Let the Unions “Bail Out” Public Education

Published May 24, 2010

Whether you look at the state of New Jersey or individual districts across the country, it’s easy to find a story where unionized and tenured teachers demand adherence to their rich contract clauses rather than forgoing raises and perks. This has led to the layoffs of younger, newer teachers and the cutting of popular educational programs.

It takes chutzpah, therefore, for Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, to demand a bailout for the education system.  (“Public Schools Need a Bailout,” The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2010) It is the teachers unions that have bankrupted the system.

States, municipalities, and school districts are reeling from the burden of unsustainable payroll expansion and pensions.  These contracts were negotiated by officials whose election the teachers unions themselves have funded.  Let the unions be the first to bailout the education sector. All they need to do is freeze their pay and pension sweeteners for a few years and pay few more percentage points of their salaries toward their “Bentley” health care plans.

As for the taxpayers, it is time to understand that we can’t pay for a child’s education when we are paying for a protected and powerful education bureaucracy.  I predict the unions will reject any suggestions of shared sacrifice.  It is time, therefore, for Americans to reject the unionization of public education.

(An edited version of this letter appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 24, 2010.)

Bruno Behrend ([email protected]) is director of The Heartland Institute’s Center for School Reform.