Can Educators Save the Middle Class: Reaching Policy Makers


by Amanda Litvinov, Felix Perez and Brian Washington

This article is part three in a three part series. You can read part one, “Collective Action,” here and part two, “Spreading the Word,” here.

Few would argue against the notion that public education is the greatest tool we have to maintaining a middle class. Every day in schools across the country, hard working educators give children the skills they need to become successful learners, agile problem solvers, and creative thinkers, preparing them not only to enter the workforce but to think and act as citizens.

Educators’ priorities are the very things that strengthen the middle class in the long-term. Here’s why you have a key role to play in setting the stage for the rebuilding of America in this crucial election year:

You know policymakers need to hear from you and your colleagues.

You are the dedicated professionals who are not only teaching our children to read and write, at times you’re also the ones making sure they’re fed and they’re safe. You also know that short-sighted cuts to education budgets, Medicaid, children’s health insurance, and school lunch programs have an immediate, negative impact on your students’ lives. But lawmakers tucked away in offices on Capitol Hill or in your statehouse can’t see what you see!

That’s why you’ve got to tell policymakers what resources you need to do your jobs, just like Diana Beatty who came from Colorado to talk to President Obama about her school. She teaches math in a basement classroom, where her 36 teenage students are often disrupted by racket coming from the loading dock and the boiler room.

“Our carpet is threadbare, stained, and approaching 40 years old, but can’t be replaced because there is an asbestos issue we can’t afford to address,” says Beatty.

In addition to learning more about the details of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, Beatty says during her trip to Washington she also learned how important it is for members to “get their stories out about what’s going on in schools in terms of budget cuts and things like that, because the public doesn’t necessarily know. Getting that message out there will make a huge difference.”

Reader Comments

  1. Here’s the message I spread to every email contact I have and that I send to every reporter or politician who attacks public employee pensions or Social Security. Feel free to use this. No need to attribute it to me:

    Wall Street wants to get its hands on the trillions of dollars in public pension plans, for the same reason that Wall Street wants to get its hands on the $2.6 trillion of surplus funds in Social Security. Wall Street wants to “privatize”/”personalize” workers’ public pensions and Social Security pensions by converting them into 401k plans from which Wall Street brokerages can milk billions of dollars in fees. The same fees that Wall Street uses to buy politicians to spread its doomsday message about public employee pension plans and Social Security.

    So, from bought-and-paid-for politicians and through the media that Wall Street controls, you’ve been hearing the scary message that public pension plans are “bankrupting” the states and that Social Security is “going broke.” Both claims are untrue and are meant to panic voters into destroying the last sources of retirement income security that middle class workers have. Here are the true facts about public pensions and Social Security.

    First: Public employee pension plans not only aren’t bankrupting the states, the plans are actually generating income for the states — income that tax payers will have to make up for if public employee pension plans are dropped. For example: In its July 12, 2011 edition, The Los Angeles Times reported that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) brought $12 billion into the California economy last year and generated a collateral $26 billion in economic activity that supports over 93,000 jobs. In combination with the boost to the economy from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), research by California State University at Sacramento shows that the two pension funds support more than 160,000 California jobs, most in the private sector.

    The State of California contributes only about $3.5 billion to CalPERS, so that $12 billion that CalPERS generates for the state is a nearly 350% direct return on the state’s investment in CalPERS. Where else can the state get a payback like that?

    And, if the State of California loses that investment income, taxpayers will have to make it up through higher taxes, and up to 160,000 jobs will be lost. In short: Investment income from public employee pension plans keep everyone’s taxes down and keeps 160,000 people employed.

    Also, California’s $3.5 billion contribution to CalPERS is only about 4% of the state’s budget, which is the typical percent of annual budget that states throughout our nation contribute: The non-political Boston College Center for Retirement Research reports that the national average state contribution to public employee pension plans is just 3.8% of the typical state budget. That small percent is not bankrupting any state, contrary to the false claims of Wall Street’s politicians.

    You’ve heard from Wall Street controlled media that public pension plans are “owed” huge amounts of money because of “unfunded liabilities.” What Wall Street is counting on with that claim is that few people other than those who are actuarial accountants actually know what an “unfunded liability” really is — although the average person thinks it’s a debt that’s owed. Not at all. To get that so-called “unfunded liability” number that the Wall Street-controlled politicians have been trying to panic you with they take that small yearly contribution to pension plans and multiply it by 30 years. Accounting rules allow them to publish that 30-year figure as an “unfunded liability,” but the truth is that the yearly cost is only a small amount and is more than offset by the income and jobs that the pension plans generate for the states.

    You also hear Wall Street controlled media and politicians claim that the $2.6 trillion in surplus money that Social Security holds has “all been spent,” and that there’s “nothing left but IOUs.” That’s just another deception. The truth is that Social Security’s $2.6 trillion is invested in United States Treasury bonds, the world’s most secure investment and the same bonds in which China, Saudi Arabia, and every other nation places its surplus money because of the security and safety of US Treasury bonds. Technically in accounting terms, bonds are “IOUs,” but calling bonds “IOUs” without telling you that those so-called “IOUs” are actually U.S. Treasury bonds is the same sort of Wall Street deception as multiplying small annual contributions to public pension plans by 30 and calling the result huge “unfunded liabilities.”

    If public employee pension plans are slashed, taxes will go up. If Social Security is “privatized” or “personalized,” the middle class will lose its last hope of secure retirement. But Wall Street will get richer.

  2. Where should the blame really lie? The problem is that the jocks up top of the government at different levels really do not have a clue to what is really going on. In my blogs above, I try to be as honesty as forthcoming as I can be. What do you think? Is it always the teachers or how avbout the homelife which is never mentioned.

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