Utah to Continue Paying Salaries of Teachers Union Presidents

Published May 1, 2009

Utah state Rep. Christopher Herrod (R-Provo) got into a little trouble during the current legislative session when he proposed the Public Education Law Revision (HB 381), which would have banned school districts from paying the salaries of local teachers union presidents. The saved monies instead would have been spent on resources directly affecting student education.

House Bill 381 ultimately went down to defeat February 27 in the House Education Committee on a 6-7 vote. No Democrats voted for the bill.

The Davis, Granite, and Salt Lake school districts are contracted to pay the salaries of local teachers union presidents. Herrod’s bill was designed to end that practice.

Pillaging Taxpayers

The vote mystified education reform proponents.

“This is a good and sensible piece of legislation,” said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. “It seems ludicrous that, at a time when states and districts are strapped for funds and when the feds are borrowing hundreds of billions from today’s students to help maintain school budgets, that districts are subsidizing the salaries of union leaders.”

Hess believes teacher unions should pay the salaries of their local presidents out of union dues, not by making taxpayers foot the bill.

“Teacher unions are and should be free to pay their officials as they see fit—but the funds should be provided by union members and not by redirecting dollars that would otherwise fund students and classrooms,” Hess said.

Strong Public Support

Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, a nonprofit organization in Utah dedicated to expanding school choice in the Beehive State, supported the bill, as did numerous parents who came to its hearings when it was in legislative committee.

“We are very supportive of it, and we worked in collaboration with Rep. Herrod to bring it to the floor this year, and it did not pass, by one vote,” Clark said. “I do know that during the education committee hearing on the bill all those speaking in favor of it were from the grassroots, they were parents, and all those who spoke against it had a very clear alignment with a particular organization.”

Teacher unions claimed Herrod’s bill was a vengeful tactic to punish organizations that lobbied against a statewide voucher program in late 2007. Clark said that was entirely false.

“I chuckle a little bit when I hear that,” Clark said. “This had nothing to do with retribution or anything that has happened in the past. It is sad and tragic that a conversation over fiscal responsibility and stopping future irresponsible expenditure became such a petty public debate, and I think we will continue to see ideas like this sent out.

“It’s not necessarily a big savings [had HB 381 passed],” Clark continued, “but it could have put tens of thousands of dollars back into many districts’ budgets, which is a big deal in these tough economic times.”

Concerned About Retribution

Proponents of HB 381 hope Utah’s teacher unions won’t take their own revenge by lobbying against Herrod’s reelection because he introduced the bill.

“Rep. Herrod does a good job representing his constituents, and he is always very careful about making laws that benefit all taxpayers and citizens and the entire state,” Clark said. “I would personally hope that a labor union, as much as they could disagree with a proposed piece of legislation, would not suddenly do something purely out of retribution.”

Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For more information …

Utah HB 381: http://www.le.utah.gov/~2009/bills/hbillint/hb0381.pdf