Punishing public workers: The end game | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Punishing public workers: The end game

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 6:40 AM

Polling is mixed. (Here, for example, is a poll showing majority support for collective bargaining and against the idea of balancing budgets solely on the backs of organized workers.) But there's some indication the Republican Party is making significant headway in its mission to demonize public workers — teachers particularly — as overpaid.

Traditionally, teachers have taken middling pay in part because of a dependable pension and some time off in the summer. (In some places, solid health benefits have been part of the equation, but generally not in Arkansas where subsidies for teachers' health coverage tend to be far less than those for other public workers.)

My thought for the day: The drive against public employees is often led by many of the same people who decry the quality of our teaching force and the need to ruthlessly root out underperformers (generally by a rigid adherence to high stakes testing results.) Teachers must not only be more effective, regardless the raw material with which they work and the dysfunctional homes from which they spring, they must work longer hours and more days. Or so the crusaders say.

So then. When we root out the subpar performers, who will we recruit to work longer hours for middling pay and fewer benefits? Don't tell me a scattering of bonuses for the putative high performers (those test scores again) will do the trick. If the overall pot isn't bigger, you haven't offered sufficient incentive to recruit the tens of thousands needed to stand in front of the country's classrooms. In private business, if executive bonuses are a guide (don't hold me to this), you should pay increasing amounts for better performance. Working smarter and harder for less appears to be mostly a formula the plutocrats demand for public employees and their own unorganized lower-level workers.

(Thanks to Gov. Cheese for the thematic YouTube link.)

PS — The recall movement is underway in Wisconsin.

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