Where are the Low Mobility States?

From Policy Mic:

Researchers at Harvard have released a new study showing that while the income gap is as wide as ever, there is still some chance for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to climb up. The study analyzed various social factors — parent/child income, college attendance, teenage birth — and calculated the likelihood of a child from the bottom 20% of the economy working up to the top 20%.

But while the national average of economic mobility was a low 7.8%, the most shocking thing that the researchers found was the wide discrepancy among states and researchers: “[I]n some places, such as Salt Lake City and San Jose, the chance of moving from the bottom fifth to the top fifth is as high as 12.9%. In others, such as Charlotte and Indianapolis, it is as low as 4.4%.”

The sharp difference in upward mobility in different regions led the researchers to conclude, “The U.S. is better described as a collection of societies, some of which are ‘lands of opportunity’ with high rates of mobility across generations, and others in which few children escape poverty.”

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Local Politics

A busy morning here. I had to dash out a writing thing, and I went to hear the town school superintendent talk about the school budget at a PTA meeting. 

As usual, there was very low attendance. Maybe if they held PTA meetings in the evening, instead of at 9am, there would better turnout, but that's another story. 

Today, I'm just going to complain about the lack of academic research and news articles about local politics. It's actually fascinating stuff. It's Politics 101. Who gets what? What groups should pay more? What is the best use of an increasingly small pile of cash? What is left, after entitlements? Who makes all the decisions? 

Cities get more attention than suburban areas, because that's where all the academics and journalists live, but suburban areas have more people in them. That's where all the voters live. 

The lack of attention to local, suburban politics is a pet peeve of mine. #grumble

Pensions for Public Employees

Eduwonk has an excellent list of the top issues in education policy. One of the big debates surrounds teachers' pensions. Rotherham writes,

The sustainability of teacher pensions has emerged as a major fiscal issue for states.  A few years ago the warnings about pensions were coming from just a few wonks, now policymakers in most states are paying attention to an overall pension shortfall of more than half a trillion dollars (double that when health care is factored in).  At the same time there is growing awareness of how the current pension systems shortchange many teachers – especially mobile ones and career shifters – and contribute to America’s broader retirement security problems.  Even absent a headline-grabbing fiscal crisis pensions will make news this year as policymakers try to sort out how to meet the different goals of fiscal sustainability, adequate retirement benefits for workers, and adapting relatively static pension systems to the more dynamic teacher labor market today.

The issue of pensions, not just for teachers, but all public employees, is a big issue here in New Jersey. The state has failed to contribute funds to the pension program, and many fear that the state will never be able to meet its obligations. There's more on the state's screwed up fiscal situation and its debt related to pensions here.  

Talk to anyone, even the most left-leaning voter in this state, about this topic, and the conversation quickly gets bitter. Most people love their local teachers and want them properly compensated, but the high property taxes and the behavior of top administrators makes many seeing red.

There is a suplus  of top education administrators in this state. Towns, which are unusally tiny compared to the rest of the country, each have their own superintendents who are responsible for two or three schools. Some towns are so small that they don't even have their own schools, but still have a superintendent. Those superintendents receive large salaries. Think $200,000. When they retire, they are entitled to their full salary and then can take on another position where they recieve another 6 figure salary. Local police chief can retire at age 55; some bring in $300,000. They are also able to double dip. 

Until the situation improves, we are going to continue to have a Republican governor in this state. 

I'm curious what my non-New Jersey readers think about this situation. 

Christie and Privatization

MC_062910christie2 The husky governor in our fine state of New Jersey is proposing massive privatization programs for many state services. According to the Bergen Record:

State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths
could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report
on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms
would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay
for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health
care and run education programs behind prison walls.

All
told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a
year by delivering an array of services through private hands.

I know that liberals are supposed to be against all forms of privatization, but I just can't get too worked up about this. If you've ever been to the DMV offices in Paramus, you'll know that a trained monkey could do it better than those guys.

Continue reading

Public Employees Under the Microscope

The most popular articles in our local Bergen Record discuss the average salaries of teachers and cops in our area.

While most teachers in New Jersey earn between $40,000 and $60,000, 1.6 percent of the state's 116,000 public school teachers make over $100,000. That's 1,847 teachers and most of them are in Northern New Jersey. The median salary for high school teachers in our town is $80,111.

Other public employees are also doing very well.

Eighty-eight percent of the 563 Bergen County workers who earned
more than $100,000 in 2009 worked in law enforcement — as assistant
prosecutors, county investigators, county police officers or jail
guards. About 44 percent of Bergen County Sheriff's Office employees
took home more than $100,000 in salary and overtime in 2009.

Daniel
Marro, a Bergen County corrections officer, made more than $190,000 in
2009 – about $78,000 of that came from overtime pay. Stephen Malone, a
county police sergeant, made $180,000, including about $76,000 in
overtime.

Public employee salaries is a favorite topic of local newspapers (see this one on cops in Rockland County, NY). The reporters who write these stories make around $30,000 or $40,000, so imagine them typing out these stories with white knuckles on the keyboard.

I'm going to another town meeting tonight about the budget crisis. This is guaranteed to be a hot topic tonight.

(Sorry for all the Jersey-centric blog posts lately. I suppose I could write about a juicy national sex scandal later.)