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Posted at 6:44 AM ET, 01/13/2011

Wonkbook: 2010 hottest year on record; Obama speaks in Arizona; Fed's 'beige book' sees slow recovery

By Ezra Klein

globaltempanom.jpg

The president's speech in Arizona last night was, I thought, deeply affecting and quite beautifully written. But it will be well-covered elsewhere. And there's another story that deserves our attention: According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2010 is tied with 2005 as the hottest year on record. Worse: That means nine of the 10 hottest years on record were in the last decade. And it's not just the Aughts: Global temperatures have topped the 20th century's average for 34 straight years.

There is no doubt, at this point, that we are leaving a warming world for the next generation. And this is not merely like leaving health-care reform undone, or infrastructure unbuilt: Those problems might persist, but they are not much harder to solve in 2020 than in 2010, or 1990. Climate change, however, doesn't merely persist. It accelerates. As the Earth warms, it burns through the protections -- like the permafrost covering the Siberian peat bogs and the ice caps cooling the Arctic -- that moderated temperature increases during our lifetimes. And the next generation doesn't get to call for a do-over. They just get a much harder problem to solve, and one that's much further along.

Top Stories

2010 has tied 2005 as the Earth's warmest year on record, reports Juliet Eilperin: "Last year has tied 2005 as the warmest year on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies announced Wednesday. That conclusion, drawn from analyses of global surface temperatures, means that the decade that just ended included nine of the 10 hottest years on record...'Hopefully, this new data will finally convince congressional climate-science deniers that global warming is real and that action is urgent,' said Daniel J. Weiss, who directs climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. 'To reject this latest evidence is like ignoring strange spots on a chest X-ray and continuing to smoke.'"

The president spoke at a memorial service for the victims of the shooting in Tucson last night: "Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it."

Read the whole speech: http://bit.ly/fGjdTA

Watch the whole speech: http://bit.ly/f8f049

Former presidential speechwriter James Fallows compares it to Reagan's post-Challenger speech and Clinton's post-Oklahoma speech: http://bit.ly/hW8pOY

The Fed's "beige book" says the recovery is proceeding slowly, reports Neil Irwin: "The economy 'continued to expand moderately' at the end of last year, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve that shows a recovery that, although not rapid, is on track. The beige book, a compilation of anecdotal reports from businesses across the country, offered further confirmation of trends that have emerged from a range of economic data in recent weeks: The manufacturing, retail and service industries outside of finance appear relatively strong. The job market is gradually improving. And the housing sector remains a significant drag on the economy. Add it all up, and the picture is an economy very slowly gaining momentum, with some continued pockets of distress but also definite signs of progress as 2011 gets underway."

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is pressing China on currency and intellectual property issues, reports Brady Dennis: "China's unwillingness to allow its currency to rise in value is hampering U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace and harming the Chinese economy, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday, ahead of next week's highly anticipated visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Beijing's currency policies remain the most contentious economic issue between China and Washington. By keeping the value of its currency low, China gives its exporters an advantage by making their goods cheaper on the international market...In addition to more aggressively raising the value of their currency, the Chinese should take action to curb intellectual property theft, Geithner said."

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

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Girl group theme song interlude: The Pipettes play "We Are the Pipettes" live.

Still to come: Mortgage investors are teaming up with borrowers to take on banks; the House GOP is planning to tone down next week's health care debate; another gun control bill has been introduced in the wake of the Tucson shooting; the auto industry wants Congress' help in blocking EPA gas mileage regulations; and a Google Android phone that can beat one of the world's top Sudoku players.

Economy

Investors are joining with mortgage borrowers to fight banks, report Ariana Eunjung Cha and Dina ElBoghdady: "The fight between big banks and investors who lost a fortune on mortgage-backed securities is shifting from private litigation to the public arena. While the investors have been angry at the banks for several years for the losses, their legal efforts have not gotten far, mostly because of the difficulty of organizing enough peers for class action lawsuits and of prying information from the lenders. But the recent uproar over the banks' foreclosure practices has given the investors a way to pressure lenders outside the courts...The investors find themselves fortuitously aligned with borrowers who are facing foreclosure and who have the sympathy of lawmakers."

Construction work and telemarketing boast the highest unemployment rates of any jobs: http://n.pr/egKCi1

Senator Dick Durbin is taking lead on defending Dodd-Frank, reports Alexander Bolton: "Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is carving out a role as one of the chief defenders of the Wall Street reform law. Senate aides and consumer advocacy groups say Durbin’s involvement will be critical at a time when the law, a signature Democratic achievement of the last Congress, is under attack by Republicans. Proponents of Wall Street reform say Durbin will fill a void left by the retirement of the former Banking Committee chairman, Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who helped craft what became known as the Dodd-Frank law. Durbin scored one of the biggest legislative achievements of his career when he successfully attached an amendment on so-called interchange fees to Dodd-Frank last year."

Most housing economists predict better sales this year: http://on.wsj.com/eSJut3

The FDIC is set to start regulating executive pay and resolution authority, reports Alan Zibel: "The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. plans next week to consider how to discourage executive-pay practices that spur too much risk taking, as well as regulations that start the process of giving the government power to seize and dismantle large, troubled financial firms. The agency's board is scheduled to take up the two proposals at a Jan. 18 meeting, the FDIC said Wednesday. The FDIC, led by Sheila Bair, gained the authority to dismantle large, faltering financial firms as part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law signed by President Obama over the summer. The financial-overhaul law also requires regulators to bar incentive-based payments that encourage excessive risk taking among financial firms."

The US is unlikely to recoup the GM bailout: http://on.wsj.com/dHZQ05

Bill Daley is a horrible choice for chief of staff, writes Jonathan Chait: "Having been pulled into the warm embrace of several business (or quasi-business) enterprises despite lacking any non-political qualifications, Daley developed an appreciation for the corporate world, much as one might fondly regard a generous relative. This sentiment seems to form the basis for Daley’s argument that the Obama administration must chart a more centrist course or risk 'electoral disaster.' Daley’s centrism is not that of, say, a Larry Summers. Rather, he appears to believe that the position of the business community is ipso facto sensible. If business opposes health care reform and regulation of Wall Street, then health care reform and regulation of Wall Street must be dangerously left-wing. Thus his rapturous reception by Obama’s foes."

The stimulus' investment tax credits aren't working, writes Casey Mulligan: http://nyti.ms/gp0QDX

Reaching the debt limit won't shut down the government, writes Stan Collender: "Not raising the current federal debt limit absolutely will not immediately shut down the federal government. In fact, the federal debt ceiling has virtually nothing to do with whether federal departments and agencies continue to operate. Borrowing is just one of the ways the federal government finances its activities, and not increasing the debt ceiling only eliminates one of them. The talk about the government being shut down if there’s no increase in the debt ceiling when the current level is reached in the next few months is either a gross misunderstanding of how the federal budget world works or a scare tactic. The first is merely unfortunate; the second is absolutely infuriating."

Stand-up interlude: Hannibal Burress on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Health Care

The GOP plans on holding a calmer health care debate next week, report Jennifer Haberkorn and Carrie Budoff Brown: "When the House returns to the debate over repealing health care reform, the rhetoric most likely will be softer -- but the lines of division are expected to be as hard as ever. The House is expected to return to Washington next week to a more subdued debate on repealing the health care reform law than it probably would have had a few weeks ago...Repealing the health care reform law is still a top priority for House Republicans, who expect the tone of the debate to be as measured as possible, focused exclusively on policy differences and not political charges...The vote to repeal health care reform, a key campaign promise from congressional Republicans, originally was scheduled for today."

A change in rhetoric will hurt health care reform opponents, writes Jonathan Cohn: "Why do almost half of respondents in most polls say they want to repeal the measure, even though the number drops dramatically once people learn what’s actually in the bill? Part of the reason, I think, is the emotional, apocalyptic rhetoric some conservatives and Republicans have used to describe it. They’ve been arguing that the bill will do more than simply take some money out of Medicare or require people to get insurance -- features that voters, particularly the elderly, genuinely dislike. They've said it will impose socialism, bring on tyranny, and create death panels to deny care to people deemed less worthwhile. And while not all Republicans are saying these things, obviously, neither the party's leaders nor its elder statesmen have disavowed the rhetoric."

Domestic Policy

Rep. Gary Ackerman is introducing the third gun control bill prompted by the Tucson shooting, reports Shira Toeplitz: "Rep. Gary Ackerman is the third New Yorker to propose gun-control legislation in the wake of the mass shooting in Arizona. Ackerman said his bill would close the 'fire sale loophole,' which allows gun dealers with revoked licenses to legally sell weapons as their personal collections. They don't need to run an FBI background check on the buyer, which would be mandatory at a regular firearm dealership. Ackerman is one of a handful of members of Congress talking about gun control, an issue that has been largely absent from the political debate following the shooting on Saturday that killed six and wounded more than a dozen others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords."

A history of shooting-inspired gun laws: http://wapo.st/hFybxE

New Jersey is considering abolishing teacher tenure, reports Lisa Fleischer: "Thanks to tenure, many believe that teachers' jobs are basically guaranteed, no matter how students do. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to change that: He is seeking to end tenure and on Wednesday said he would support switching to a system that gives individual teachers five-year contracts, which districts could renew based on merit. He said he believes that if the worst 5% of teachers were churned, there would be a 'quantum effect' on performance. 'I don't know what the justification is for it any longer, I really don't,' Mr. Christie said of tenure during a meeting with The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. 'At the end of the five-year period we evaluate. If we want to keep you, great. If we don't, we won't, based on merit.'"

Violent Congressional rhetoric keeps sensible gun controls from being passed, writes E.J. Dionne: "Let's salute Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) for breaking with gun-lobby orthodoxy by suggesting legislation that would make it illegal to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet of elected or high-ranking federal officials at publicly announced events. But by [Rep. Paul] Broun's logic, isn't King's proposal just a way for big government's servants to protect themselves from, shall we say, accountability? And if the rest of us ask for comparable protection, this just proves to opponents of gun control that any single restriction leads down a slippery slope to eviscerating all gun rights - and, eventually, to tyranny... This is the time to acknowledge that there is something deeply wrong with the militarization of American conservative rhetoric."

Rise of Skynet interlude: A Google Android phone beats a world champion at Sudoku

Energy

The auto industry wants the GOP House to block fuel economy rules, reports Josh Mitchell: "Auto makers are asking newly empowered House Republicans to help fight a proposal under consideration by the Obama administration to boost fuel-economy standards for new cars and trucks to as high as 62 miles per gallon by 2025. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the car industry's main trade group, wrote in a letter to U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.) that fuel-economy standards are 'by far the most expensive regulations auto makers face.' The group warned that the 62 mpg proposal--backed by the state of California--would boost the price consumers pay for a car by as much as $6,400, resulting in a possible 25% drop in car sales and the loss of 220,000 automotive jobs."

Senate math doesn't look good for the EPA: http://politi.co/e4hN75

The EPA is exempting the biomass industry from climate rules, reports Juliet Eilperin: "In another sign that the Environmental Protection Agency is moderating its climate policy, it announced Wednesday it would exempt the biomass industry from limits on greenhouse gas emissions for three years. More than two dozen lawmakers had urged EPA to hold off on applying new rules aimed at curbing greenhouse gases from large emitters to facilities that burn wood and farm waste...But Clean Air Watch's Frank O'Donnell said the decision to delay regulation 'is another concession by EPA to its critics in Congress. Still unknown: will this reduce congressional attacks on EPA, or merely be blood in the water?'"

House Dems are worried about the restarting of an Alaskan oil pipeline: http://bit.ly/hwxnox

More efficient Army vehicles would save lives, writes Steven Anderson: http://nyti.ms/h4TgPw

Counting "green jobs" raises definitional problems, writes Monica Potts: "The two-part BLS definition, which the bureau began working on in early 2010, was released last September. It focuses on the degree of environmental impact: Green jobs must either be in industries that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or must be jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly. That definition was rightly criticized as overly broad. While nearly everyone would include installing solar panels as a green job, what about an architect who designs a green house? (Under the proposed definition, both would count.) Moreover, the definition also largely ignores how we define environmental benefit."

Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams. Graph credit: NASA.

By Ezra Klein  | January 13, 2011; 6:44 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: Don't blame the Senate on Mitch McConnell, Part II

Comments

Violent rhetoric is not the reason gun control is unpopular.

The USA is a gun society. Simple as that.

Any new gun laws will be unpopular and be blocked by the Roberts court.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 13, 2011 8:14 AM | Report abuse

president obama showed magnificent and moving leadership, last night, and the first lady was full of compassion and grace.
we are so blessed to have them.

Posted by: jkaren | January 13, 2011 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Stan Collender suggests that people are using "scary words" about the debt ceiling because, if the debt ceiling isn't raised, the government can always use what he calls "extreme cash management practices" like not paying its bills. And he doesn't find that scary? Collender doesn't comment on whether there will be damage to the US' faith and credit if the debt ceiling isn't raised and we manage not to default. Months of "extreme cash practices" combined with speeches by Senator DeMint would certainly shake my trust in U.S. debt.

Posted by: dkesh | January 13, 2011 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Definition of "violent rhetoric": Disagreeing with a liberal.

Posted by: msoja | January 13, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Collender on the debt ceiling

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2011/01/dont-believe-whats-said-about-the-debt-ceiling.html

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 13, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Good for Christie for challenging tenure and good luck because you'll need it in NJ. The unions are so in bed with the Democrats its disgusting.

What's wrong with judging teachers by the standards that every other profession is judged by? A 5 year contract is more than fair.


Wollmer's following statement is ludicrous. "Gov. Christie apparently wants to make every teacher's job subject to the whims of building principals. That's not reform. That's patronage."

That's not what he's saying. And his answer is what, the status quo? Horrible teachers being allowed to stay in poor performing districts and not allowing kids a way out? If Wollmer really cared about the kids and the overwhelming majority of the good and great teachers he'd welcome this but instead its politics as usual for the Dems in NJ. Minutes after the State of the State speech Dem leaders were already blasting Chrisitie and siding with the unions. If we want real reform in NJ we need to get rid of the Democrats in Trenton.

Set up strict criteria to follow that's developed by teachers, administrators and the Governor's office. Forget the union thugs and the Democrats in Trenton. Bypass them. Get it done.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

http://www.caglecartoons.com/images/preview/%7Be4e28807-361d-44b2-8681-b42f76405d24%7D.gif

as linked. I don't have any problem with people trying to find a better system,

but it's not clear to me that a system that gives parents better opportunity to get teachers they clashed with fired is all upside.

Posted by: eggnogfool | January 13, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"The unions are so in bed with the Democrats its disgusting."

That's because the common working man and woman can't get a fair shake with the GOP, which itself is so in bed with powerful interests that it is even more disgusting.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 13, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

eggnofool,

its not about getting people fired its about accountability and the current system has next to none. I'd be happy if no teachers were fired because of this and that the small percentage becuase they didnt' have tenure to fall back upon actually did what they needed to do.

Just like any other position if you have a job for life human nature is going to make some people lax about doing their job and doing it well.

Its not about hurting the teachers its about helping the kids. that's what most liberal/union reps don't get or don't care. They hear the end of tenure and it automatically gets assumed that people are "out to get teachers" and that's not the case.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

For discussion, let's say that it's a fact that 2010 was warmer than 2005 -- a reasonable assumption, since climate has historically changed cyclically, as has global magnetic field strength and polarization. Three arguments are readily apparent:

Argument A: (1) 2010 was warmer than 2005; therefore, _humans_ must be responsible for climate change.

Argument B: (1) 2010 was warmer than 2005, and (2) in 2010, alarmists expended more energy speaking about global warming than they did in 2005; therefore, alarmists' speech must be responsible for climate change.

Argument C: (1) 2010 was warmer than 2005, and (2) in 2010, global governmental spending on anti-climate-change initiatives was greater than in 2005; therefore, climate will change despite global governmental spending.

Argument D: (1) 2010 was warmer than 2005, (2) in 2010, alarmists derived more income speaking about global warming than they did in 2005, and (3) alarmists enjoy the benefits of increased income; therefore, alarmists are opportunists who will extrapolate any set of facts to increase their own income.

Obviously, Argument A is formally fallacious: the fact that climate changes in no way suggests that human activity causes climate change.

Arguments C and D are cogent. Perhaps the funding should be directed towards "how to live in a warmer climate" efforts rather than ultimately useless self-flagellation and self-denial.

Posted by: rmgregory | January 13, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

@vision:

To clarify, I understand and agree with the principal (accountability for teacher performance).

What I question are the practical details. How do you systematically determine which teachers are poor performers?

According to the article, at this point they have no idea.

If tomorrow Obama declared "We are done supporting the interstate freeway system, from now on interstate travel will be via teleportation",

I would agree that teleportation seems preferable in the abstract, but again I would argue that practical details of how to implement a teleportation system should be considered before we throw away the freeway system (really, before we declare that it's time to get rid of the freeway system).

My issue would not be, though I'm sure people would try to straw man me, that I didn't see the advantage of 0-energy instantaneous teleportation over inefficient and lengthy freeway travel.

Posted by: eggnogfool | January 13, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Fireman: "Your house is on fire."

Rmgregory: "Alarmist!!"

Posted by: jeirvine | January 13, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, as someone with friends teaching in the NJ school system and family in the WA and OR school systems, it does seem like NJ has a particularly strong form of teacher tenure. In WA and OR, it seems to be perfectly possible to eliminate teachers after about a year as long as the school principal has properly documented the problems and attempts to solve them. I don't object to moving to something like that, but I do think teachers should have protections beyond at-will employment.

rmgreggory - This new report does not itself, of course, prove or disprove anything. This is just more evidence added to the mountain of evidence that the global climate is indeed warming over time. The vast majority of scientists studying this phenomena believe that the evidence point towards human actions as being a driver of climate change. There are many, many reasons to move away from energy sources which produce CO2 and other products associated with climate change.

Posted by: MosBen | January 13, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

eggnogfool,

as i stated Christie should bypass the unions and the Democratic leadership and sit down directly with teachers and administrators to develop criteria that can be adjusted annually if its not working. (yes his televised town halls don't help in this regard but were necessary IMO to make the problem more well known).

There is a reasonable formula out there if people take the time, effort and energy to look for it. I mean my God have you ever seen the forula for Medicare's payout to doctors that factor in everything from COLA to regional variances in health etc.

The answer's out there, someone's just got to care enough to get it and the unions and Dems supported by them don't seem to as noted by the failing status quo.

But just like the healthcare status quo wasn't working so to with this status quo.


Again the goal (and it can't be stated enough) isn't to fire teachers and shouldn't even be to fire bad teachers. It should be to get them the help they need to be good teachers assuming they want to be.

and for lauren I have to thank you, your misunderstanding of markets and how they work gave me quite the chuckle last night when i read through your posts back and forth with justin84.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"Perhaps the funding should be directed towards 'how to live in a warmer climate' efforts..."

The real fear is the possibility of abrupt change.

The last few thousands years have been a period of relative moderation, thus helping the explosion of human civilization.

But we already know from records of the distant past that temperatures can suddenly swing 5-10 degrees C., up and down, in a period of 50 years or less.

We don't know why this happens, and we don't know whether it can happen even faster.

The effects of abrupt climate change upon agriculture could be devastating for most if not all of civilization.

As the military studies have suggested, there could be massive water displacements, crowded riots and other security issues, even before it gets really bad.

In climate change, uncertainty is NOT a good thing.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | January 13, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

mosben,


just as we can't move straight from the current healthcare system to single payer (noted i prefer a singapore version run by private companies to a British one) you can't move from NJ's system to firing teachers at will. But we need to move closer to what you see in your examples of WA and OR. NJ already has some of the best schools in the country and imagine if those that are failing could be helped (note most are in very impoverished areas)how much better it would be.


And it wouldn't make sense for students if administrators would be able to fire teachers at will becuase they need continuity in their teachers to make the system work. Its like hiring a new plant manager every year and having to get them up to speed on how the plant works. Counterproductive.

I know plenty of NJ teachers and have many as friends too and most all of them are great teachers but they too should want the "bad ones out" so that they're not soiling their good names. Just like in any other profession there are great teachers and not so great teachers but we need to find ways to reward the great and help the bad to get better or remove them for the betterment of the students.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I don't disagree with anything you said there. The issue of teacher tenure baffled me when I was growing up in WA and OR because it just didn't seem to be much of a problem. Actually, I think reformers should do a better job of highlighting the different ways that different states protect teachers, and what works and what doesn't about them.

Usually the issue is talked about as if all teachers have way too many protections and should have them taken away. To someone that grew up thinking teachers had reasonable but not insurmountable protections, that does sound like an attack on teachers.

Posted by: MosBen | January 13, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"eggnogfool" ?

Tsk tsk tsk

Said by someone who constantly complains of name calling.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 13, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Mosben

Well said about climate change.

The last decade is the hottest on record, and nine of ten years are the hottest years on record.

several decades from now waves of millions of Hispanics will hit the USA if this warming trend continues.

The world pumps 30 billion tons or carbon into the atmosphere annually, and elementary science experiments inform us that carbon absorbs heat from the sun. It should be noted that we are experiencing a cycle of solar minimums the last 100 years, so the warming is not due to natural sun cycles.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 13, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

"What I question are the practical details. How do you systematically determine which teachers are poor performers?

According to the article, at this point they have no idea."

eggnogfool,

When I was in school, it was fairly obvious which teachers were great and which were terrible.

The solution is at-will employment. There is no need for "due-process rights" with regards to employment. If a teacher isn't working out, the administration should be able to fire him or her immediately.

Posted by: justin84 | January 13, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"And it wouldn't make sense for students if administrators would be able to fire teachers at will becuase they need continuity in their teachers to make the system work. Its like hiring a new plant manager every year and having to get them up to speed on how the plant works. Counterproductive."

Visionbrkr,

I think administrators should still be able to fire teachers at will.

The vast majority of administrators will understand the importance of continuity as you describe it, and as such be hesitant to fire teachers for anything other than egregious performance.

Consider it from a parent's viewpoint - it is October and your kid hasn't learned anything in her math class. How would you feel if the Principal said "yeah, by all accounts your daughter's math teacher is horrible, but continutity is important and so she'll be stuck with this teacher for the rest of the year"?

Posted by: justin84 | January 13, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

justin,

ya I'm living through that scenario now and I've moved my daughter from a teacher who is not only not helping my daughter or the rest of the class but also not responding to us when we call for a meeting with her.

But I also think moving to firing teachers at will moves too fast in that direction. Should we get close to there eventually yes but there also can be extenuating circumstances that could be at play too that most of us in the private sector benefit from too.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

justin84, there are a couple reasons for some kind of tenure system.

1) I want teachers to teach the facts irrespective of controversy in the community. A friend of mine is a high school biology teacher and teaches evolution as part of the curriculum. There are any number of ways that nuts can influence the school curiculum, but they shouldn't be able to do it by threatening to lobby for getting particular teachers fired for teaching lessons with which they don't agree.

2) We don't pay teachers much money. Yes, various states pay teachers more or less than the average, but on average teachers don't make a ton of money. They have one of the most important jobs in society and if we're not going to honor them by making them one of the more higher paying jobs in society, we can at least guarantee some stability in their employment, particularly from budget cuts.

I'm not saying it should be impossible to fire teachers, whether due to budget cuts or for performance. I'm saying some degree of protection is appropriate beyond at-will employment.

Posted by: MosBen | January 13, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

justin,

also its not just in school that the students should learn. While I'm certainly not shy of bashing bad teachers there are plenty of bad parents out there that say "I pay my taxes I shouldn't have to teach my kids". That's crap. Parents should work with their kids to make sure they understand their work. That doesn't excuse the bad teacher my daughter had (because we do work with her) and absolutely doesn't excuse the teacher for not responding to our three attempts to set up a meeting as well as two attempts by the guidance counselor but again its not always the teacher.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

New Jersey is an amusing place. The last governor was sleeping with the head of the unions, figuratively as well as literally, and this one wants to terminate them.

In reality, tenure has little to do with the success or failure of a school. The out of wedlock birthrate in the area is the single best determinative for the eventual result.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 13, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

How on earth did the so called pro-education left wing become the party of the teachers unions?


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to change that: He is seeking to end tenure and on Wednesday said he would support switching to a system that gives individual teachers five-year contracts, which districts could renew based on merit. He said he believes that if the worst 5% of teachers were churned, there would be a "quantum effect" on performance.

"I don't know what the justification is for it any longer, I really don't," Mr. Christie said of tenure during a meeting with The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. "At the end of the five-year period we evaluate. If we want to keep you, great. If we don't, we won't, based on merit."

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 13, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"What I question are the practical details. How do you systematically determine which teachers are poor performers?"

If you are actually interested in an answer there is a mathematical measure.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/teachers-investigation/

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 13, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Global Warning - the single most effective service Ezra you can do is to interview your fellow worker George Will on your blog. Get him and let us talk about it. It is far more important to get critics like him to address these numbers and for us to understand their beef about that.

Posted by: umesh409 | January 13, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"visionbrkr, as someone with friends teaching in the NJ school system and family in the WA and OR school systems, it does seem like NJ has a particularly strong form of teacher tenure. In WA and OR, it seems to be perfectly possible to eliminate teachers after about a year as long as the school principal has properly documented the problems and attempts to solve them. I don't object to moving to something like that, but I do think teachers should have protections beyond at-will employment."


The much much bigger issue is the raw quantity of teachers. We have too many of them.

Fire 20% tomorrow, thanks.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 13, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmm, so we expect teachers to overcome bad or non-existent parenting and a home learning environment over which they have no control including things like alcohol or drug abuse.

That should turn out well.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 13, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"ya I'm living through that scenario now and I've moved my daughter from a teacher who is not only not helping my daughter or the rest of the class but also not responding to us when we call for a meeting with her.

But I also think moving to firing teachers at will moves too fast in that direction. Should we get close to there eventually yes but there also can be extenuating circumstances that could be at play too that most of us in the private sector benefit from too."

visionbrkr,

That sounds reasonable to me, although at the same time I think the vast majority of administrators aren't going to be trigger happy on firing teachers. At-will or near at-will would probably both work fine in practice.

"While I'm certainly not shy of bashing bad teachers there are plenty of bad parents out there that say "I pay my taxes I shouldn't have to teach my kids". That's crap."

I absolutely agree - parents should provide a good portion of their children's education.

Sometimes teachers turn out to be wrong - even good ones. For example, I was taught in AP US History that the New Deal was effective at combating the Great Depression, and that the federal government took a laissez faire approach to the economy from 1929-1932.

There is no good evidence to support either assertion, and, as I later found out on my own, the evidence actually runs in the other direction.

That all being said, to the extent parents do pay to send their children to outside teachers, those teachers need to be accountable to the parents.

Posted by: justin84 | January 13, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"Hmmmm, so we expect teachers to overcome bad or non-existent parenting and a home learning environment over which they have no control including things like alcohol or drug abuse."

54465446,

I wouldn't expect teachers to overcome such obstacles. Some might be able to, but I wouldn't use such ability to set baseline expectations.

Teachers should be evaluated in a similar fashion as other service employees. If an office worker is normally effective but can't get a report out because the server was down, you don't blame the worker for that failure.

Many office workers don't have set metrics they have to hit - they provide "orgranizational capital" rather than produce goods/services or make sales. Despite this deficiency, managers tend to have a good sense on whether an employee is able/effective or not.

Posted by: justin84 | January 13, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

krazen1211, your statement doesn't follow. If the raw quality of teachers matters most, what is the importance of the total number of teachers such that we should just cut 20% of them? If quality matters, we should evaluate all teachers, help the ones that can improve to do so, and then cut the very worst of the bunch who show no desire or ability to improve. We should also find ways of hiring new teachers at a higher level of quality and retaining good teachers that are leaving the field for higher paying work.

Posted by: MosBen | January 13, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"In reality, tenure has little to do with the success or failure of a school. The out of wedlock birthrate in the area is the single best determinative for the eventual result."

54465446,

Don't drag the War on Poverty into this!

Posted by: justin84 | January 13, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

krazen,

i'll also disagree that we don't have too many of them (maybe too many administrators though). The student to teacher ratio is very key especially in earlier education settings to make sure that kids that may be falling behind don't. If we raise the ratio we could lose kids. That being said if parents also paid attention and worked with their kids daily to reinforce what was learned in school it would offset any negative affects in the loss in the number of teachers.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

"krazen1211, your statement doesn't follow. If the raw quality of teachers matters most, what is the importance of the total number of teachers such that we should just cut 20% of them? If quality matters, we should evaluate all teachers, help the ones that can improve to do so, and then cut the very worst of the bunch who show no desire or ability to improve. We should also find ways of hiring new teachers at a higher level of quality and retaining good teachers that are leaving the field for higher paying work."


It's actually extremely logical.

1. Student:teacher ratios have declined by about 20% since the Clinton Presidency.

2. This represents a massive cost increase, especially with those teachers demanding health care and pensions.

3. Education spending was more than adequate during the Clinton administration.

4. State budgets cannot sustain the massive cost increases.

The most logical answer is to identify the bottom 20% of teachers and toss them out. Technology is supposed to reduce the need for labor. Start using it.

An example that I have posted many times is the local schools here in NJ. We are getting rid of Spanish teachers and replacing them with Rosetta Stone software for 1/3 for the price. It is a great deal.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 13, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Something we should all be able to agree on is that the school year needs a major overhaul. We don't have enough school days per year and the giant mind suck that is summer vacation isn't necessitated anymore by kids helping their parents farm.

Posted by: MosBen | January 13, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"i'll also disagree that we don't have too many of them (maybe too many administrators though). The student to teacher ratio is very key especially in earlier education settings to make sure that kids that may be falling behind don't. If we raise the ratio we could lose kids."


http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_064.asp


Historical student:teacher ratios here. I merely propose returning to the 17:1 ratio.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 13, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

justin:

I would point out that the difference between office workers and teachers is that an office worker is measured by his/her own performrance, while a teacher is measured by the performance of others, children.

For instance two close relatives of mine have taught their whole careers in districts that would be described as impoverished. Most of the children they teach, perahps 75-80%, come from single parent female headed households where males come and go in and out of the children's lives.

On standard state-wide testing, they perform badly. However few parents ever contact the teachers about the children and homework is as often as possible done in school because it will never be done at home. These are entry level school children, who don't know their alphabet and have no books in their homes besides an occasional magazine.

These are public schools, so there is no chance of simply moving the children out somewhere else. Discipline is an issue, not because the children are bad, but because they have never been taught any kind of discipline at home. By that I mean the simple ability to sit in a seat and pay attention to a person who is speaking to them. Also movement around a classroom is a given with children regularly getting out their seats, not to purposely disrupt the class, but because they don't know any better, or because they can't sit for any length of time unless they are playing video games.

The teachers in these areas have victories that are small. They will castigated by outsiders as underperforming. As so often happens though, it is the lack of the knowledge by the critics that is the telling feature.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 13, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

krazen,

I didn't realize it was down to an average of 15 to 1. My kid's school is about 22 to 1 and that to me is as high as I'd want it to go if not lower. I'd love to see those graphs by region or even by state. Agreed that the average can afford to go back up. Also agree with MosBen about getting rid of or shortening the summer break although I'm sure teachers will fight that. Most of them get summer jobs to supplement their income so when people complain about teacher pay they're not factoring in this or the fact that they're working 9.5 months out of 12.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Student teacher ratios by state:

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/overview/table6.asp


http://www.statemaster.com/graph/edu_ele_sec_pup_rat-elementary-secondary-pupil-teacher-ratio

NJ has historically been at the bottom, which of course, explains this:

In Massachusetts, Proposition 2.5 has been effective in controlling growth in property taxes. Real-dollar property-tax growth from 1980 to 2007 was just 22 percent in Massachusetts. It was 68 percent nationwide and 102 percent in New Jersey.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 13, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

krazen,

thanks. oh and don't remind me about my property taxes. I don't see the correlation becuase with our property taxes we should be have a much lower student to teacher ratio. I'd love to see some idea of where our property taxes go. I know we have administration gone haywire here but it still can't account for us having property taxes twice as high as other states while Dems in Trenton still whine about education cuts.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 13, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Wow ! NASA and NOAA. How embarassing this must be for all those uneducated global warming deniers. Oh I'm sure they'll come up with some childlike excuse in an attempt to challenge NASA and NOAA like "You know those government scientists their just trying to get more grant money" or how about "cosmic rays" or "their thermometers weren't calibrated correctly" Come on flatearthers what do you have to say now ???

Posted by: wiserinvestor | January 16, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow ! NASA and NOAA. How embarassing this must be for all those uneducated global warming deniers. Oh I'm sure they'll come up with some childlike excuse in an attempt to challenge NASA and NOAA like "You know those government scientists their just trying to get more grant money" or how about "cosmic rays" or "their thermometers weren't calibrated correctly" Come on flatearthers what do you have to say now ???

Posted by: wiserinvestor | January 16, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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