Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tax Pledges

For years, Republicans have led the charge to mindlessly sign on to the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, with about 70% of their candidates promising not to raise taxes (but also not to cut corporate welfare). So it's no small wonder that Fred Hiatt and his crew offer up an unsigned editorial aimed at... a pretty much irrelevant tax pledge requested by a teacher's union back in 2006.
In 2006 the union, known as the Montgomery County Education Association, included this question on its questionnaire for candidates seeking its endorsement for the Montgomery County Council: "Would you support a tax increase, if necessary, to fund the school budget and the negotiated agreements [setting salaries and benefits for teachers]? If so, in what way would you increase taxes?"
Asking a politician if they would raise taxes if necessary to fund schools? The horror!

It should be noted in this regard that the Washington Post has been squarely behind Michelle Rhee and her unsustainable plan to reform teacher pay. In another of the Hiatt crew's unsigned pieces,
Minimally effective or ineffective teachers would lose job security. In addition to the generous pay raises -- which would give the District a competitive edge in hiring -- teachers would also benefit from a rich offering of new opportunities for professional development as well as enhanced policies on school security and discipline.

To finance the contract, Ms. Rhee was able to attract $64.5 million from foundations that hope the District will serve as a national model.
I don't know if they haven't put down the crack pipe long enough to realize that not every school district in the nation is going to get private concerns to donate tens of millions of dollars per year to help them pay salaries that cannot be sustained by taxes. I'm not sure that they put it down long enough to ask what will happen in D.C., five years from now, when that money runs out. But it is clear that Hiatt and his crew would whine incessantly if D.C.'s teachers dared to ask if elected officials would "support a tax increase, if necessary, to fund the school budget and the negotiated teacher salaries and benefits", even though there's no reason to believe that the private money will fill the huge financial void that will exist when current commitments expire.

It's no surprise, given that the Washington Post Company's principal profit center is Kaplan, that they are much more concerned with getting public money into private hands than in ensuring that public schools are sustainable. In that light, it's similarly no surprise that Hiatt and his crew can't muster even a word of criticism toward the tax pledges that the vast majority of Republicans and some Democrats sign onto every year, even if it makes it effectively impossible to balance the federal budget. But to the extent that the Post pretends to care about education, why isn't it fair to ask politicians how they plan to pay for schools and teachers when the economy turns bad, or when private charities can be found to fill multi-million dollar holes in school board budgets - because the overwhelming experience of school districts in the current recession is that they are experiencing significant budget cuts.

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