Photo of the day

Love  this Wired gallery “what action figures do in their spare time:”

Bruce Lee Series 3/8 VSE OK

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Politics is choices

Facing huge discontent with their obvious disdain for teachers and public education, the North Carolina Republicans are responding.  It initially drew great headlines– $5000 raises for new teachers.  First, lets be clear, substantially increasing salaries for new teachers is desperately needed.  But here’s the thing– it stops there.  If you’ve been teaching more than 5 years– nothing.  In fact, there will be some pretty significant salary compression issues and, in some cases, perverse results where new teachers can be making more than experienced teachers.  That’s surely great morale.  The Republicans have been talking up teacher retention, but I almost wonder if they know what that word means.  How does increasing our anemic starting salary do anything to retain the frustrated 10-year veteran who sees no salary increase under this plan and still has an anemic salary?  Don’t worry, say the Republicans, that will come.  I guess in another election year if we’re lucky.  (Here’s some more details on the plan from NC Policywatch).

Anyway, I really enjoyed Rob Christensen’s take on this:

The GOP proposal is a modest one that would hardly move the needle in the view of education experts. At most, it would move North Carolina’s 46th ranking up several positions – assuming that other low-ranking states did not raise their teacher salaries.

The GOP did not cause this problem. But it is now the Republicans’ responsibility that North Carolina teacher salaries trail all but those in New Mexico, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota.

McCrory said he would like to give a larger pay raise to teachers – and to other state employees as well – and may recommend doing so if money becomes available.

As a rationale for not giving larger raises, McCrory cited cost overruns in Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor.

But to govern is to choose. McCrory ran for governor in 2012 on the platform of cutting taxes, not raising teacher salaries.

And coming out of the recession last year, McCrory and GOP lawmakers made tax cuts rather than teacher raises the priority.  [emphasis mine]

Raising the minimum salary for North Carolina public school teachers will cost the state roughly $200 million during the next two years. But the legislature last session passed what has been described as the biggest tax-cut package in the country – including changing the progressive income tax into a flat tax, cutting the corporate income tax, and ending the inheritance tax for estates worth more than $5 million, the only estates still taxed.

The total tax package will have a budgetary impact of $1.7 billion over five years and $302 million over the next two years.

Christensen gives the supply-siders their due:

Republicans such as Sen. Jerry Tillman, using the supply-side argument, say they believe the tax cuts will stimulate economic growth, eventually providing more tax dollars to pay for future public services such as teacher salaries.

He does not, however, mention, that no economist not hopelessly in thrall to the Republican party will actually make this argument.  It’s a pipe dream.  Yeah, it would be awesome if all we needed was lower tax rates for more government revenue and if sewage treatment plants could produce gold.  But, alas, reality.

Anyway, the Republicans have chosen not to take valuing teachers seriously.  Instead, they’ve chosen to get some election-year headlines, but essentially ignore the larger issues of attracting and retaining a skilled workforce of teachers.  And not just parents and students, but the whole state will suffer.  How’s that low tax, poorly-educated workforce working out for Mississippi?

The demographics of sports fandom

Loved this piece in the Atlantic about the demographics of sports fans across different sports.  Of course, many of the cliches are true– golf fans really are old white men– but there’s plenty of other interesting and somtimes surprising bits.  The highlights:

Today, let’s look at TV demographics. Yes, the NFL is the most-watched sport. But which sport’s audience is richest? Whitest? Youngest? Fortunately, Nielsen tracks that data, too. First some highlights, then the graphs. (Note: Nielsen’s survey figures are heavy on older, whiter audiences, since they’re more likely to own a television and pay for cable.)

  • The NBA has the youngest audience, with 45 percent of its viewers under 35. It also has the highest share of black viewers, at 45 percent—three times higher than the NFL or NCAA basketball.
  • Major League Baseball shares the most male-heavy audience, at 70 percent, with the NBA.
  • The NHL audience is the richest of all professional sports. One-third of its viewers make more than $100k, compared to about 19 percent of the general population.
  • Nascar’s audience has the highest share of women (37 percent) and highest share of white people (94 percent).
  • The Professional Golfers Association has the oldest audience by multiple measures: smallest share of teenagers; smallest share of 20- and early 30-somethings; and highest share of 55+ (twice as high, in the oldest demo, as the NBA or Major League Soccer).
  • Major League Soccer has the highest share of Hispanics by far (34 percent; second is the NBA at 12 percent) and the lowest income of any major sports audience. Nearly 40 percent of its fans make less than $40k.
  • The NCAA demographics for football and basketball are practically identical but they are surprising old (about 40% over 55+) and surprisingly white (about 80%), which clearly has as much to do with who owns a TV rather than who follows the sports.

And here’s an example of the graphics (they’ve got them for all the sports):

Guess I shouldn’t have made fun of golf.  NHL (of which I am a modest fan) is about as white as it gets.

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