School may be out, but some people could use a lesson or two in the politics surrounding education. As governors and senators across the nation promise teachers a pay increase, many constituents are only hearing one side of the story. And the teachers unions want them left in the dark.
By Johnnie-Ann Campbell
Earlier this year, Florida Governor Rick Scott and lawmakers got together and agreed on a total of $480 million in pay increases for teachers and other school employees. Teachers are set to receive an additional $2000 to $3500 beginning in June of next year. But according to Florida’s House Speaker, Will Weatherford, it may not be that simple: “We basically write a lump sum to each school district, and then that money is collectively bargained between the union and the school board and the superintendent. So we can’t really micromanage that process.” Wait. Bargained? This money is for the teachers…(But yeah, not exactly). So, the state is going to pay for the “raises” this year, but what happens once the money is gone? The state-mandated pay increase doesn’t include long-term provision of funds and has left many schools scrambling to find the money for subsequent years. So instead of coming up short on funds, they will come up short on teachers…
The Grade A Real Agendas
The teachers unions are not going to remain silent while teachers’ jobs get slashed. They, undoubtedly, will use their power to push their political agendas and to block meaningful education reforms. See, the thing about teachers unions is all they really care about is politics. And pretending to care about teachers gives the union the leverage they need in order to get what they want – more power.
The two largest national teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (ATF), have given almost $60 million in campaign contributions in the last 20 years. And these same organizations spent over $61 million at the state level on ballot initiatives and candidates just in 2008. According to the Heritage Foundation, unions spent more on campaign ads than all corporations combined through July 2010 – as much as three times as much. Maybe this is why Fortune magazine repeatedly ranks the NEA within the top 15 of the Washington Power 25 list.
It’s All About the Politics
How do the teachers feel about the unions’ politics? Some states require union members to give consent for their dues to be spent on political contributions. It’s a little thing called “paycheck protection.” When Utah passed paycheck protection measures, teachers were given the choice to opt out of contributing to their union’s political agenda…And that’s exactly what they did. The number of teachers participating in Utah dropped from 68% to 6.8%. And teachers in Washington had a similar response, dropping from 82% to 6%. And many teachers argue that the unions don’t even represent their members’ opinions. For example, NEA and ATF contributed 95% of their money to Democratic candidates. But I can assure you that more than 5% of their members aren’t Democrats: In the 1980 presidential election, 44% of NEA members voted for Jimmy Carter, but the same percentage voted for Ronald Reagan.
Many people see teacher pay increases as a good thing. And if the unions leave them alone, they may be. But the unions won’t stay away. Instead, they’ll add the pay increases to their political arsenal and use them to influence both the school districts and politicians in D.C. And, trust me, they aren’t doing it for the teachers or the improvement of our education system in general…It’s all for the power.
Article submitted by: Veronica Coffin