Economist Lanny Ebenstein. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times) (Michael Robinson Chavez,…)
Better than a bribe
Re "Patt Morrison Asks: Lanny Ebenstein," Opinion, Oct. 15
Lanny Ebenstein's attack on public pensions is penny wise and pound foolish. Some public pensions are excessive and, worse, underfunded. Those should be renegotiated. But there is a good reason to provide decent pensions for public employees.
Public pensions were created to give public servants a larger stake in their jobs than any bribe could replace. Public servants are exposed to great temptations, and there are people who would pay to have a police officer avoid a certain place at a certain time. Others are willing to buy off a building inspector.
A good pension diminishes the temptation to take dirty money. The pensions also help to attract high-quality employees.
Public pensions are an easy target when private workers have lost their pensions. Still, they are the wrong target, and over time, getting rid of them will damage the quality of our public service.
The writer is an associate professor emerita of public administration at USC.
Banning collective bargaining for public sector employees doesn't go far enough. Courts have said that taxpayers cannot get out of paying outrageous pensions already promised to government workers, even if cities, states and counties declare bankruptcy.
The only workable solution would be to heavily tax those pensions. If public employees had to subsist on the same benefits as the rest of us, there would be more people interested in improving the benefits we all receive.
Ebenstein says that public employee benefits are unsustainable. The fact is that private sector salaries and benefits have been decreasing as companies moved jobs overseas, putting pressure on governments to do the same with salaries and benefits.
The right wing has escalated these attacks as it protects the rich, whose taxes have decreased.
Public employee benefits would be sustainable if taxes were raised on those who can afford to pay more. This would in turn put upward pressure on private sector salaries.
San Luis Obispo
Putting too much weight on scores
Re "Principals to see teacher ratings," Oct. 16
The Times quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying, "I think dropout rates matter. I think graduation rates matter."
Teachers, administrators, parents and (most important) students agree. What does not matter to students, however, are their standardized test scores, which the Los Angeles Unified School District plans to report to principals as a measure of teacher effectiveness.
Students spend more than 10 hours each school year taking tests. Teachers and administrators pore over the results, compare notes and strategize to raise scores. But these scores do not affect class grades, graduation or any thing else that really matters to the students.
Until the scores matter to students, they should not be used to judge teacher effectiveness.
I teach eighth-grade math. We math teachers face a dilemma: How do we cover all 28 eighth-grade math standards in the 81/2 months before we administer the tests in May?
Our ability to accomplish this task is connected to the amount of information the students retained from the 41 math standards that they were taught in
This insistence on students and teachers being forced to cover so many standards — almost one a week — leads to frustration. When students are not given the opportunity to investigate math concepts in depth, many simply will not remember them. This system sets students up for failure.
Our costly sports addiction
Re "Boola boola vs. moola moola," Editorial, Oct. 17
NCAA reform? The true social costs of our sick addiction to violent sports haven't even been added up. How many serious injuries, permanent disabilities and even deaths are due to "sports"? Who doesn't know someone who dreamed of a professional sports career and then hit the wall because of serious injuries?
The horror and shame our society covers up for the false dreams of glamour and commercial gain is the real story that needs to be investigated.
Call it the 99% rule of the losers. For every gladiator who makes it to the big time, how many are left with broken bodies and unfulfilled dreams?
Sure, pay the college athletes. But call it out for what it is — a Band-Aid for a severed artery.
As a former college librarian, I can assure you that students working in the library are trying to offset tuition and do not have the full ride enjoyed by many athletes, not to mention the early registration and tutoring the athletes often receive.
Schools also provide athletes a TV showcase for those seeking professional contracts. And when their playing days are over, many have the degrees they earned.