Why do people hate teachers unions?

Because they hate teachers:

Like I said, people move to Chappaqua for the schools, and if the graduation and post-graduate statistics are any indication—in my graduating class of 270, I’d guess about 50 of us went onto an Ivy League school—they’re getting their money’s worth. Yet many people I grew up with treated teachers as bumptious figures of ridicule—and not in your anarchist-critique-of-all-social-institutions kind of way.


It’s clear where the kids got it from: the parents. Every year there’d be a fight in the town over the school budget, and every year a vocal contingent would scream that the town was wasting money (and raising needless taxes) on its schools. Especially on the teachers (I never heard anyone criticize the sports teams). People hate paying taxes for any number of reasons—though financial hardship, in this case, was hardly one of them—but there was a special pique reserved for what the taxes were mostly going to: the teachers.


In my childhood world, grown ups basically saw teachers as failures and fuck-ups. “Those who can’t do, teach” goes the old saw. But where that traditionally bespoke a suspicion of fancy ideas that didn’t produce anything concrete, in my fancy suburb, it meant something else. Teachers had opted out of the capitalist game; they weren’t in this world for money. There could be only one reason for that: they were losers. They were dimwitted, unambitious, complacent, unimaginative, and risk-averse. They were middle class.


No one, we were sure, became a teacher because she loved history or literature and wanted to pass that on to the next generation. All of them simply had no other choice. How did we know that? Because they weren’t lawyers or doctors or “businessmen”—one of those words, even in the post-Madmen era, still spoken with veneration and awe. It was a circular argument, to be sure, but its circularity merely reflected the closed universe of assumption in which we operated.


Like my teachers, I have chosen a career in education and don’t make a lot of money. Unlike them, I’m a professor. I’m continuously astonished at the pass that gets me among the people I grew up with. Had I chosen to be a high-school teacher, I’d be just another loser. But tenured professors are different. Especially if we teach in elite schools (which I don’t.) We’re more talented, more refined, more ambitious—more like them. We’re capitalist tools, too.


So that’s where and how I grew up. And when I hear journalists and commentators, many of them fresh out of the Ivy League, talking to teachers as if they were servants trying to steal the family silver, that’s what I hear. It’s an ugly tone from ugly people.

You learn something new every day

I learned that sugar-free candy, while not great, is not such a bad substitute if you can’t have the real thing. On the other hand, I also learned why you shouldn’t eat more than one!

Whee

I’m proud to be living in America without that socialist single-payer health care:

WASHINGTON — The cost of job-based family health insurance continues to tick upward in 2012, increasing faster than employee wages and overall inflation for the 13th straight year, according to a nationwide survey of businesses released Tuesday.

For the 149 million workers with employer-sponsored coverage, that typically meant higher co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket medical costs, according to the 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

The study found that low-wage workers are getting squeezed the hardest.

CTU

Zerlina Maxwell on Chicago teachers strike:

According to teachers, the strike is necessary because of the ongoing battle over high stakes testing and dilapidated conditions of the public schools creates inadequate working conditions for students who struggle to learn in overcrowded classes, in overheated rooms, with insufficient supplies of text books.


One hundred and sixty public schools in the city of Chicago have no library, yet Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered the city’s public libraries to close earlier, due to budget cuts, thus leaving students without resources. During the negotiations, teachers were offered a 4% annual raise in exchange for an extended school day, but that was eventually rescinded by Emanuel who then offered only a 2% raise.


The conflict over salary increases is the most reported part of the impasse, but it’s really high stakes testing (standardized exams which require teachers to “teach to the test”) being the basis for teacher evaluations that is the most significant conflict. Despite numerous studies showing that this testing is an ineffective method of cultivating successful students, reformers have succeeded in spinning the narrative around to blame teachers, damaging their public image.

The new poors

I was complaining to a friend who is part of the D.C. consultancy class (although not the rich part). “What is it with all this crap about the middle class?” I said. “No one in that entire convention talked about the poor or the working class.” My friend said that poor people preferred to think of themselves as middle class, even when they’re not, and that it probably polled better.

“Really?” I said, surprised. “Because I don’t know many people who still describe themselves as middle class. I know a lot of people who describe themselves as poor.” This Pew survey bears out my impression:

The percentage of Americans who say they are in the lower-middle or lower class has risen from a quarter of the adult population to about a third in the past four years, according to a national survey of 2,508 adults by the Pew Research Center.


Not only has the lower class grown, but its demographic profile also has shifted. People younger than 30 are disproportionately swelling the ranks of the self-defined lower classes.1 The shares of Hispanics and whites who place themselves in the lower class also are growing.


Among blacks, the story is different. The share of blacks in the lower class has not changed in four years, one of the few demographic groups in which the proportion in the lower classes did not grow. As a consequence, a virtually identical share of blacks (33%) and whites (31%) now say they are in the lower class.


When it comes to political affiliation, more Democrats than Republicans place themselves in the lower classes, but Republicans saw a sharper rise over the past four years. Some 23% now call themselves lower class, up from 13% in 2008. Among Democrats, 33% now call themselves lower class, compared with 29% in 2008.


The survey finds that hard times have been particularly hard on the lower class. Eight-in-ten adults (84%) in the lower classes say they had to cut back spending in the past year because money was tight, compared with 62% who say they are middle class and 41% who say they are in the upper classes. Those in the lower classes also say they are less happy and less healthy, and the stress they report experiencing is more than other adults.


As they look to their own future and that of their children, many in the lower class see their prospects dimming. About three-quarters (77%) say it’s harder now to get ahead than it was 10 years ago. Only half (51%) say that hard work brings success, a view expressed by overwhelming majorities of those in the middle (67%) and upper classes (71%). While the expectation that each new generation will surpass their parents is a central tenet of the American Dream, those lower classes are significantly more likely than middle or upper-class adults to believe their children will have a worse standard of living than they do.

Study: Banks refusal to modify caused the foreclosure crisis

I know you will be as shocked as I am:

Just how many more people could have qualified under the administration’s mortgage modification program if the banks had done a better job? In other words, how many people have been pushed toward foreclosure unnecessarily?


A thorough study released last week provides one number, and it’s a big one: about 800,000 homeowners.


The study’s authors — from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the government’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Ohio State University, Columbia Business School, and the University of Chicago — arrived at this conclusion by analyzing a vast data set available to the OCC. They wanted to measure the impact of HAMP, the government’s main foreclosure prevention program.


What they found was that certain banks were far better at modifying loans than others. The reasons for the difference, they established, were pretty predictable: The banks that were better at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure had staff who were both more numerous and better trained.


Unfortunately for homeowners, most mortgages are handled by banks that haven’t been properly staffed and thus have modified far fewer loans. If these worse-performing banks had simply modified loans at the same pace as their better performing peers, then HAMP would have produced about 800,000 more modifications. Instead of about 1.2 million modifications by the end of this year, HAMP would have resulted in about 2 million.


That’s still well short of the 3-4 million modifications President Obama promised when he announced the program back in early 2009. But it’s a big difference, and a reasonable, basic benchmark against which to compare the program’s failings.


The report does not identify these poor performing banks, but it’s not hard to ID them. A “few large servicers [have offered] modifications at half the rate of others,” the authors say. The largest mortgage servicers are Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citi.


Bank of America in particular (the largest of all the servicers when HAMP launched) has been far slower to modify loans than even the other large servicers, as other analyses we’ve cited haveshown.

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