Public policy perversions

Public policy perversions

Those cheering “The State” bailout of the Penn Hills School District certainly haven’t taken much time to think this deed through.

The district’s poor decision-making has left it with debts of more than $170 million. An imprudent school construction project gets most of the blame.

The state placed the district into “financial recovery” status. And to start righting its badly listing ship, the school board was preparing to pass a budget with a steep tax increase and significant layoffs.

Cue Pennsylvania Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. He mounted his white stallion and rode to the district’s partial rescue by securing from the state Department of Education $3.3 million for Penn Hills.

That allowed the district to, for the coming school year, balance its budget, forestall that tax increase and reduce the number of teachers to be laid off.

Great news, right? Not necessarily. For taxpayers statewide now have been forced to help bail out that poor decision-making of the Penn Hills School District.

As tough as it will be for the district – and retiring that massive debt will be scores of tough rows to hoe – “socializing” any part of that hoeing responsibility to those wholly not responsible is poor public policy. Past being prologue in Penn Hills, it just might enable more bad choices.

Of course, sound public policy demands accountability. And that’s been a long running joke for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

There certainly hasn’t been much in the way of accountability for the district’s long string of putrid academic results. Iteration after iteration of “leadership,” the latest iteration also facing serious ethics challenges, has changed little. And it appears that deficit carries over to the bookkeeping side of things.

A state audit of the district’s student transportation operations from 2014 to 2018 revealed that officials did not birddog transportation vendors who failed to submit fuel consumption data, the Post-Gazette reports. That information is used by the district to obtain reimbursement.

It was a very expensive lapse. The audit says that cost the district $1.99 million.

The district claims some money was reimbursed in the audit period. But its failure to recoup nearly $2 million should raise even more red flags for an operation whose multiple red flags have begun to fray under continuing gale-force winds.

And speaking of high winds, sound public policy also demands facts, not the rhetoric of “progressive” blowhards. But the former is sacrificed for the latter in a recent newspaper letter to the editor demanding that Pennsylvania increase its minimum wage in excess of 100 percent.

A group that describes itself as “a diverse coalition of low wage workers, labor unionists, students, faith-based leaders and concerned residents” claims to debunk the “myths” about raising the minimum wage.

To wit, among its many fallacious claims, the group argues – and that term is used quite loosely – that raising the minimum wage won’t hurt small businesses.

Perhaps that’s because they reduce hours or positions entirely to stay profitable?

The group also claims that many business owners “would like to pay higher wages in order to increase employee retention and motivation but cannot afford to do so under the current system, lest they be undercut by their competition.”

That “current system,” of course, is – GASP! – capitalism. And, ah, “competition” is a four-letter word, this group contends; “the only way to stop this ‘race to the bottom’ is to raise the income floor,” it says.

Hey, maybe “The State” also can set prices and control the means of production! But what’s a little socialism – or, in this case, a lot of socialism – in pursuit of “social justice,” eh?

Consider this mental midgetry of the tallest order.

Additionally, the group claims that consumer prices might indeed rise to offset the cost of the minimum wage but those wage gains would “far outpace inflation.” The inflation, mind you, that the group grossly understates is being powered by government-by-fiat wages.

Good grief, Rube Goldberg would be proud of the perpetual motion illogic of this “diverse coalition.”

Ignorance is anathema to sound public policy, no matter how repeatedly the ignorant loudly proclaim their economic ignorance.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).