The Myth of Security

When the Business Round Table released a report that showed public employees made 43% more than their counterparts, a lot of eyebrows were raised. That would have been quite a result, except as more reputable think tanks have discovered, that report was riddled with errors, bad methodology and a sprinkling of fantasy.

Innovation Ohio has just published a piece titled The 43% Myth that takes apart this bogus report from the BRT and AEI, piece-by-piece. Let's focus on just one of the most outlandish claims the BRT made, because it gets to the heart of SB5 and corporate education reform.

BRT adds 10% to public employee salaries for the benefit of “job security” they claim these workers enjoy. The number itself was artificially inflated by the researchers’ methodology, but also falsely suggests that this “benefit” costs taxpayers anything. If, as BRT asserts, public workers remain in their jobs longer, it actually saves employers money by not having to locate and train replacement workers as frequently.

How much security do educators have to begin with? We took a look.

We can see in the graph below, that educators have experienced significant employment declines in this recession - over 200,000 since 2009.

In Ohio specifically, we can look at the declines over the past decade. In December 2001 there were some 322,700 people in local government employment connected to education - teachers, education support professionals, principals, etc. In 2010 there were on average just 288,600.

That's a loss of 34,100 jobs in public education in Ohio.

It is clear to see that education has not been a particularly secure profession. When one considers that it also requires regular voter approval of tax levies to even maintain current staffing levels, anyone claiming that being an educator draws a 10% "security bonus" is someone who hasn't familiarized themselves with the facts.

To add to this uncertainty, corporate education reformers now want to tie employment to test scores, in a means that is unproven. By swapping mythical job security for promised (but not delivered) higher pay, corporate reformers believe teachers and students benefit alike. However, no evidence exists to support this claim, indeed, evidence of the damage these policies produce is now surfacing.

Rhee vowed to remove significant numbers of teachers. About a third of the 4,000 teachers on the payroll on Sept. 1, 2007, are gone, through firings, layoffs and normal attrition, according to D.C. officials.

It has left the teacher corps younger and less experienced. The proportion of first- and second-year teachers has increased in all wards of the city, according to an analysis by Mary Levy, a lawyer and education finance expert who has worked as a consultant to District officials.

The biggest increase in novice teachers, who often struggle in their early years, has been in low-income areas of the city. Nearly a quarter of the teachers in Ward 8 are beginners, triple the level in 2005. But other communities have also seen a spike. In Ward 5, the proportion has gone from 9 percent to 22 percent.

Job security has been destroyed, and a profession that already suffers from high attrition, has seen that problem escalate significantly. Teachers are not motivated by profit, and when their employment becomes driven by such factors, it drives them out, not higher.

It should also be noted that in Ohio, while corporate reform measures are targeting job security, they have not appropriated a single dime to go towards merit pay.

The goal, therefore, is to lower costs, not increase quality. With these corporate education reform policies, costs will surely go down, as will the quality of education Ohio students receive, and in the long run - that's the cost that the state cannot afford to bare.