San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

End The War On Education?

I was sitting in line yesterday at the government building I am forced to visit every three years to have the emissions coming out of my tailpipe checked.  I have never failed an emissions test but I still have to go through this government mandated hogwash every couple of years. I once failed a gas cap test and was forced to go to Wal-Mart, buy a new gas cap and return to go through the line once again to prove that I had a new cap.  Efficiency is not important at government owned and operated businesses.  Neither is serving the public.  Credible studies have shown the career politicians who populate the Colorado state legislature that these emissions tests are comical wastes of time but they continue to renew the program every time it comes up.  I guess they consider it to be a fine example of how government can create jobs.  Despite the fact that there were five lanes painted on the ground allowing access to the building where I was to have my car tested only two of them were open.  One employee was sitting in the shade next to the building chewing on a big piece of watermelon.  It was a hot day as we idling our cars while waiting dutifully in line to be summoned forward.
It was then that I noticed it.  I had been looking around at all of the Yuppie cars being driven by people from my neighborhood.  I had BMWs and Audis all around me.  The car in front of me was a Lexus.  I looked a bit out of place in my 2003 Toyota Corolla but that is par for the course with me in Yuppieville.  As I was taking note of the vehicles around me my eyes skimmed over the bumper sticker on the car immediately in front of me in line.  It said, "End the War on Education."  Now that came as news to me.  I never even knew that the Socialist Democracy of Amerika had declared a war on something called "education."  I decided to investigate this hidden conflict.
Later, as I sat down at my computer to investigate this secret war, it dawned on me that the lady driving the Lexus was probably a government school teacher in my county.  If that was true then I was looking in the wrong place by searching the activities of the department of defense of the federal government.  I needed to find out more information about government school education in the state of Colorado.  Still, despite my best efforts, I could find no evidence of a war having been declared on the government schools of Colorado.  After completing my emissions test, for which I forked over $25 to be told my car was fine, I drove around the neighborhood looking for signs of warfare at the neighborhood government schools.  I looked for broken windows, burning cars in the parking lots and bullet holes in the walls.  I could find no evidence of any of these things.  I was perplexed, to say the least.
Later on that day I asked my wife if she had heard anything about a war going on at the government schools.  I wanted to know who was behind it and why the government schools were under attack.  She looked perplexed so I explained what I had seen on the bumper sticker.  At that point she shook her head and clicked her tongue while informing me that I was being a crazy, old fool by interpreting the bumper sticker literally rather than figuratively.  Now that possibility had never occurred to me.  I immediately agreed she was correct, she usually is, and went out in search of a figurative war against the government schools of Colorado.  Here is what I discovered.
I have been around the block a couple of times and I am aware of the fact that when people figuratively describe something as a "war" they are really talking about money and how the career politicians who rule over us should distribute it. The "war on women" and the "war on racial minorities" are both examples of that sort of metaphorical war which are really nothing more than calls for taxpayer dollars and government privileges to be distributed to special interest groups.  That certainly had to be the case here.  All I needed to do was follow the money and I would eventually discover that the citizens of Colorado had declared war upon the government schools by refusing to fund them.  After a bit of searching I discovered that the state of Colorado extracts revenues from the taxpayers, via both state income taxes and real estate taxes, of $10,319/student.  That was the most recent figure I could find and it was for 2013.  Five years earlier Colorado tax collectors had stolen $9,285/student from the taxpayers to fund the government school  system.  I didn't see any evidence of a war in those numbers so I kept looking.
Arizona extracted $8,599/student from taxpayers to fund government education in 2013.  New Mexico stole $10,753, Utah took $7,650, Wyoming took $18,498 and Kansas took $11,596.  When compared to neighboring states it appears as if Colorado takes an average amount of money from the taxpayers to fund its government school operations.  I certainly do not see any evidence of a war on education in the amounts being taken from the taxpayers to fund it, especially when compared to neighboring states.
Maybe government school teachers believe they are under attack because they are being forced to work for the taxpaying public for slave wages.  It did not take me long to find some information about the wages paid to government school teachers.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average government school teacher salary for the 2010-2011 school year was right at $56,000.  Maybe, I thought to myself as I desperately was trying to find a figurative war,  Colorado pays teachers ridiculously low amounts when compared to the national averages or the states surrounding us.  I checked into that theory and found that Colorado's average teacher salary (I am not sure what year this information is for but it is consistent for each state) was $49,844.  Arizona was $49,885 (only a couple of dollars difference), New Mexico was $45,453 (paying considerably less to teachers despite taking more from the taxpayers), Utah $49,393, Wyoming $56,775 (maybe they have to pay that amount to get teachers to live there) and Kansas $47,464.  I did not see any evidence of a figurative war taking place in these numbers although it is sure interesting to see the divergence between what is being take from the taxpayers and what is being given to the teachers in some states.  Just what does Kansas do with all of that extra money?
Maybe government school teachers in Colorado believe they are at war with the taxpayers because they make less than commensurate professions, if it is possible to make such a comparison between professions.  I assumed that it was and I went in search of information to find out if that could be true.  I found this graph, a bit old with 2003 data, that shows such is not the case.  Indeed, as the graph points out, when teacher's salaries are adjusted for the hours worked and the number of days worked per year they end up making more per hour than many other professions.  

Figure 1

So then I thought maybe teachers feel like they are under attack because they are generally disrespected by the public.  I can certainly understand that.  When I have thousands of dollars of my hard earned money stolen from me by the government to fund the education of my neighbor's children I get a bit upset myself.  I don't use the government school system so I never see any of the dubious benefits of government schooling.  All I see are the costs and they seem exorbitant to me.  Wikipedia came to the rescue on this possible source of war.  This page about "occupational prestige" had the public rate 20 different professions.  Teachers came in with a very high score and ranked fourth on the list.  My profession, janitor, was not even worthy to make the list.  Ministers came in 19th place.  If anyone should feel disrespected it should be Christian ministers, not government school teachers.  Government school teachers are put high upon the social pedestal. 
So I give up.  I have no idea why some teachers believe a war has been declared upon them.  What it does make me wonder is how wise can it be to send your children to government schools to be educated by folks who believe they are under attack despite all of the rather obvious evidence to the contrary.

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