Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A few things that have accumulated over the last few days:

The Clackamas Teachers Union insisted on receiving their contractual pay raise, so the district had to lay off 60 teachers. This is a great illustration of what is wrong with how the public sector operates.

The existing collective bargaining contract called for a 3% pay hike this school year. The district asked them to accept no raise, some furlough days, but keep their step raises. No way, said the union. The district used the only cost cutting tool at its disposal in the world of collective bargaining. They had to lay off teachers. Sixty of them.

I'm sure those 60 teachers felt they got good value for the $600 or so a year in union dues they pay. And I am sure the people of Clackamas School District feel that the union is really looking out for the quality of the education they provide.

While people employed in the private sector are taking hefty real pay cuts (in some cases 100%) it is unconscionable for a teachers union to refuse to accept the reality of the deep recession, and basically screw the taxpaying public and the parents of school kids.

Why does ANYONE still believe that teachers unions are a good thing for our society? It is morally corrupt to its core.

Another monument to sustainability is being built with your wasted tax dollars in Portland. The Edith-Green Wendell-Wyatt federal building is getting a $133 million renovation courtesy of stimulus funds. And of course they are going to make it oh-so-sustainable, so efficient that it could qualify for LEED certification. The Oregonian headline hinted at how smart this is: "Makeover motivation: It's eco-logical."

Yes, very logical indeed. Spending $133 million to renovate a 350,000 square foot office building. That only comes to about $386 per square foot!

In Oregon, "sustainability" is defined as "spend a whole lot of money to achieve a very small decrease in energy."

Logical indeed.

Another Clackamas School District controversy has a school board member, Sam Gillespie, complaining publicaly about his own incompetence. Seems the district lent over half a million dollars to one of its quasi charter school organizations. I say quasi, because the schools are really not independent charters. Thier employees are disrict employees and union members.

The schools, the Clackamas Web Academy and the New Urban High School, got a loan from the district, and now are asking for ten years to pay it back.

Sam Gillespie, long time board member who is no pal of charter schools of any stripe, complained about the dsitrict being forced to accept this payback deal, and criticized the charter school movement, saying "That's the problem with charters - there's no accountability."

Huh? His own board authorized the loan, and his own board oversees these two charter schools. If they haven't been overseeing it properly, there is only one person to blame: Himself!


Jack Roberts said...

Rob, I don't it's fair in your first section above to call this "a great illustration of what is wrong with how the public sector operates."

A private sector employer with a union contract could face exactly the same dilemna. If they couldn't convince the union to modify their contract, they'd have to lay off employees or other expenses to balance their budget, too.

It's important to keep the anti-union arguments and the anti-public sector arguments separate, although I realize the two are so intermingled it's often hard to tell them apart. :-)

OregonGuy said...

Try moving that school to a different state, Jack.

Anonymous said...

Eco-logical, huh? Let's see, I'm not familiar with the federal building but I'm doing a quick search...

We have a 246,000 ft. shopping center listed at $28 million

A 472,000 ft building *with energy efficient upgrades* for $43 million

Nothing else on the Portland area market breaks the $20 million mark. For $133 million they should be able to rebuild it several dozen times out of raw organic materials using only hand tools.

Jack Roberts said...

Gee, I don't know, OregonGuy, but when it comes to K-12, I sort of figure moving a school to a different state is actually starting a new school.

Anonymous said...

Back to one of the points of Rob's NCSD issue... school boards are populated by many long serving useful idiots. Sam Gillespie seems to be the poster child of useful idiots. If Clackamas had a Village, Sam Gillespie would be their Village Idiot.

Rob Kremer said...

While it is true that a private sector union/employer would face the same issue, I still think it is accurate to say this is "how the public sector operates."

The vast majority of non-management employees in the public sector are unionized, and less than 20% of private sector employees are unionized.

OregonGuy said...

The consumer of privately produced goods has choices that the consumer of government services don't.

If I want to buy a car, I don't care whether that car is made in Oregon, Michigan or Tennessee.

But, if I want quality and price, I wouldn't be surprised to find that that car was built in Tennesse, where wages are lower.

Maybe teachers are unique in that at lower wages they don't teach as well. I can predict, however,that in Clackamas county there are at least 60 teachers willing to take lower wages in exchange for employment.

Mebbe, if the 60 furloughed teachers had been determined to be the "worst 60" teachers in the district I could be supportive of the decision to furlough these teachers. But that wasn't the criterion upon which these lay-offs were based, were they?

So, Clackamas gets a bigger labour bill and a probably quantifiable reduction in the quality of educator that remained on the payroll. The Union wins. The Consumer loses.

How does one go about creating a competing model for education in Clackamas county? If I'm wrong, let me apologise in advance, but there isn't any way to create a competitive alternative to the Clackamas school district, is there?

MAX Redline said...

Unions had a place, many years ago, in the private sector. They did make important strides, back then.

Unions have no place in the public sector, and should not be permitted there. As they've pushed into the public sector, their influence has been dramatically reduced in the private sector. And they love the public sector! Governor Ted has two union leaders essentially running things. Public sector compensation today is nearly double that of comparable private-sector positions.

This is easy to accomplish in the public sector, because they never run out of money. They just raise taxes and fees - which are just taxes under a different name. If they had to be actually competitive, you wouldn't see this discrepancy.

I'm sorry, Jack, but while I often agree with your perspective, in this case I disagree.

Silence Dogood said...

Unions' place is where bad management resides. That's why they have become so powerful in the public sector. About the only thing you can do to improve bad government management is to prevent mission creep. In the old days, before the Post-Constitutional Era, the law served that purpose. Now, instead, the law has become an instrument for plunder and corruption. That's why government is ripe for unionism.

MAX Redline said...

Off-topic, but it looks like the Loon has "banned" you again, Rob....