Education funding and the minimum wage

Well, I see Gov. Ted Strickland was in Akron yesterday. When I first saw the story in the Akron Beacon Journal I figured he was here with his cornhole tournament, a way to raise money for his next campaign. But no. He was in the Rubber City to talk to educators and get their ideas about education. (Hence the headline: Governor quizzes Akron. Get it!)

It’s great that elected officials take the time to talk about education and other issues. And it can’t hurt any. We’ve been talking about how to improve education in Ohio and elsewhere now for at least 25 years. Unfortunately, the talk — and the many great ideas — somehow manage to get lost in the realities of what is a huge problem, one that touches a host of social, political and economic issues.

One of the issues involves funding for education. How are we going to fund our schools — preschool through graduate school? And how are we going to do it in a state like Ohio — with an aging population and a declining economy. Yesterday, the governor said, was not the time to talk about funding. That discussion will come later. Here’s from the ABJ story:

After the forum, Strickland said the economic pressures the state is facing extend far beyond school funding. He said he doesn’t think the energy and foreclosure crises are just part of a normal cycle of ups and downs.

”Part of what’s happening with the economy is, I think, potentially cataclysmic,” Strickland said. ”Whether or not people will maintain confidence in our financial institutions, whether or not there will be some way to deal appropriately with the energy crisis we face, it’s affecting everything. It’s not only affecting schools. It’s affecting households, it’s affecting the ability of people to work and get to work and feed their families.”

However, Strickland asked the audience to set aside the funding question for the moment.

Cornhole, anyone?

And talking about getting cornholed, wonder what it would be like these days to be working a job that pays minimum wage — and then having people carping about the increase from $5.85 to $6.55 an hour that goes into effect today. (Uh. Let’s see. Gallon of gasoline north of $4; significant price increases for food. Well, you know where I’m going here.) Here’s from a story distributed by McClatchy Newspapers, also on the front page of the ABJ.

OK. I can’t find the story on the ABJ website — which really is one of the most pathetic examples of an online  newspaper site. So I guess you’ll just have to trust me about this story. Or call me and I’ll bring the front page of the dead-tree edition to your house so you can review it personally. Here goes:

“It becomes very hard to increase wages when small businesses are in very tight competition for their goods and services,” said Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the wage increase.

It’s tough running a business these days. No doubt about it. But I wonder if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its members have an obligation — moral or otherwise — to at least consider what Strickland is telling us here in Ohio: “It’s [the economy] not only affecting schools. It’s affecting households, it’s affecting the ability of people to work and get to work and feed their families.”

OK. I know the business community generally prefers no government involvement unless it is for the greater good. But I wonder if any of the chamber’s members benefited from the predatory lending schemes of the past few years, many targeted at the low-wage employees that they employ. And I wonder what the chamber’s position is on the $25 billion bailout to Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac — a move that may increase mortgage rates by a percentage point or more, potentially slowing the economy even further.

Too bad the treasury guys didn’t encourage Fanny and Freddie to hold a cornhole tournament to raise some cash. Looks like that method of funding is catching on out here in the heartland.

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One response to “Education funding and the minimum wage

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