Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rose Garden Thorn

When the president urged Congress last week to pass $26 billion in emergency aid to help save the jobs of laid-off teachers, one of his human props was out of place. It was a mistake he may regret. Flanked in the Rose Garden by teachers, President Obama said last Tuesday: "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe." The scene didn't look unusual. Next to Obama during his morning plea from the Rose Garden were two teachers, one of them Shannon Lewis, who had been laid off at Hampshire High School in West Virginia. Everything looked so normal that we even included in our I&I pages a photo of her at the evening bill signing. But Lewis wasn't laid off because the government could no longer afford to pay her. She was laid off "because of an enrollment decline in Hampshire County," the Charleston Daily Mail reports. "Even if the state were in boom times, the current school aid formula would not support her salary." Which brings up a question the White House is going to wish hadn't been asked: How many other teachers are there who, like Lewis, lost their jobs not because of low tax revenues but simply because they were not needed, and will now be paid ... for what? There might not be many. But this question leads to another place the White House doesn't want to go: Public school employment, the Cato Institute reported in its @ Liberty blog, has increased 10 times faster than public school enrollment since 1970 — and the result has been stagnant test scores...more

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