously argue that the district should hire a "professional contract negotiator" to deal with the CTU and, presumably, bring the teachers to heel and force them to accept the unacceptable.

Two words: Triborough Amendment. You can bring in anyone you want - how about Carl Paladino? And Carl can waltz into the meeting with the unions, show them some equestrian pornography, hurl epithets at them, and otherwise use his magical negotiating powers to make the union succumb to his might.

But you can't bully the teachers into committing financial suicide, because they can simply walk away and the existing contract remains in effect, in perpetuity or until a reasonable deal is agreed-upon.

Furthermore, Worling said at the candidate's forum that education should be funded through non-tax-deductible charity; through a line item where families can choose to pay more if they want, like we chose to in 2013 by funding CSEF.

Worling didn't donate to CSEF. Neither did Thrun. This underscores how much contempt they have for the schools and students.

How about Thrun and Worling pool together all of their money and retain this phantom "professional contract negotiator" on their own dime? I'll bring the popcorn.

But here's the thing about teachers and their benefits. Every single time Thrun and her ilk bleat on about the teachers' unsustainable benefits or pensions, do one simple thing:

Replace "teachers" with "cops". Or "firefighters". Or "soldiers". Or "town board members". Why, exactly, is it that teachers are the only public employee group that the right-wing targets for harm? Teachers are on the front line. They're not just teaching, but they're helping to mold young minds, to help them build character and confidence. Teachers stay late and work early to help prepare their curriculum or help students who need something extra. They're not fast food workers; they're not disposable warm bodies, but professional educators - most of them with graduate degrees. Being a teacher is a profession - and a noble one at that. You denigrate and defame teachers at your own risk.

All this raises a larger point: what sort of people do we want teaching in our schools? Educators who demand that they be respected and treated as the career professionals they are? Or employees who meekly accept frozen pay, diminished benefits, and degraded workplace protections? 
Who are the better role models for our students? Who are the people more likely to be able to command a classroom and lead their lessons with poise and confidence? Career educators who believe enough in their own abilities to insist on fair wages and tenure protections are employees who set a tone in their schools and their communities of respect, self-reliance, and integrity.
The notion that teachers, alone among all professions, shouldn’t act in their own interests is simply absurd. Yes, there needs to be accountability; yes, there are limits on what we can pay teachers. 
But standing up for yourself isn’t a character flaw; it is a virtue. So if we want put an excellent teacher in front of every student, let’s start by acknowledging that teachers have every right to act in their own, enlightened self-interest."
You think they don't pay enough for health insurance? That they should pay what people in the private sector pay? People with graduate degrees earn more in the private sector, and that helps offset that cost. You think that they shouldn't have a pension? When a teacher with 30 years' experience and a master's degree retires at a $90,000 salary, that's not at all excessive. What do you think a veteran teacher should earn?

They love, however, to point out the pensions. Yet just this month, Comptroller DiNapoli revealed that the state pension fund has never been stronger.
It was a stellar year for us. The Fund grew in value to a historic high of $176.2 billion,” DiNapoli said. “The strength of the domestic equity market, coupled with strong private equity and real estate returns, drove much of our growth. The Fund’s diversified asset allocation continued to help generate strong positive returns. The financial markets have given investors a wild ride the last few years but our investment strategy has allowed us to capitalize on opportunities and minimize risks.
But if these people want to change how teachers are remunerated and the benefits they receive, this is (like most things) not something you can demand from the local union, but a legislative change that has to take place in Albany. All of their ire is directed at things that are imposed from afar, yet they expect the teachers on the ground to just surrender.

Teachers contribute to the retirement system their entire careers. This isn't some random hand-out. The effort to slash teacher benefits under the guise of "reform" is part of a well-funded lobbying effort, made up mostly of - you guess it - ideological nonsense and manufactured, non-existent crisis.

Next year, when they're going to war against the teachers and defaming those who support teachers as "anti-tax", remember to ask them if they're prepared to do the same to police, firefighters, or the armed forces.

No comments:

Post a Comment