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Bill Gates Attacks Fraudulent Accounting for Public School Pensions

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 13, 2010 9:55 AM |

Bill Gates

Isn’t education supposed to be about the kids? Then how has our nation allowed political operatives in states, cities, and towns throughout our land to develop and manipulate accounting standards to benefit public employees within our school systems at the expense of our future generations?

Go ahead and rail on me as just another fiscal conservative who does not fully appreciate the dynamics of public education, especially in urban settings. I will respond with a strident, CHALLENGE!!  Why?

Today you do not have to listen to my banging the drum about fiscal mismanagement within our municipal finances, specifically public education. Let’s have a look at what perhaps the largest single benefactor of education in our nation, none other than Bill Gates, has to say.

Thank you to a good friend for bringing this story to my attention. What does Gates have to say? I encourage you to take Gates’ words and message to heart. He cares about our kids and their future, as do I. The Wall Street Journal highlights Gates’ views in writing, Getting Schooled in Aspen:

Ever since its inception in 2007, the Aspen Ideas Festival has been a proving ground for thinkers who want to break with liberal orthodoxy on certain subjects. One is education. The event, sponsored by the Aspen Institute, has been a annual refuge for Democrats who would like more choice and competition in K-12.

“The education system is built on the three pillars of mediocrity: lockstep pay, lifetime tenure and seniority,” was Joel Klein’s assessment at this year’s Festival. He ought to know — he’s the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school system.

This year, Mr. Klein also had some backup from a friend (and former rival in the Microsoft antitrust case), Bill Gates, who has devoted much of his time to education since stepping down from full-time work with the company in 2006. Undermining public education, he said, is a system that channels too much money to pensions for retired teachers. He predicts that state and local governments will have to lay off 100,000 active teachers in the next couple of years. “I’m very much against that,” said Mr. Gates who noted that many of the teachers who lose their jobs will be younger, more motivated teachers at the bottom of the seniority system.

Mr. Gates said a big part of the problem is “fraudulent” state budgeting systems, which fail accurately to account for the cost of pension promises. A legislator who “says ‘yes’ doesn’t feel any pain at all,” he said. Thus the “accounting fraud” that lets politicians treat generous teacher pensions as a free lunch rewards them for spending more on retired teachers than on current students.

Mr. Gates hasn’t been a big fan of implementing full school choice through a voucher system. But his Gates Foundation has spent some $4 billion in the past few years promoting the creation of smaller neighborhood high schools and charter schools, which are public schools that operate outside of the straitjacket of teacher union contracts. Here’s hoping he continues his plain speaking about education and perhaps comes better to appreciate how vouchers might aid his hope of cracking open the existing system.

Think Gates knows a thing or two about ‘sense on cents?’ With these comments, Gates receives immediate induction into the Sense on Cents Hall of Fame!!


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