Teachers Unions Will Stop at Nothing to get $10 Billion Federal Handout
MUSKEGON, MI - The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers spent more than $68 million on various political candidates during the 20007-08 election cycle, and the unions are obviously determined to get their money's worth.
That's why we're not surprised to see another proposal before the U.S. Senate to set aside $10 billion to keep teachers and other school employees around the nation working.
The bill is yet another attempt by the teachers unions to avoid making contract concessions to help local school districts survive the downturn.
Throughout the nation, in large districts and small, school boards have asked local teachers unions to live without a few perks for a year or two, so that teachers with less seniority can keep their jobs and class sizes don't have to swell.
In most cases we've heard about (Chicago and Sacramento are two good examples), the unions have refused to cough up a penny. Instead they want the cash-strapped federal government to spend money to keep teachers working and keep the dues money from union members flowing into their coffers.
According to one estimate, the NEA would rake in about $36 million in dues money if this bill passes. The AFT would make about $14 million.
This is the third time in recent weeks that this idea has come before the Senate. It died the first two times due to a lack of support. The last effort was particularly ugly, because it tied the teachers union bailout to a bill to provide support for the troops fighting in Afghanistan.
Now the NEA and AFT are trying another tactic, tying the union bailout to a bill that would provide Medicaid assistance to states. A vote on the legislation is expected at 5:45 p.m. today.
We know many members of Congress owe their political lives to the financial support of the teachers unions. And we're afraid that when push comes to shove, those lawmakers are going to cave in and give the unions what they want.
In tough times, all entities cut labor costs. A typical U.S. public school district spends about 80 percent of its budget on labor costs. How many private sector employees have been forced to accept lower wages and benefits in recent years to keep their jobs? Why are public school teachers immune to this economic reality?
The current recession is actually providing public schools with an opportunity to take a close look at their spending habits and eliminate some of the waste.
Perhaps they don't have to pay teachers to do union business on school time. Perhaps they don't have to offer 20 paid sick and personal days per year, and cover the cost of substitutes for the missing teachers. Perhaps they don't have to give teachers automatic, annual step raises for the first 12 years of their careers, based on nothing more than showing up and keeping their jobs.
If Congress comes to the unions' rescue, this effort to force schools to be more financially disciplined will be wasted. It would be different if any of this money was set aside for classroom activities, but it's earmarked for school employee salaries and benefits only.
"This is a self-serving grab of public money by greedy labor unions," said Kyle Olson, vice president of EAG. "If the majority of U.S. Senators are truly public servants, rather than servants of their political sugar daddies, this bill will finally get the thumbs down that it deserves."
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