I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

26 July 2014

This isn't hard to do.

This morning, I read this article in the Mercury News about a database of school district employee salaries.

The database is a little misleading, since it includes all benefits, including possible future pension outlays, as part of a teacher's salary.  Teachers might reasonably object to this; pension benefits are not certain, and a portion of one's salary is deducted each pay period to fund that pension.  So while the average teacher may receive a total compensation package adding up to an annual $85,000, the actual salary is significantly less.

What really irks me, though, is that the Mercury News sees fit to inform us that the think tank providing the database is nonpartisan.  This is simply untrue. It is an anti-union, education reform group whose founders have a long history of political action.

This group is the California Policy Center.  Let's take a little look at their website, shall we?  One of my favorite parts is the Prosperity Forum.  The center has many ideas about how to bring prosperity to California.  First off, despite what Nobel Prize-winning economists might write, California needs to lower taxes on the wealthy and get rid of Prop. 30.  We also need to stop our mean-spirited war on the wealthy.  It is our unreasonable jealousy of the deserving rich that holds us back.  The general thrust of the Prosperity Center is that wealth comes to those who deserve it.

(I can't tell whether the Center believes that teachers do not deserve the wealth they receive or what.  Certainly teachers aren't very wealthy, which would argue for us being not too bright.  But the Center also makes teachers' earnings look inflated and suggests that we are too well-compensated.)

A quick look at the "About Us" section of the website is illuminating.  The President of the Center has long involved himself in California politics, particularly in keeping dread unions from exercising their dread power of collective action.  He also likes charter schools.  Board members run the gamut from those who want to destroy pensions to those who want to destroy pensions and the environment too.

This is not a "nonpartisan" group, unless your definition of nonpartisan is so narrow as to be useless.  The group is distinctly partisan.  They have an extremely conservative economic outlook, wherein California will be a far better state if and only if we implement the tax schemes Kansas is usingensure the freedom to pollute, and end the oppressive tyranny of unions.

On school finance and governance issues, the group is distinctly partisan.  The Center's President is Mark Bucher.  He also runs another think tank, Education Alliance.  And he has a long history of shenanigans in Republican politics and school districts (not to mention some financial boondoggles and bad public behavior).

It is irresponsible of the Mercury News to call this group nonpartisan.  If done intentionally, it's misleading at best.  If done unintentionally, it is horrible journalism.  A quick internet search followed by ten minutes on the Center's website was all I needed to do a little investigation.  (I spent an additional five minutes or so looking up Education Alliance.)

Make no mistake.  The Center has a definite partisan bias.  While I am sure its employee salary databases are reasonably* accurate (if misleading), we need to ask what goal the Center has in mind with its press release and data aggregation.  We also need to ask if the Center is a trustworthy source for information, given that its claim of nonpartisanship is laughable.

*I am not claiming that any inaccuracies are the fault of the center.  They are using a variety of public databases, and errors in those are ancedotally common.  I do think the Center's conflation of salary and all benefits is intentional and nefarious.

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