Bailing Out Teachers

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on Capitol Hill are literally taking food out of the mouths of the
most needy to pay back their political cronies. Today, the House
will vote on the infamous Bill with No Name, H.R.
(originally the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and
Safety Improvement Act), which contains a $26.1 billion bailout
for financially strapped state governments. Much of the money will
go to public employee unions, in the form of a $10 billion "Education
Jobs Fund" to supplement state education costs. This comes
on top of a $53.5 billion bailout of unionized teachers in the State
Fiscal Stabilization Fund – some of which is still unspent.
Worse, the new legislation would impose $9.7 billion in permanent
tax increases.

The failing
economy is not the only reason school districts are seeing shortfalls.
The Wall
Street Journal
reports that school district spending has
been out of control for at least a decade and is far out of sync
with enrollment growth. As the Journal notes, "total
education spending grew by 32% percent between 1999 and 2009, while
K-12 enrollment has grown by less that 1% each year over the same
time period."

In some cases,
unions have prevented state and local governments from making needed
cuts in their budgets. For example, earlier this year the Milwaukee
School Board
announced that it was laying off 428 teachers due
to budget shortfalls. The average Milwaukee teacher receives only
$56,000 per year in salary, but also gets a generous $40,000 in
benefits, including a health care plan that costs $26,000 per family,
compared to $14,500 for private employees. The school board sought
to cut costs and to keep the teachers by implementing cuts in benefits.
A proposed health care plan would have instituted co-pays expected
to yield $47.2 million in savings, more than enough to save every
teacher’s job. The union refused to bargain, instead opting for

Milwaukee school
system superintendent William Andrekopoulos said he was "surprised"
at the union’s reluctance to negotiate to prevent the layoffs, but
H.R. 1586 provides a possible explanation for the union’s behavior.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) may have been
gambling on the prospect that congressional Democrats would bail
them out. The union’s executive director, Pat Omar, said, "The
problem must be addressed with a national solution, a federal stimulus
package that will restore educator positions."

the rest of the article

12, 2010

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