One of the right’s newest crusades has been to claim that public employees are overpaid and have too much job security. As Jonathan Cohn writes, it is almost as if “public employees are the new welfare queens.”
The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund was the latest to push this crusade this morning on Fox & Friends. During a discussion about public employees’ pay and the New Jersey budget, Fund complained that public employees have “far more job security than private employees” and that their “benefits and pay packages are bigger than the average private sector salary.” He even went as far as to say that “public servants are in danger of becoming the public masters.” As evidence, he told the Fox host that “very few teachers have been laid off in New Jersey or elsewhere”:
FUND: The public employees basically have job security. Very few teachers have been laid off in New Jersey or elsewhere. We used to have a bargain, the public employees have job security but they didn’t quite get the kind of salary that private employees did. Now, they not only have far more job security than private employees but their benefits and pay packages are bigger than the average private sector salary. The public servants are in danger of becoming the public masters.
While the phrase “very few” is relative and it’s hard to know how many teachers would have to be laid off to qualify for being more than “very few” in Fund’s mind, it would be difficult to imagine that the thousands of teachers that have been laid off during the recession across the country as states face budget constraints would agree with his assessment. Here’s a short but not comprehensive list of some of the layoffs teachers have faced just in the past few months:
- As many as 8,000 teachers are expected to be laid off in Georgia over the coming school year. Budget constraints in the state are expected to force more than 30,000 public employees to lose their jobs over the next year. Federal assistance legislated last month may help blunt the layoffs. [7/18/10]
- Two weeks before school started in Kansas City, 175 teachers were notified that they would be laid off. The budget woes the state is facing also forced the closing of 24 schools in that same district alone. [8/12/10]
- 66 teachers were laid off for the coming school year in the Glendale Unified district in Glendale, California. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said the district’s Chief Financial Officer, fearing further layoffs in the future due to the recession. [6/23/10]
- Last spring, Cleveland was forced to lay off 545 teachers, unable to get the funding to keep them on. The layoffs also included a total of 800 public employees. [4/22/10]
- 19 teachers just found out they will be laid off in the small town of Methuen, Massachussetts. Administrators say stimulus funds helped keep them on until now. [8/24/10]
- Hundreds of Miami-Dade teachers were laid off over the summer. The district hopes that federal legislation will allow it to rehire at least some of them. [8/11/10]
While important federal legislation has kept many teachers from being laid off and may help rehire many of those who were let go, it is clear that teachers — and the children and communities that depend on them — have suffered greatly during the recession. With thousands of teachers having been laid off across the country, it is difficult to argue that “very few” have been faced with losing their jobs.
It is also worth noting that there is little merit to the notion that public workers are wildly overpaid versus their private sector counterparts. As a study by the National Institute for Retirement Security shows, once you factor in comparable education, “employees of state & local government earn an average of 11% and 12% less, respectively, than comparable private sector employees.”