What does the Supreme Court decision on class sizes really mean?

Plus, why Trump won't take a salary and mainstream economics is all wrong

Credit: Province of British Columbia

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the BC Public School Employers’ Association and Lee Doney, interim president and CEO of the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat, address the media during the teacher’s strike in June 2014.

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The Supreme Court of Canada’s surprise decision on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation class size and composition court case has both teachers and government scrambling to figure out next steps in the long-running battle. The ruling restores contract language from 2002 on class size limits, as well as the number of specialist teachers and students with special needs that can be in a classroom. The BCTF estimates it could mean adding $250 million to $300 million to B.C.’s $5.1-billion annual school budget—though school superintendents estimated as much as $1 billion in 2014. Both sides had expected the Supreme Court to deliberate on the issue for months, but its 20-minute turnaround siding with teachers has left the union and province wading through reams of dense contractual language. (The Province)

Donald Trump has stated that he will decline the $400,000 annual presidential salary and accept only $1. He’s not the first U.S. president to turn down pay. That honour belongs to Herbert Hoover, who, according to biographer Glen Jeansonne, spent the first half of his life making money and the second half giving it away. Aside from wealth and party, however, Hoover and Trump don’t have much else in common. As Jeansonne noted, Hoover was an exceedingly modest Quaker from West Branch, Iowa, an orphan who ultimately married just once, who was popular among black voters and rejected a government paycheque throughout decades of public service. “Hoover’s refusal to accept salary wasn’t limited to the presidency; it included every other public position he ever held or humanitarian position,” Jeansonne explained, listing Hoover’s posts as a food administrator during the First World War as well as the head of two Hoover commissions in his post-presidency. “He even paid his own expenses.” (The Atlantic)

World Bank chief economist Paul Romer, who wrote a paper trashing his discipline just months before taking the post, says he didn’t really mean to infuriate countless colleagues. By the time he wrote “The Trouble with Macroeconomics,” faith in economists was already ebbing—they got blamed for failing to see the Great Recession coming and, later, to suggest effective remedies. What’s at stake far exceeds hurt feelings in the ivory tower. Central banks and other policymakers use the models that Romer says are flawed. The idea that consumers and businesses always make rational choices pervades mainstream economics. Romer thinks that’s not only wrong but may lead to the misleading conclusion that government action can’t fix big problems. (Bloomberg)