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2013 CalPERS Payouts Online at Transparent California

CalPERS financial struggles are draining state taxpayers. The ever-increasing contribution rates it demands from state and local governments have already bankrupted several cities. Even for more financially stable agencies, increased CalPERS contributions have crowded out other spending priorities or tax relief.

While discussions about unfunded liabilities and projected rates of return are necessary and important, the average member of the public is too busy to dive into the details.

That’s why the recent release of CalPERS’ 2013 base payouts, including retiree names, on TransparentCalifornia.com is so important.

For the first time, average Californians can quickly and easily see how much CalPERS paid out to retirees in 2013. The names and payouts are available here.

Even a casual glance at the data, shows the root cause of CalPERS’ financial struggles: It’s paying tens of thousands of its government retirees pensions that dwarf what private-sector households make while working full-time.

The U.S. Census reports that the median household income in California is $61,400. This includes households where two adults are working full-time. The data on Transparent California though shows that the average 2013 pension for those who worked 30 years or more and received a full year’s pension was $64,448 for the year.

For those who retired in 2000 or later, the average pension was $68,403.

And whose taxes are going to increase to ensure that the retiree making over $64,400 a year receives a generous cost of living adjustment next year and every year thereafter? The working couple, despite making less in salary than the public servant receives in retirement. No wonder so many people have a hard time saving for their own retirement — they’re already subsidizing the retirement of California’s government employees.

Unfortunately, Social Security isn’t going to provide these private-sector families with equity. While the average 30-year government employee will collect an average payout of over $64,400, that’s more than twice the maximum Social Security benefit of $31,704 that a private sector retiree could receive after working for 35 years and retiring at the age of 66. In contrast, some government workers retire as early as 50.

These high pension payouts are actually understating the compensation received by CalPERS retirees. These payout amounts do not include health benefits received by retirees that are worth up to $18,000 a year.

Just a glance at the list of highest paid retirees shows why taxpayers should be so outraged.

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Mark Bucher is the president of the California Policy Center.

The Poor Teacher Canard Redux – Part I

“Mid-and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes” is the latest flawed study to claim that American teachers are underpaid.

Leave it to the left-leaning teacher-union-friendly Center for American Progress to come out with a flatulent report lamenting the allegedly lousy state of teacher pay in the U.S. Even worse, much of the acolyte media dutifully bought the study hook, jive and half-truth. A writer for Huffington Post, tightly clutching a moist hanky, whimpered,

While the report recognizes that low teacher pay is not news – especially when it comes to low entry-level salaries – researchers were interested in seeing if the salaries of mid- and late-career teachers ‘were high enough to attract and keep the nation’s most talented individuals.’ However, in a profession where teacher turnover costs up to $2 billion annually, the results they found are quite depressing. 

Where to begin?!

Let’s start with Andrew Biggs, American Enterprise Institute researcher and scholar, and Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, who released a study in 2011 in which they found that teachers are actually overpaid. What their study includes – and the Center for American Progress’ conveniently omits – are the perks that teachers typically receive as part of their compensation package, like excellent healthcare and pension packages that aren’t counted as “income.” Armed with data, the authors make a solid case. They find,

Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent, while teachers who change to non-teaching jobs see their wages decrease by approximately 3 percent.

When retiree health coverage for teachers is included, it is worth roughly an additional 10 percent of wages, whereas private sector employees often do not receive this benefit at all.

Teachers benefit strongly from job security benefits, which are worth about an extra 1 percent of wages, rising to 8.6 percent when considering that extra job security protects a premium paid in terms of salaries and benefits.

Taking all of this into account, teachers actually receive salary and benefits that are 52 percent greater than fair market levels. (Emphasis added.)

Needless to say, this was beyond the pale for American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. She promptly bashed the report, insisting that it’s full of “ridiculous assertions” and countered with half-truths and threw in a little class warfare as red meat for her members:

The AEI report concludes that America’s public school teachers are overpaid — something that defies common sense — and uses misleading statistics and questionable research to make its case.

If teachers are so overpaid, then why aren’t more 1 percenters banging down the doors to enter the teaching profession? Why do 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within three to five years, an attrition rate that costs our school districts $7 billion annually?

Kim Anderson, advocacy director at the National Education Association, ignored the data and went for the lachrymose,

Talented individuals turn away from this rewarding profession because they are forced to choose between making a difference in the lives of students and providing for their families.

Actually, the AEI report wasn’t the first to explode the “poor teacher” myth. Back in 2007, researchers Jay Greene and Marcus Winters, then with the Manhattan Institute, found:

Education policy discussions often assume that public school teachers are poorly paid. Typically absent in these discussions about teacher pay, however, is any reference to systematic data on how much public school teachers are actually paid, especially relative to other occupations. Because discussions about teacher pay rarely reference these data, the policy debate on education reform has proceeded without a clear understanding of these issues.

This report compiles information on the hourly pay of public school teachers nationally and in 66 metropolitan areas, as collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in its annual National Compensation Survey. We also compare the reported hourly income of public school teachers with that of workers in similar professions, as defined by the BLS….

Among the key findings of their report:

  • According to the BLS, the average public school teacher in the United States earned $34.06 per hour in 2005.
  • The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.
  • Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are working. By comparison, white-collar workers (excluding sales) work 39.4 hours, and professional specialty and technical workers work 39.0 hours per week. Private school teachers work 38.3 hours per week
  • Compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less.
  • Compared with public school teachers, airplane pilots earn 186% more; physicians, 80% more; lawyers, 49% more; nuclear engineers, 17% more; actuaries, 9% more; and physicists, 3% more.
  • Public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide.
  • The Detroit metropolitan area has the highest average public school teacher pay among metropolitan areas for which data are available, at $47.28 per hour, followed by the San Francisco metropolitan area at $46.70 per hour, and the New York metropolitan area at $45.79 per hour. 

Of particular interest to Golden Staters, the California Policy Center (publishers of UnionWatch) has posted Transparent California, a valuable website which is “dedicated to providing accurate, comprehensive and easily searchable information on the compensation of public employees in California.” From it we learn that the average full-time teacher in California made $84,889 last year, and about 34,750 teachers were paid more than $100,000 in total compensation. It’s important to note that CPC includes all income in its reporting – base pay, overtime, health and pension benefits and other forms of compensation, while again, the CAP study misleadingly includes only base pay.

Despite unassailable research, the “poor teacher” myth is still widely believed, in large part due to those who benefit from spreading it. Most notably, the teachers unions exploit this falsehood as a tactic to con teachers into believing that the union is their only avenue for salary enhancement. The unfortunate truth for teachers is that unions actually prevent them from earning more money. Look for more on this in an upcoming post.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Pasadena Unified Superintendent Promoted, $55,000 Raise, Despite District’s Failing Performance

Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) superintendent Jon Gundry has just been tapped as the new superintendent for the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE), despite PUSD’s failing marks under his tenure from 2011 to 2014. His base salary will rise from $240,000 to $295,000 with the promotion effective August 1.

In 2013, the PUSD received a 751 score on California’s Academic Performance Index (API), down from 762 in 2012. API scores range from 200 to 1000, with 800 the targeted goal. Additionally PUSD received an “F” grade in a report card issued by State Sen. Carol Liu, which assessed the school’s performance in serving its low-income and minority students. Their overall grade of “D” was not much better.

When discussing the declining API scores, Gundry cited a decrease in district revenue as responsible for the poor scores.

Recently published compensation data for employees in California’s K-12 schools by TransparentCalifornia.com sheds light on this claim. The data reveals that Gundry earned substantially more than other superintendents in the area, despite overseeing a district with significantly lower performance marks. Further, the median compensation of the District’s teachers was rising, not falling, and remained consistent with the level of similar districts within Los Angeles County.

The payroll data reported by most schools does not distinguish between full and part-time employees. As such, this analysis considers teachers that received at least $25,000 in salary as full-time. The median compensation for a full-time teacher in PUSD in 2013 was $90,092, an approximately 2.7% increase from the 2012 median compensation of $87,226. At the same time he was bemoaning district funding levels, Gundry also saw a similar percentage increase in his compensation, which rose from $291,717 in 2012 to $301,081 in 2013.

Other districts though, produced greater student achievement with lower levels of teacher and administrator compensation:

Los Angeles County Schools’ 2013 API Test Scores and
Superintendent Compensation
20140730_Fellner-1

Liu’s report card cited nearby Baldwin Park Unified as an example for PUSD to look to and with good reason. In addition to earning a “B” grade from Liu, the district received an API score of 768 for 2013. The median compensation for a full-time teacher in the district was $88,861 in 2013. The district’s superintendent, Mark Skvarna, received $254,990 in 2013, which was actually a modest decrease from his 2012 compensation.

In the West Covina Unified School District, the 2013 median compensation for a full-time teacher was $84,374, with the superintendent receiving $266,281. The district’s 2013 API score is an impressive 831. Neighboring Burbank Unified earned an API score of 847 in 2013, while also having one of the lowest superintendent compensation packages in Los Angeles County. The median compensation for full-time teachers in the district was $91,401 in 2013, with the superintendent receiving $238,425.

So why is the highly compensated superintendent of a failing school district receiving a promotion and pay increase?

The SCCOE’s press release announcing the hire contained platitudes about Gundry’s experience and management style, but failed to mention PUSD’s recent academic decline.

Understanding the actions of a school board requires looking at the system itself. Beneath the seemingly straightforward goal of educating children lie competing political interests. Groups including the powerful teachers union, administrators and the school board are all competing for political power, money and control. Unfortunately it’s only rarely that the public education system rewards these groups for their ability to educate children.

School administrators then are often selected for their political skills and ability to manage or placate competing interests, as much as or more than for their education skills.

Based on Gundry’s promotion to become SCCOE’s new superintendent, it’s obvious his political skills are well-tuned. California’s students deserve a system that promotes education-based achievements, not political ones.

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Robert Fellner is a research fellow with the California Policy Center and a transparency researcher for TransparentCalifornia.com. For more visit http://californiapolicycenter.org/

Transparent California Releases 2013 Payroll and Pension Data

Today, the California Policy Center (CPC) released 2013 payroll and pension data (the most recent data available) on TransparentCalifornia.com, the largest ever online database of California state and local government employee pensions, salaries, and benefits. The data shows that public compensation in California is growing more out of control, threatening the solvency of the state and local governments.

This new 2013 data includes pension data from the big state pension systems and payroll data from state agencies, counties, the CalState system, and community colleges. It shows egregious examples of misplaced taxpayer funds. Most notably, one assistant fire chief with the Los Angeles Fire Department earned a pension payout of $998,456. On the payroll side, the Alameda County Administrator made $654,000 in total compensation in 2013, while her assistant made $338,000.

For anyone who wants to view – and download – information from the most comprehensive collection of pay, benefit, and pension data ever compiled for California’s state and local government workers, here are some key links:

All Data: http://transparentcalifornia.com

Payroll Data – by Agency: http://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/salaries/

Pension Data – by Pension System: http://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/pensions/

CalSTRS Pension Data – by Employer: http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/calstrs/employers/

CalPERS Pension Data – by Employer: http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/calpers/employers/

And here are some highlights of inflated 2013 payroll and pensions data compiled using data from Transparent California:

PAYROLL

  • Alameda County Administrator made $654,000 in total compensation.
  • San Bernardino and Los Angeles County CEOs made $500,000 in total compensation.
  • Sacramento and San Diego County CEOs made $370,000 and $394,000 respectively in total compensation.

PENSIONS – CalSTRS

  • 8,437 retirees took home six-figure pension payouts.
  • 730 collected at least $150,000.
  • 54 made more than $200,000.
  • One recipient collected $240,900, while another had a total pension payout of over $215,000.

PENSIONS – Los Angeles Fire and Policy Protection System

  • An Assistant Chief received a total pension payout of $998,456, which includes benefits and a lump sum DROP payment of $839,345.
  • Including DROP payouts, 85 retirees received total pensions exceeding a half-million dollars, while 12 of those retirees took home over $700,000 each.

PENSIONS – San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS)

  • A Police Captain received a total pension of $785,679 (this probably includes a DROP payout, but the data is not broken out).
  • 5 retirees in San Diego City Pension system received over $700,000 in 2013. 8 total over $600K and 13 total over $500K. 40 over $300K. (This probably include DROP payments, but thay are not broken out.

PENSIONS – Orange County

  • 13 retirees collected pensions valued at over $200,000 per year.
  • 148 retirees have a pension of 100% or more of their final salary.
  • 821 have a pension of 90% or more of their final salary.

These so-called “DROP” payments are lump sums paid when employees retire. This benefit is frequently offered to public safety retirees, although not all jurisdictions make it available. Where available, it is granted when a government employee who is, say, 50 years old and eligible to retire, instead opts to continue working. While continuing to work – and getting paid – because they had already become eligible to collect a pension, the amount they would have gotten as a pension is paid into a savings account on their behalf, bearing 5% per year interest. When they retire, they begin collecting an ongoing pension but also get paid 100% of the proceeds of these accumulated DROP savings. “DROP” stands for “deferred retirement option plan,” but in plain English it might be called “double dipping.” The taxpayer pays for all of this, of course.

Million dollar pensions are just the latest example of California’s lavish pension system paid for by overburdened California taxpayers. Meanwhile, essential services are squeezed, civic bankruptcies continue, and income inequality increases.

Due in large part to these exorbitant pensions, California state and local governments are facing an estimated $655 billion in unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities. This shortfall in contrast to the number of state employees and pensioners receiving half million dollar payouts or more from the taxpayer highlights the need for public sector compensation reform. This shortfall also puts the recent declarations of “budget surpluses” by many of our state legislators into proper perspective.

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Mark Bucher is the president of the California Policy Center

San Jose's Public Safety Pensions – Reduce Now or Slash Later

“Once people get the facts, they do not support slashing people’s pensions.”
– Dave Low, chairman, Californians for Retirement Security (Washington Post, February 25, 2014)

Really?

Making sure “people get the facts” is difficult when most “facts” the public sees are promulgated to the media by pension fund PR departments eager to preserve the torrent of taxpayers money flowing into their favored investment firms, along with PR firms representing taxpayer-funded public sector unions whose primary reason to exist is to increase the wages and benefits of their members.

According to the most recent data available from the California State Controller – over $600 billion of taxpayer’s money is privately invested by public employee pension funds (Public Retirement Systems Annual Report, FYE 6-30-2011, released 5-22-2013, page xv, Figure 2), and every year, taxpayers pour another (woefully inadequate) $27 billion into these financially troubled funds (same report, page xxii, Figure 12).

As for the California’s public sector unions? It’s hard to get facts on these massive institutions whose operations – despite being 100% funded by taxpayers – are largely defined by their opacity. But just in California, their collective revenues per year from dues and agency fees can be reliably estimated at over $1.0 billion per year.

Those are two pretty big elephants in this room we call California, Mr. Low.

Chairman Low’s comment was quoted in an article entitled “In San Jose, generous pensions for city workers come at expense of nearly all else.” The focus of the article was the exodus of public safety personnel from San Jose, since their pensions have been “slashed” as the result of a reform initiative passed by nearly 70% of voters.

So what are the facts about public safety pensions in San Jose?

Getting these facts are also difficult, but earlier this week, the California Public Policy Center released a study entitled “Evaluating Public Safety Pensions in California,” with San Jose’s independent pension system one of those selected for analysis. The other two were the independent pension system serving public safety retirees from Los Angeles, and public safety retirees who participate in CalPERS.

As documented in this study, the average retired public safety employee in San Jose collects a pension considerably better than the average public safety retiree from Los Angeles, or the average public safety retiree who is part of the massive CalPERS system. Factoring in the length of service, and the year of retirement, take a look at these pensions:

City of San Jose Public Safety Retirees
Average Base Pension by 
Years of Service and Year of Retirement

20140404_Ring-Fellner_SJ-by-Svc-and-Ret

It is very important to note that these averages are just for “base pension.” In general, based on the data received from other pension systems who supplied the additional data, public safety retirees collect at least $10,000 per year in health benefits that are not considered part of their base pension, and San Jose is no exception (ref. SJ safety retiree health benefits). This means the average public safety retiree in San Jose, if they retired in the last ten years and worked 25 years or more, collects a pension and benefit package that averages over $110,000 per year.

These are the “facts,” Mr. Low. This is what voters decided to “slash,” although if you read Measure B, “slash” is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. “Sanity” may be more appropriate.

The reader looking for additional “facts” may wish to click on this link, which points directly at individual pension amounts for the most recent fiscal year for which data is available: “San Jose Police and Fire Retirement Plan (2012).” For that matter, perhaps the factually minded reader may wish to click on this link, which points to how much individual public servants currently working for the City of San Jose made according to the most recent data: “All salaries for San Jose (2012).”

The observant viewer of these links to San Jose’s city employee pay and pension data will note, factually, that the vast majority of highly compensated individuals work in public safety. But what about the averages? What is the average total pay and employer-paid benefits for San Jose’s public servants? For that, refer to the next chart, taken from another California Policy Center study entitled “San Jose, California – City Employee Total Compensation Analysis,” using 2011 payroll data provided by the city itself:

20140415_RingUW_SJ-city-pay-2011

Lest anyone suspect that “averages” for pay – and the pensions whose value is calculated based on final rates of pay – are misleading because of a handful of overpaid executives, please note that median pay for San Jose’s public safety employees exceeds their average pay.

No reasonable person questions the need to pay public safety personnel a premium for the work they do. But to preserve defined benefits, not to mention the financial survival of our cities and counties, we must make tough decisions now, to avoid having to “slash” later.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center

Three Ways California Governments Try To Avoid Transparency

Few politicians or government officials publicly oppose transparency in government. After all, transparency isn’t just about information; it’s a tangible acknowledgment that government officials work for citizens, not the other way around.

Still, there’s a big difference between mouthing support for transparency and actually fulfilling public records requests as required by California’s Public Records Act.

TransparentCalifornia.com, a public service website run by the California Policy Center and Nevada Policy Research Institute that contains over 3.4 million salary and pension records, has made over 2,000 public records requests in their efforts to make government compensation information easily and readily accessible to the public at large.

While most government agencies have complied, a few are employing some rather creative stalling techniques or actively refusing to comply.

Technique 1: Provide the requested records in an unusable format

Government Code § 6253.9(a) requires that agencies provide records in their “original, electronic format” when requested as such. Despite this, agencies like the Hacienda la Puente Unified School District, chose to print out and mail the records as their first response to Transparent California’s request for electronic records.

The Town of Apple Valley is trying the electronic variation of this tactic. Transparent California asks agencies to send records as an Excel file to expedite uploading the records. Apple Valley is currently only providing a PDF file that an employee printed out and then scanned through a copier, according to the file’s PDF properties. The file appears to have originally been in Excel format.

Thankfully, some cities, like Sierra Madre, eventually abandoned their ludicrous attempts to avoid transparency and have produced the requested records in the legally required format.

Technique 2: Use a court ruling declaring that records are public to refuse to provide records

The City of McFarland is currently refusing to provide employee names in conjunction with salary data, claiming that they are confidential. McFarland cites International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, Local 21, AFL-CIO v. Superior Court as their justification for doing so.

What’s amazing is that in that case, the California Supreme Court held that employee names and salary data must be released in response to records requests. The plaintiff in that case only requested the names of only those who made over $100k, so these agencies are making the absurd claim that a ruling finding that public employees’ salary information are public records grants a privacy exemption to those making under $100k.

It could be worse. The Counties of Alpine, Modoc, and Trinity also are refusing to provide employees names, but haven’t even attempted to justify their refusal to comply with CPRA.

These agencies should consider what the Attorney General’s Office has noted: “The name of every public officer and employee, as well as the amount of his salary is a matter of public record.”

Technique 3: Stall them with kindness

The City of San Luis Obispo has perfected this. Transparent California requested payroll records on June 28th, 2013, and San Luis Obispo promptly responded indicating it received the request.
After a few clarifying emails, on August 15, the city emailed Transparent California that they were processing the request and would “forward the information to you shortly.” The records never came.

Unlike some government agencies where public employees are openly hostile to public records requesters, employees of San Luis Obispo have always been very courteous. They’ve responded promptly to Transparent California’s follow-up correspondence with apologizes for the delay and promises that the information is coming soon. While opacity with a smile is friendly, it still isn’t transparent.

In comparison, the neighboring City of Atascadero provided all of the requested records in less than two weeks time. Farther north, the City of St. Helena provided the requested records the very next day! Yet, San Luis Obispo hasn’t provided this information for the past 258 days and counting.

Government agencies that are currently stalling public record requests should join the thousands of government agencies that are complying with the law. Let the sun shine in.

Update: On March 20, 2014 after this piece was written but prior to its publication, the City of San Luis Obispo provided the records that were first requested on June 28, 2013.

About the Author:  Robert Fellner is a researcher at the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and joined the Institute in December 2013. Robert is currently working on the largest privately funded state and local government payroll and pensions records project in California history, TransparentCalifornia, a joint venture of the California Public Policy Center and NPRI. Robert has lived in Las Vegas since 2005 when he moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. Robert has had a remarkably successfully poker career including two top 10 World Series of Poker finishes. Additionally, his economic analysis on the minimum wage law won first place in a 2011 essay contest hosted by the George Mason University.

The Unintended Consequences of High-Cost Health Plans for Public Employees

One of the more alarming data points I have come across while compiling the necessary records for the TransparentCalifornia website has been the large sums of money spent on health insurance for public employees. As our site does not provide individual breakdowns of benefits in an effort to present the information in a uniform and comprehensible manner, the cost of individual health plans was not something we were particularly focusing on.

However, in the course of formatting and uploading the necessary records to TransparentCalifornia.com, several agencies jumped out at me as a result of their alarmingly expensive health insurance plans. First it was the $20k+ plans in Corte Madera, CA and the Contra Costa Community College District. Then I saw the $30k+ plans in Beverly Hills. Finally, I came across what remains the most expensive plan I have seen to date – a $37,815 health insurance plan for the Water Superintendent of Sierra Madre, CA.

I suspected this was not a problem isolated to the handful of agencies whose numbers happened to catch my attention but, rather, indicative of a systemic problem likely to be found in many other public agencies. Operating on this assumption, I wrote about the way in which taxpayers would effectively be taxed twice for these plans – initially, to fund the public employee’s compensation itself and, again, when they find themselves paying an artificially inflated premium for their own health insurance.

Unfortunately, Pew Research has confirmed my suspicions. In 2012, State and Local government spending on health care increased by 8%; double the amount total U.S. healthcare spending grew during that same time period. The larger trend is terrifying – state and local government spending on health insurance premiums has increased an inflation-adjusted 444% from 1987 to 2012. It would appear that the agencies above are merely symptoms of a much larger problem.

The farther the distance between consumer and provider, the less reason either has to economize, which results in the out of control prices we see nationwide in the health care sector. Where an insurance plan can cost $37,815, the costs being insured against must be staggering. While there are a plethora of factors responsible for the current health care crisis in this country, the third party payer system, especially when that third party is using other people’s money (government agencies), is one of the core issues that demand immediate attention.

Robert Fellner is a researcher at the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), currently working on the largest privately funded state and local government payroll and pensions records project in California history, TransparentCalifornia.com, a joint venture of the California Public Policy Center and NPRI.

A Member of the Unionized Government Elite Attacks the CPPC

Shame on You! I am appalled to see your “quick facts” focus almost exclusively on public pensions.  This is not the stuff of an independent, non-profit think tank. It is clear to me that you are pursuing an “agenda [that] includes opposing … [universal] health-care and climate-change regulations, reducing union protections and minimum wages, cutting taxes and business regulations, tightening voting restrictions, and privatizing education.” As Tracie Sharp, the president of the SPN, noted, your collective goal is apparently to “win in your state.” Californians will not accept your push back to the 1920’s (and look what happened then); we are on to your partisan goals and funders.

Submitted via the CPPC “Contact Us” form by a University of California professor on 11-16-2013

There are myriad ways to respond to these accusations. For starters, they don’t question whether or not our “Quick Facts” are factual. That’s too bad, because they are. One of the reasons the California Public Policy Center is being taken seriously by journalists and policymakers in California is because we produce work that has intellectual integrity. And the CPPC is absolutely independent, founded by Californians in 2010, with less than 5% of its funding to-date coming from out-of-state. And while we were pleased to have our application for SPN membership approved in July of 2013, they have had zero impact on either our independence or, unfortunately, our funding status. So much for the great right-wing conspiracy.

If you want to really get at the problem that the CPPC is trying to educate Californians about, the agenda that our UC professor critic ascribes to us only address the symptoms. The core problem is unionized government. While unions have earned a heroic historical legacy in the United States, and even today can play a legitimate role at times in the private sector, they have corrupted our public sector with a self-serving agenda that is bankrupting our state and local governments, oppressing taxpayers, and, ironically, empowering the monopolistic crony capitalists and casino banking interests these unions rhetorically oppose. There are no partisan “wings” to that perspective.

To personify this, let’s examine the employment circumstances of our critic, who is a public sector employee. Because they were honest – or naive – enough to provide us their name and email when they submitted their comment, we will repay the favor by not identifying them by name, campus, or department. But we found them. And they live a life of extraordinary privilege.

The person who feels we are, apparently, not looking out for “working people” is a tenured UC professor who collected a salary of $132,981 in 2012 (ref. “State Worker Salaries” to look up any UC employee). In exchange for this, we may assume that our professor is not working during the summer, nor during Christmas or spring break. We can safely assume they work during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters, which run from Sept. 23 through Dec. 15 (Fall), Jan. 7 through March 23 (Winter), and April 1 through June 16 (Spring). That is, taking into account six holidays that fall within those dates, they work 33 weeks per year.

For those of us who work, taking into account vacations and holidays, 46 to 50 weeks per year, 33 weeks seems like a pretty good deal. But maybe this professor works really hard during those 33 weeks. Or not. A review of their faculty profile – verified by a call to the University – confirmed they are teaching one class during the Fall 2013 quarter. This requires our champion of working families to be present for office hours for one hour per week, from noon until 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, then to teach their class from 1 p.m. until 3:50 p.m on Tuesdays. Got that? They work four hours per week.

Ah, but perhaps our idealistic friend of the downtrodden does research. Perhaps they write books that bequeath seminal insights onto humanity? Well, maybe. A review of this professor’s resume indicates they published three articles in professional journals during 2010, consuming a total of 70 pages. In 2011, they published two articles consuming a total of 26 pages. They presented one research paper in 2010, and one in 2011. According to their resume, they haven’t conducted a workshop since 2009. We don’t know about their 2012 activity, because their online resume hasn’t been updated.

It would be unfair to jump to conclusions. Perhaps these research papers, workshops, and “reviewing and refereeing activities” consume a monstrous amount of time. Not to worry however. Our professor who is looking out for the little guy is almost certainly eligible for retirement soon, since they got their Ph.D. back in 1991. At 2.5% per year times 23 years, they’ll get a pension equivalent to 57.5% of $132,981 if they retire at the end of this academic year; that’s $76,464 per year. And in the real world, that is an awful lot of retirement income for someone whose formal working hours were four hours a day, one day per week, 33 weeks per year.

A primary educational agenda of the CPPC is to expose exactly why unionized government is making California unaffordable for ordinary people. Our altruistic critic has helped further that agenda, by providing another opportunity to expose their own all-too-common world view that mingles economic illiteracy with rank hypocrisy.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Public Policy Center.

Announcing the Prosperity Forum

One of the overwhelming challenges facing fiscal conservatives is how to cut government spending without harming economic recovery. It may seem obvious that governments eventually have to stop relying on borrowing to finance their deficits, but eliminating government spending deficits can only partly rely on spending cuts. Economic growth is the other essential element.

To explore and catalog worthy prescriptions for economic growth, the California Policy Center has launched a new project, the California Prosperity Forum. We seek informed and constructive policy ideas and analysis from any source, guided by our core belief that prosperity and opportunity will return to California through a combination of common sense reforms in Sacramento, greater freedom for the private sector, and innovation in our public schools.

Opponents of austerity are not only concerned about the potentially negative impact of reduced government spending on the economy, but also the ability of individual government workers or beneficiaries of government entitlements to pay their bills. This concern is particularly acute in California, which has the highest overall cost of living in the United States. But the way to address this concern is not to abandon a measured reduction in excessive pay and benefits for government workers, but to simultaneously enact policies designed to lower the cost of living for all Californians.

To this end, another core belief that must inform any prosperity oriented policy forum is competition. To accelerate innovation and lower prices requires competition between businesses in a free market. California’s Silicon Valley coined the phrase “better, faster, cheaper,” to describe spectacular advances in information technology. But that phrase applies to innovation throughout history, describing how lowering the cost of living has continuously raised the standard of living for humanity.

Lowering the cost of living in California through competition requires dramatic shifts in policy priorities. For example, lowering the cost of energy requires responsible development of California’s massive shale oil and shale gas reserves. Lowering the cost of housing requires easing California’s draconian restrictions on land development. And lowering California’s overall cost of living also requires California to step back from having the highest tax rates of any state in the U.S. And to propel these reforms through California’s state and local governments will mean taking on powerful monopolies who benefit from high prices and minimal competition.

The theme of fostering competition to rejuvenate California’s economy applies to commerce, but applies equally to education. California’s former Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero has called the inadequate performance of public schools the civil rights issue of our time. Educational outcomes have been consistently found to improve when students and their parents have alternatives. When students can opt-out of attending a failed school, this not only immediately benefits those students, but impels the failed school to try new solutions and make tough decisions to improve. Needless to say, improved education translates into a more employable workforce.

Critics of free-market policies often point to the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the growing wealth of the so-called “one-percent” as an indictment of free market capitalism. But they are mingling together what are two very distinct versions of capitalism. Productive capitalism, the ecosystem of corporations, entrepreneurs, investors and inventors who compete and collaborate to create affordable products and services that improve our lives, is the engine that has produced virtually all of the material amenities we enjoy today and take for granted. Speculative capitalism – for want of a better term – is a globalized casino of high-frequency trading and market manipulation that produces nothing. In its currently grossly overbuilt iteration, speculative capitalism is an economic parasite. It may be comforting to equate productive capitalism with speculative capitalism, but they are vastly different.

Successfully advancing a prosperity policy agenda requires championing productive capitalist efforts. It requires unlocking California’s vast reserves of energy and land, rescuing our public schools, and restoring California as a business-friendly state. But a prosperity policy agenda also requires opposing the monopolistic financial interests who make billions issuing bonds to finance state and local government deficits. It requires opposing the financial interests who make billions in commissions and management fees to collect and invest unsustainable public sector pension funds.

Austerity should appeal to any fiscally responsible citizen as tough, necessary medicine. But prosperity is the other side of the coin. It deserves equal if not greater attention from anyone determined to see California recover its historic reputation as a land of great opportunity and promise. To that end, we offer the California Prosperity Forum.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Teachers can receive a $300 – $400 ‘rebate’ for CTA’s political spending

Although California is not a right-to-work state, public school teachers have the ability to receive a yearly rebate of $300 – $400 from the California Teachers Association.

Teachers have these options because the United States Supreme Court has held that a union can’t force a non-union member to pay for the union’s political and other activities unrelated to bargaining and representing workers.

A teacher’s ability to exercise these options is limited, however, and the necessary paperwork must be sent to CTA by November 15. (All teachers in LA Unified and those represented by the California Federation of Teachers have different rules and information is available on CaliforniaTeacherFreedom.com.)

First, if teachers are CTA members, they must leave the union. A generic resignation letter is available here. Teachers only have to opt out of CTA one time.

Next — and this must be done yearly — those who have opted out must submit written notice to CTA between September 1 and November 15 requesting a “rebate” for the portion of their dues that goes to political and other non-chargeable activities. This rebate is usually between $300 – $400, depending on a teacher’s local school district. A generic rebate-request letter is available here.

Alternatively, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensures that workers with a strong moral objection to the union or its activities, like union support of abortion or gay marriage, can become a religious objector and redirect their union dues to a charitable organization. If a teacher wants to become a religious or conscientious objector, a how-to guide is available from National Right to Work and free legal assistance is available by contacting NRTW’s Bruce Cameron at bnc@nrtw.org. Teachers wishing to become religious objectors should not request to become agency fee payers.

Because teachers are busy teaching from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15 and most don’t even know these options are available, it’s important to remind teachers of some of the reasons other teachers are exercising these options.

Reason 1: CTA spends hundreds of millions of dues dollars on politics

Many teachers believe that the $1,000 they pay in union dues only pays for education-related activities. Nothing could be further from the truth, as CTA spends hundreds of millions of dollars from member dues on politics.

Since 2000, CTA has spent over $290 million on political campaigns and lobbying. That’s more than twice as much as California’s next largest special interest group, the Service Employees International Union, and more than five times as much as the California Chamber of Commerce.

Former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett has stated that the only reason CTA was founded “was to engage in politics” and that  “[y]ou bet we’re going to play in politics.”

Reason 2: It would save you $300 – $400 a year

For CTA officials, $400 represents around 1/1000 of a percent of their recent political donations and lobbying expenditures.

Imagine what you would do with an extra $400. Would you spend it on Christmas presents for your kids? Make a car payment? Book an extra getaway for your family? Save it?

Teachers can spend their own money better than union bosses wanting to “play in politics.”

Reason 3: CTA supports issues many members oppose and/or find morally objectionable

For instance, CTA donated over $1.2 million to oppose Proposition 8, which sought to preserve the traditional definition of marriage and supports only “pro-choice” candidates.

Recently, former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett bragged: “In California, and with the support of CTA, we have fought back three attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose … Currently, California is one of only 10 states that have no additional restrictions on reproductive health.”

This year, CTA also supported a just-passed bill that allows high school boys to shower in girls’ locker rooms.

Every CTA member is also a dues-paying member of the National Education Association, which is currently supporting a federal gun-control bill and pushing to start sex education in kindergarten.

Reason 4: Alternative professional educator associations offer better benefits for less

CTA tells teachers that a real benefit of joining is employment liability coverage that reimburses teachers for legal costs if they are ever sued. Naturally, teachers like knowing they are protected financially from lawsuits by disgruntled parents or students.

What teachers often miss, however, is that comparable or even better insurance and benefits than CTA offers are available from national, non-partisan, professional-educator associations. The Association of American Educators (AAE) and Christian Educators Association International are two such groups. For only $15 a monthAAE provides each member a $2 million liability insurance policy, legal protection and supplementary insurance options.

How to proceed

First, if you are currently a CTA member, you need to request to become an agency fee payer instead. A generic letter requesting to become an agency fee payer is available here. You only need to take this step once.

Next — and you must do this every year between September 1 and November 15 — you can get a “rebate” of your money that CTA would otherwise spend on politics by sending written notice to:

Agency Fee Rebate
CTA Membership Accounting Department
P.O. Box 4178
Burlingame, California 94011-4178

generic rebate request letter, including CTA’s address, is available here.

To ensure receipt of your letters we recommend sending them Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested Signature and making and keeping a copy of your letters for your records.

For teachers who have a strongly held religious beliefs opposing CTA’s support for things like gay marriage or abortion and want to become religious objectors, a how-to guide is available from National Right to Work and free legal assistance is available by contacting NRTW’s Bruce Cameron at bnc@nrtw.org. Teachers wishing to become religious objectors should not request to become agency fee payers.

CTA teachers in LA Unified or CFT teachers should visit CaliforniaTeacherFreedom.com to learn how to get their rebate.

Larry Sand is a retired teacher and president of the California Teacher Empowerment Network.  Ed Ring is executive director of the California Public Policy Center. For more, visit http://CaliforniaTeacherFreedom.com and .