Kamala Harris has decided to float a plan to raise teachers’ pay as part of her bid for the Democratic nomination. Which is puzzling, as she wants to get selected to run for President and K-12 isn’t a Federal issue, it’s a state and local one. So quite why someone running for Federal office should worry about this is unknown. At least, until we examine internal Democratic Party politics, where the Teachers’ Unions are major power brokers.
That is, this is absolutely nothing at all about what’s good for America and is simply a power play for the teaching union support in getting chosen to run. Which, when you think about it, ain’t a great way to make sure the country is run in the interests of the country:
It’s worth thinking a little about the detail here too.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has the first major K-12 education proposal of the Democratic presidential primary so far: giving American teachers a significant raise. The California senator is proposing the federal government spend $315 billion to increase teacher salaries over the next 10 years. Through a combination of direct federal spending and matching funds from states, the goal is to give the average US teacher a $13,500 pay increase in her first term, paid for by hiking taxes on wealthy estates. [/perfectpullquote]
The major limitation to raising teacher salaries is that the bulk of them have to be paid by the people sending their kids to the local school. It’s local property taxes that pay for the local school system. People see a close connection between their taxes and those salaries therefore – they don’t get raised all that much precisely because of this. This is probably as it should be of course – the taxpayer should believe they’re getting value for their money. This is an abomination from the point of view of the teachers.
There are indeed county, across state and so on equalisations of revenue in places. But it’s still true that the major input into the education system is those local property taxes.
So, what Kamala Harris is really doing is promising those voters something for free. Those rich b’stards over there will have to pay for it through the estate tax. Your property taxes won’t go up, nor the rather limited State taxation arrangements. But you’ll get better paid teachers and thus better schools. Something for nothing, vote for me!
Plus, of course, it brings the teachers’ unions on side:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]More immediately, in the Democratic primary, Harris’s plan could appeal to the teachers unions that have long been major players in Democratic politics — with an issue that’s been a major motivator for them in the past few years.[/perfectpullquote]
And that’s what it’s really about. Buy off, with promises of other peoples’ money, one of the biggest influences in Democratic Party politics. But then isn’t that politics all over, buying off interest groups with other peoples’ money?