Tennessee’s debate on this issue was lost in the ink and video of the goings on in Wisconsin. Fortunately for Tennessee and Education here, Speaker Beth Harwell filled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker‘s shoes and shepherded the bill to eventual passage.
The terms of the debate here were the same as it has been everywhere else it has been fought and as it will be in the future fights the issue is picking.
Unions insist that the politicians are working against teachers, against education and against the children. They argue ending collective bargaining in a state will put teachers at a disadvantage when dealing with school boards, will reduce their pay, will ruin morale and wreak havoc with education.
The state says collective bargaining costs the state money it could use for other purposes, gives a small group of union leaders enormous power which is not necessarily used to benefit teachers, education or the children and serves to funnel money back to just the Democratic Party which, coincidentally almost always votes the way the teachers union wants them to.
There are more and finer points on both sides but these are the main arguments, the main issues. And it’s vital that we focus on the issues. Because doing so provides us with the opportunity to examine, evaluate and reach conclusions based on evidence as to which side of the argument is right and which is wrong.
Which brings me to this editorial from The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York. In his piece, Wisconsin schools buck union to cut health costs York puts out hard facts. They don’t bode well for unions and their supporters.
He reveals that three different school systems will save between $380,000 and $1.3 million dollars annually in just a single change that is available to them now that collective bargaining is gone. These savings are so enormous that school systems are going from budget deficits to surpluses on the strength of this one change alone.
It used to be that school districts were contractually bound to purchase health insurance from the WEA Trust. If you are paying attention, the WEA stands for Wisconsin Education Association. That’s right, union collective bargainers got a contract saying the school districts had to buy insurance from a company created by the largest teachers union in the state. Not only that, the rates they charged were much higher than those available to cover employees who were different from teachers in only one respect. They were non-union.
At least one school district, The Hartland-Lakeside School District, about 30 miles west of Milwaukee, asked the union and the company to be let out of their contractual obligations so they could, you know, save that money and spend it on things like educating the children. The unions denied that request. Even the teachers supported the change in insurers. The union wouldn’t budge. The district had to spend almost $700,000 more for the union company insurance.
Such rigid stances extended beyond the fiscal to the relational. When all your contact with any group tends to be controlled by another group, it is easy for there to be poor communication. Free from depending on a small group of union negotiators to represent them to the teachers, the school districts are now free to deal directly with the educators. What they are finding is that their beef is not so much with teachers as it is with teachers unions.
I’m curious to know if there is any empirical evidence that the sky has fallen in the way the unions have said it would. If anyone has any, please let me know. By the same token, if there is more evidence that the disaster the unions have predicted will not come to pass, I’d like to hear that, too.
Because it’s not about unions being right or the state being right. It’s not about who wins. It’s about finding out what is the most effective way to use education dollars to accomplish the purpose for which they have been appropriated by the state – to educate the next generation of Americans. Looking at it from that perspective, it matters not what the emotional argument may be. It only matters what the truth is. So far, it would seem the truth is that ending collective bargaining for teachers unions is a good idea.
- Hey, Who Wants to Talk About Wisconsin’s Economic Miracle? (pajamasmedia.com)
- The Lesson from Wisconsin? If We Don’t Surrender, Democrats Lose! (bluecollarmuse.com)