Update: Romney campaign continues attacks on education, calls for fewer teachers, cops and firefighters


Romney campaign chairman John Sununu danced a little bit trying to qualify Mitt Romney’s attack on first responders and teachers — Sununu said some cities have smaller populations than they once did, and they need fewer teachers.

But Sununu continued to attack all teachers, all cops, and all firefighters.

Sununu’s position, opposed to all government workers, remains relatively consistent over the past three decades.  Sununu remains one of the crabbiest people ever to hold high office and great power (U.S. Senator, White House chief of staff).  We probably should take him at his word now.

ThinkProgress.com quotes Sununu:

SUNUNU: Let me respond as a taxpayer, not as a representative of the Romney campaign. There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population. And as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers. As technology contributes to community security and dealing with issues that firefighters have to deal with, you would hope that you can, as a taxpayer, see the benefits of the efficiency and personnel that you get out of that.

JANSING: But even if there’s movement to the suburbs, teachers and policemen are needed somewhere.

SUNUNU: But I’m going to tell you there are places where just pumping money in to add to the public payroll is not what the taxpayers of this country want.

JANSING: Do you think that taxpayers of this country want to hear fewer firefighters, fewer teachers, fewer police officers, from a strategic standpoint?

SUNUNU: If there’s fewer kids in the classrooms, the taxpayers really do want to hear there will be fewer teachers. [...] You have a lot of places where that is happening. You have a very mobile country now where things are changing. You have cities in this country in which the school population peaked ten, 15 years ago. And, yet the number of teachers that may have maintained has not changed. I think this is a real issue. And people ought to stop jumping on it as a gaffe and understand there’s wisdom in the comment.

Nationwide, the number of students is increasing, and even with the dip for the recent massive Republican recession, population continues to grow.  My school is not representative of the entire nation, but we had a 25% increase in student population, with a 10% decrease in faculty.  Class sizes rose dramatically (I had as many as 36 students in a room designed for 22).

That’s more common than decreasing student populations.

I’m not sure we can accuse Sununu of not being in touch with what goes on in the U.S.  He maintains his anti-government, do-more-with-less positions despite knowing better.

Yes, I think his explanation is dissembling.

But be warned:  The War on American Exceptionalism should not come as a surprise; Romney’s campaign is making it clear that they prefer to do damage to U.S. institutions like law enforcement and education.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jennsmom.

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20 Responses to Update: Romney campaign continues attacks on education, calls for fewer teachers, cops and firefighters

  1. Ed writes:
    Tell me: Are you an assistant superintendent in a school district somewhere?

    He’s probably related to the “genius” in my town who was having a fit over my school district building a new high school 4 years ago. He was kvetching about the “waste of money in the middle of a down economy.”

    Like you can stick 1500 students into the old high school which was deisgned for a maximum of 800.

    Since the private sector by no means runs on a merit system when it comes to salaries and bonuses I just love the demands that the public sector do so.

    and since the right wing seems to think that a CEO getting 800 times the salary of the lowest paid worker in said company while keeping his pension and benefits even if the company goes bankrupt while the average worker loses their pension and benefits is ok….yeah…the right wing is entirely hypocritical and therefor is not worth listening to. let me know when the right wing is going to make the same demands of the so called “job creators” and then you can talk, Pino.

    Until then the right wing is blowing smoke in a stupid attempt to destroy unions and **** over teachers.

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Freakonomics: Teachers Sumo Wrestler

    In it economists were able to identify teachers who cheated for their students on end of year tests so that they ranked better. It turns out that students really do learn, or not, from teachers who are good, or bad. And by following enough of them year over year, you can tell which teachers aided a kid’s education. And which didn’t.

    Sounds good — but it turns out that student achievement, year over year, is not an indicator of teacher quality. In fact, this cannot be measured at all with present tools. See this post, and follow the links: http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/teacher-ratings-cant-tell-good-teachers-from-bad-ones-back-to-the-drawing-board/

    (By the way, the guys in the first Freakonomics book demonstrate how to tell when there is cheating on a standardized test, or cheating in Sumo tournaments to make sure performance of each wrestler meets the “minimum” to stay alive in the business after the breakout rounds have been determined; they make no claims to be able to determine who are the good teachers, only the cheaters. Not the same thing, and that offers no guidance whatsoever on who are the good teachers.)

    Turns out that no organization can fire its way to high performance. In order to get high performance, analysis must be done to determine what makes the organization run to get high performance, and then those things must be done. You assume that the bottom 10% of teachers are a drag on performance — sort of like assuming that the way to get a gold medal at the Olympics relay running events is to get rid of the slowest guy each race. If your worst is better than the other team’s best, you’d be a fool to do that.

    Fact is, we don’t know exactly how children learn (or anyone else). Consequently, a determination of “the worst 10%” of teachers is wholly arbitrary. We don’t know what works outside of a system, especially year to year. Those districts who have tried your method discovered they were repeatedly firing teachers who, a year earlier, had been in the top 10%. A rational person would realize there is error in the system, and not error in the teacher.

    So, first you propose to cut money, and to cut the money, you propose to fire teachers. Firing teachers (or anyone else) is among the most expensive fixes an organization can try. You propose to make the surviving teachers take on larger class loads — one thing the research clearly shows leads to poor performance of students and teachers.

    Tell me: Are you an assistant superintendent in a school district somewhere?

    Like

  3. The problem, Pino, with your arbitrary “lets fire the bottom 10%” is that you’re blithely ignoring all the other variables that are in play when it comes to student achievement.

    If you want an example. There is my cousin Nick and me. We both went to the same schools, had the same classes, had the same teachers.

    And yet I did far better in school then Nick did. So unless you’re somehow going to argue that a teacher did poorly with Nick but did well with me you’re going to have to acknowledge that there are other variables at play then just teachers.

    This “It’s the teachers fault!” is nothing more then a smokescreen to distract the people away from the fact that it’s a far more complex problem then the GOP and the right wing wants to pretend. Well that and the GOP is actively trying to destroy the unions so they can screw the Democrats.

    Like

  4. pino says:

    How are we going to decide which teachers qualify as the bottom ten percent in terms of productivity and classroom-based results?

    Ask a teacher!

    Every single day teachers tackle the “impossible” task of ranking students by achievement of objective activities. We don’t blink when teachers hand out grades in art, P.E, drama, literature or essays on Bill Shakespeare.

    But if you don’t believe me you can check out techniques that identify what they call “value added teachers.”

    Or, for a more fun example, google :

    Freakonomics: Teachers Sumo Wrestler

    In it economists were able to identify teachers who cheated for their students on end of year tests so that they ranked better. It turns out that students really do learn, or not, from teachers who are good, or bad. And by following enough of them year over year, you can tell which teachers aided a kid’s education. And which didn’t.

    For example, Sally can read at “X” level. In one example Sally draws Millard Filmore as a reading teacher. Millard is widely known as a fantastic teacher. And behold, after 1 year with Millard, Sally is reading at “X+2″ level. Now, say Sally draws Pino, a lazy ineffective teacher. After suffering through Pino for 1 year Sally reads no better than she did when she started.

    Now, Sally is just one example and isn’t representative of either Millard or Pino. But when you study perhaps 60-80-100 kids a year for 2 or 3 separate years, you generate a very accurate picture of effectiveness.

    And this method has the advantage of not being dependent on the “luck of the student draw.” Which, by the way is the typical teacher counter-argument. Rather, the idea is how much value did the teacher provide each student relative to herself?

    Like

  5. Jim says:

    How are we going to decide which teachers qualify as the bottom ten percent in terms of productivity and classroom-based results?

    I like the six figure salary idea. I’d add firefighters, police officers and EMTs to that concept as well.

    Like

  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Turds are turds.

    Back in the Nixon-Ford years when I first got to Washington, D.C., one of the first delegations of diplomats and officials from the Peoples Republic of China asked to tour the District of Columbia’s Blue Plains sewage treatment facility. Why they wanted to tour it was a mystery, but no one could figure a good reason to deny the Chinese the tour. Blue Plains was a problem because it was the nation’s largest treatment plant, and there were literally mountains of dried sewage material, mostly human waste, piled up at the site — no one else would allow it to be dumped anywhere else.

    Some wags thought the Chinese wanted to humiliate the U.S. with this environmental problem. At the close of the tour, the Chinese officials finally got outside to see the 50 foot, half-mile long mounds of treated and dried human manure. The Chinese officials gasped.

    “Your farms must be the most fertile in the world!” one official said.

    You see turds; others see fertile material.

    Like

  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Pensions for teachers are not overly grand, nor underfunded in most cases, since teachers pay for them out of the teachers’ salaries. You’ve got your facts wrong, again.

    Public service pensions are not overly-generous, especially considering the low pay and high hazards for police and firefighters, and low pay and long hours for teachers.

    Medical care costs are a problem — but no more so for public employees than for others. ObamaCare should slow the fantastic pace of health care cost inflation — but of course, you oppose that, too.

    In Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, to name four states, these costs were not an issue until the governments gave massive tax rebates, cuts and refunds to the wealthy. It’s unfair to give Warren Buffet greater income, and to take it out of the hides of Nebraska teachers, I think. It’s immoral.

    Buffet says so, too.

    Like

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    So, are you guys just dense, or do you really not get the point he is making? In some states, there should be fewer public employees because there are fewer people. Not exactly rocket science.

    You’re right, not rocket science. You could read the Census and get the facts, something that “smartest-man-in-the-room” Sununu obviously did not. Can you tell us which state has lost population in recent years, considering our population has doubled since about 1960?

    Texas has 300,000 new students, and 15,000 fewer teachers (25,000 fewer by next fall). Sununu’s claim is counter factual in almost all specifics, and certainly for 98% of the nation’s school districts.

    Like

  9. Eramus says:

    Not to point out the obvious, but maybe someone has to.

    “Let me respond as a taxpayer, not as a representative of the Romney campaign.”

    Sununu just said this is what he thinks, not necessarily what Romney thinks.

    “There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population. And as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers.” So as the population in some states decreases they need fewer teachers. This is actually happening, and is a logical conclusion.

    “As technology contributes to community security and dealing with issues that firefighters have to deal with, you would hope that you can, as a taxpayer, see the benefits of the efficiency and personnel that you get out of that.” he is saying that to some extent technology means you may need to have fewer cops on beat, teachers in the classroom, or firefighters. For example, more security cameras, better building materials and sprinklers, computors, etc. Not exactly something most people might disagree with. Technology increases productivity. No profession is immune.

    “If there’s fewer kids in the classrooms, the taxpayers really do want to hear there will be fewer teachers. [...]” Again, he reinterates the previous point – if there is less need, then there should be fewer employees.

    “You have cities in this country in which the school population peaked ten, 15 years ago. And, yet the number of teachers that may have maintained has not changed.” Same point again.

    So, are you guys just dense, or do you really not get the point he is making? In some states, there should be fewer public employees because there are fewer people. Not exactly rocket science.

    What is missing from this discussion: is the problem with public employees a problem with declining revenue, or increased costs? The answer is…yes. Revenues have declined to the states because of the recession, but the problem would ahve hit anyway because of:

    1) Overly generous fixed benefit retirement plans. Pension funds are severely underperforming in the market, and to balence the books over a long recession, states have undercontributed. Pension funds are assuming 8% growth are achiving 2-3%. Plus people are livign longer. This means massive liabilites for existing pension benefits are sucking the life out of states, cities, and counties. To put things another way, we have have exactly the same number of police, firefighters, and teachers as we had before, the only difference is we are paying more and more of them to be retired.

    2) Medical costs. As these rise faster than the rate of inflation, they have outstripped the ability of states and cities to pay for them. There is a long convoluted economic reasons for why this is occuring, but it is the source of considerable financial pain.

    Like

  10. pino says:

    Fire the people in charge, replace them with leaders.

    I agree.

    When you fire your bottom performers, what assurance is there that HR will hire better people? Almost zero.

    If HR were to randomly fill the slots, there would be a 9 in 10 chance that they would hire someone not in the bottom 10%.

    If your organization’s people in charge can only get great performance by hiring it, instead of coaching it, they’re practically worthless.

    Turds are turds.

    Like

  11. pino says:

    He’s talking about firing them all.

    No.

    He’s talking about not hiring news ones just ’cause.

    Now, to be fair, Ed and I have moved off Mittens and are discussing my compromise.

    Well lowering the spending sure as shit isn’t going to improve things.

    I agree.

    However, we could reduce spending and not see anything get worse. Which gets back to my compromise. THAT would make things better.

    Let us know when you come up with an objective means of determining “good” and “bad” and can point to it being the teachers and solely the teachers as being responsible for “bad results.”

    Serious.

    You are NOT using the argument that we can’t adjudicate performance and mastery of a profession whose SOLE job is to adjudicate performance and mastery of children?!?!?!

    If you can, with a straight face, tell me that a teacher is able to identify levels of mastery on a 5 page essay on Chaucer but we are somehow unable to identify levels of mastery of the teachers themselves you are only fooling yourself.

    Go ask any competent advanced math teacher and she’ll tell ya that you are wrong.

    The humanity, grading the graders!

    And then come up with a reason for why the good teachers would choose to stay if 10% of them are going to be arbitrarily fired every year.

    I manage people in corporate America. I fight like hell to retain and reward my top performers. Why would I subject my team to arbitrary measurements?

    Like

  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Firing should be free.

    Should be, perhaps — but isn’t. IBM studies years ago showed in the best of circumstances replacing an employee cost at least 1.25 times the original salary; firings, generally double.

    If leadership is so bad that 10% of the employees need to be fired, firing that 10% will not touch the problem, and will probably exacerbate it. Fire the people in charge, replace them with leaders. Turnover is rarely an advantage — except when you’ve got a “hot shop,” and other parts of the organization or other organizations are poaching your employees because they are the best. A true leader will lose people to promotions and other, better opportunities, and won’t have time or need to fire (in almost all cases).

    However you wanna characterize it, there are top performers and bottom performers. Reduce the bottom performers and surround yourself with the best.

    The rest will come.

    Who were the turkeys in HR who hired the bottom performers? When you fire your bottom performers, what assurance is there that HR will hire better people? Almost zero.

    If your organization’s people in charge can only get great performance by hiring it, instead of coaching it, they’re practically worthless.

    Yeah, that applies to Jack Welch, too.

    Like

  13. Pino writes:
    Why fire anybody?

    Because ineffective people prevent positive results.

    Yeah of course you’re blithely ignoring the fact that Mitten’s isn’t talking about “firing the bad ones.”

    He’s talking about firing them all.

    But considering that Mittens ran Kaybee Toystores into the ground, along with several others, perhaps we shouldn’t be taking economic advice from him.

    As for this:

    I see no causal impact of increased educational spending and student achievement. We’ve dramatically increased spending per student and the achievement of our kids hasn’t moved.

    Well lowering the spending sure as shit isn’t going to improve things.

    As for this:

    But in the spirit of compromise, I’ll offer you this:

    1. Fire the bottom 10% of teachers every year.
    2. Pay the top 10% of teachers triple digit salaries.

    Let us know when you come up with an objective means of determining “good” and “bad” and can point to it being the teachers and solely the teachers as being responsible for “bad results.” And then come up with a reason for why the good teachers would choose to stay if 10% of them are going to be arbitrarily fired every year. And then you can prove how the education of students is going to be improved if there is a 10% of all teachers revolving door every year. And then you can prove exactly how you can guarantee the 10% you want to fire will never ever improve. Because having been taught by some rookie teachers who were bad at the start..yeah most of them got way better. But under your system they wouldn’t even get a chance.

    But tell you what…I’d be more amendable to your idea if we apply it to corporate CEO’s and well..the Republican party. though in the GOP’s case it isn’t 10% that need to be fired. It’s all of them. because I still have yet to figure out why none of the ceo’s that got us into this financial shit hole haven’t been fired at least if not locked up. Exactly how is Mr. Dimon still the CEO of JP Morgan after losing somewhere between 2 and 3 billion dollars?

    Trying to apply arbitrary nonsense in a world that is hardly arbitrary is generally a recipe for disaster. There’s simply too many variables at work when it comes to education to point a finger at the teachers and scream “it’s all their fault. They need to pay!”

    Sorry, this “Fire teachers, police and firemen” is just a smokescreen to deflect attention from what an outright disaster to the country the GOP has been for years. And when it comes to education it’s an even bigger smokescreen to deflect attention from the shenanigans of people like Ahab Walker and Al. E. Newman-Jindal, the latter of whom seems to think it’s a jolly good idea to privatize the entirety of his state’s public schools.

    As for me..I’ll stick with this idea..it works better: education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

    Like

  14. pino says:

    Why fire anybody?

    Because ineffective people prevent positive results.

    Firing is expensive, generally mis-aimed (80% of frontline employee errors are rooted in management problems that the employee cannot change), and it wastes time.

    Firing should be free.

    However you wanna characterize it, there are top performers and bottom performers. Reduce the bottom performers and surround yourself with the best.

    The rest will come.

    If a team of teachers get top results, why not reward them for it?

    I agree with you, we SHOULD reward them for it. To the tune of triple digit salaries; $120,000 – $135,000 and more i they deserve it! It’s fully half of my proposition.

    Would you take the compromise? Fire the worst, reward the best.

    Like

  15. Ed Darrell says:

    Why fire anybody? Firing is expensive, generally mis-aimed (80% of frontline employee errors are rooted in management problems that the employee cannot change), and it wastes time.

    If a team of teachers get top results, why not reward them for it? You argue that punishment gets better results that rewards — and that is simply untrue in human psychology.

    Like

  16. pino says:

    Surely you’re not trying to make a case that reducing spending on books, good, well-lighted classrooms and libraries, and good teachers, is NOT effective, are you?

    I am.

    I see no causal impact of increased educational spending and student achievement. We’ve dramatically increased spending per student and the achievement of our kids hasn’t moved.

    But in the spirit of compromise, I’ll offer you this:

    1. Fire the bottom 10% of teachers every year.
    2. Pay the top 10% of teachers triple digit salaries.

    Like

  17. Ed Darrell says:

    Pino, see the history of the National Defense Education Act, post-Sputnik. That got us to the Moon, and it got us a lot more. See the history of education in California, pre-Prop 13. See the history of education in Nevada, pre-1976. See the history of education achievement in Utah, pre-1990. See New York. See the history of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, particularly with regard to the achievement of physically handicapped students who got help. See Wall Street, where it is well understood that money is an indicator of importance, especially to those employees a firm counts on to get the real heavy lifting done.

    See the history of the “G.I. Bill of Rights.”

    Or look at low-education spending populations — compare educational achievement in Somalia with educational achievement in France.

    Surely you’re not trying to make a case that reducing spending on books, good, well-lighted classrooms and libraries, and good teachers, is NOT effective, are you?

    Like

  18. pino says:

    Romney campaign continues attacks on education

    Can you make the case that spending more money produces better results?

    Like

  19. jsojourner says:

    You’re right, Karen. What I refer to as “The Paul Krugman Plan” works. But you could just as easily call it another New Deal or the Robert Reich plan. It has always worked. But the anarchists who presently call themselves Republicans and Libertarians prefer to believe in magic fairy dust and the genuine beneficence of the upper crust.

    While liberal or progressive plans are not perfect, until the anarchists can suggest something better…I’ll stick with FDR, Reich and Krugman.

    Welcome to the Bathtub, btw!

    Jim

    Like

  20. Yes, because government doesn’t create jobs. *sarcasm*

    I read something not long ago saying that the private sector is actually recovering. It’s growing, adding jobs, all of that. Slowly, but it is growing. What’s holding the recovery back is the public sector, where government workers are still losing jobs and new jobs aren’t being created. Right now is the time when those who are making money should be taxed more so the government can hire more government workers. More cops, firefighters, teachers, road workers, park maintenance workers, DMV workers, government contractors, the list goes on.

    Hang on, let me see if I can find the link to cite my source. Otherwise you’ll wonder if I’m making it up…. Here you go: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-rachel-maddow-show/47302746

    Like

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