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December 21, 2008

1)  Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. The California Teachers Association on Friday filed a proposed initiative to increase the state sales tax "to provide new, ongoing funding for public schools and colleges that cannot be cut, delayed or diverted by the governor or the Legislature."

You, dear reader, already knew about this six weeks ago (see item #2 here), but I thought I would mention something in the CTA press release. It reads, "Already ranking 46th in the nation in per-student funding, California schools and colleges have been cut by more than $3.5 billion in the past year and face another $4 billion in cuts under the budget plan approved Thursday by the Legislature."

I'm sure there is some tortured table somewhere that places California 46th in the nation in some measure of per-pupil spending. It probably requires applying L.A. or San Jose prices to Redding and Needles. But as luck would have it, we just received a comprehensive report on per-pupil spending from a source I'm sure CTA has heard of - the National Education Association.

NEA's annual Rankings and Estimates report happens to rank states by per-pupil spending, and on page 55 (73 in the PDF file) Table H-11 shows California ranked 26th in per-pupil spending, not 46th. Close enough for government work, as they say.

There is one measure in which California ranks first, though. The average teacher salary in the state was $64,424 last year (Table C-11) - almost $2,100 more than second-place New York, and almost $12,000 higher than the national average. What's more, California placed fifth in the nation in the percentage that teacher salaries have increased over the last 10 years, corrected for inflation (Table C-14).

Move on to the Estimates section of the report, and you'll find that NEA estimates the average California teacher salary this year is $66,986 - a 4% increase over last year (Summary Table G). This pay hike comes during a year in which the state has hired an additional 2,700 teachers (Summary Table F).

The last time CTA threatened with this initiative, the governor and the legislature rolled over so fast the union could hardly believe its luck. I suspect this time CTA will have to take its chances with the electorate. Good luck.

2)  Holiday Hiatus. EIA already has a lot of stuff lined up for early in the New Year and there is no sense burying news during Christmas week. So thanks for reading all year long and may you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The communiqué and the blog will return on Wednesday, January 7.

3)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 15-21:

* The Arne Duncan Reaction Digest. He supports NCLB and he doesn't. He collaborates with the union and he doesn't. He's a reformer and he isn't. Are you sure this guy isn't a politician?

* Good News: Two-Thirds of Voters Have Grasp of Obvious. Nearly 12 years after the Kamber Report, NEA is still in the same boat.

* Attention! We Stink at What We Do! Hire a new agent.

4)  Quote of the Week. "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, you must have a pretty good team of lawyers and a lot of dirt on the people who want to get rid of you." – Me, after hearing Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich quote Kipling.


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