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Teachers Unions Treat Citizens as Commodities that Pay Taxes

William L. Kovacs

March 2021

Teachers Unions Treat Citizens as Commodities that Pay Taxes

This article started out to be a well-researched effort to identify all the legal avenues available to parents to force teachers unions and the teachers we pay every week, back to teaching our children in a classroom. My research found there is very little that parents/taxpayers can do to make teachers work for their money. Protecting teachers is federal sovereign immunity, state sovereign immunity, and state qualified immunity from suit unless there is some form of sexual assault involved. Also, there are unions and collective bargaining agreements that exclude parents from any voice in their child’s education. Simply, we parents/taxpayers are merely commodities that the teachers and their unions need so they can take our money whether they work or not.

I live in Fairfax County, Virginia and over half of my hefty tax payment goes to the $2.3 billion the county spends on schools and teachers each year. From a budget perspective, that is five times more than what is spent on public safety, fifty times more than on the administration of justice, and ten times more than on all of the health, welfare, community, and family services provided by the county.

Neither Fairfax County teachers nor students have been in the classroom since March 2020. A small number of students are now returning but will be supervised by non-teaching monitors, that certainly must be immune from Covid-19, if the teachers are willing to put them at risk in a classroom? Teachers have been prioritized for being vaccinated but want more before returning to teaching, including all students being vaccinated, young children being vaccinated but there is no vaccine for them, new ventilation and made-up, new demands the night before any day school is to start. This is not good-faith negotiating.

I could stop my tail of teacher woes and conclude as I started, by telling parents, nothing can be done. For any American to come to that conclusion is Un-American. We can always do something.

Parents in Fairfax County are starting recall efforts. A new collective bargaining law in Virginia requires only 30% of union members to approve of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers to be the exclusive bargaining agent for the teachers and to control the negotiating process. Parents need to make themselves involved, even if it means Gandhi’s style passive resistance or non-cooperation.  Any school board member supporting a teacher-friendly agreement that ignores students should be on the recall list.

We have options, we need to use them.

The bigger issue, however, is that we need our children to get the best education possible so they can compete in the world. Teachers refusing to teach in a classroom is the best example of why the current public school system, created in the 19th century, has failed and must be totally dismantled.

Throughout the past year, over 4.5 million students were in private (20%) and religious (80%) schools across the nation, and teachers have been teaching in classrooms without any serious illnesses. Those schools need to be the models. So how do we get more children into working schools?

Private schools are within the economic reach of all students.

The belief is that most parents cannot afford private school, which may be incorrect. A Northshore Christian Academy asserts private school, tuition ranges from $6,000 to $30,000 per year. But ranges are ranges and the real question – is the U.S. getting value for the $720 billion dollars it spends annually on education? And this number is low since another $200 billion will be spent on education due to the pandemic. For sake of discussion are U.S. taxpayers getting $1 trillion worth of value from teachers not teaching?

Another study by educationaldata.org, the U.S., finds the cost per student for public education is less than private education. Currently, the average cost per student is $14,840 at public schools. Currently, the average cost per private school is $12,350. The range for private schools is $4,840 at the nation’s catholic elementary schools and can be as high as $37,500 at the 260 most exclusive boarding schools. On average what is spent, per pupil, on public schools, would pay for private school education.

Action: Recognize teachers and their unions have made education a political issue. Education is no longer about children; it is about teachers’ rights and union power in the Democrat Party. Teachers have paid handsomely for this protection which insulates them from parents and government officials. Teachers are the leading financial contributors to the Democratic party since 1990. “Teachers union members comprise 10 percent of the delegates the Democrat National Convention, where they represent the single largest organizational bloc of Democratic Party activists.”

Once recognized as a political issue it must be understood it is a battle for the educational soul of children. Parents want their children to receive the best education possible so they can succeed in an internationally competitive world. Teachers want paychecks and protection from accountability. While there are more parents than teachers, unions have the money which is what talks to politicians. Forget about small changes like a few more charter schools, a little more school choice, or a few extra scholarships to private schools. Those incremental steps merely let teachers’ unions win by giving parents a pyrrhic victory. The entire system must go!

Solution: Let all the taxpayers’ educational money paid to the public schools follow the student. Let the parents and the student select the best school for the child. In a non-pandemic year, there are $ 721 billion dollars to divide between students by state. Students in New York would receive $28,228 a year for the school of their choice. Students in the District of Columbia would receive $31,280 a year. The smaller, more rural states spend far less on education but costs are less, i.e., Utah and Idaho are in the $8,000 to $9,000 range. Most states would be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. Literally, all public school expenditures are above the averages for private schools.

Schools will compete for the best teachers so they can be the best schools. Schools will also compete for students so they can support the school. When the money follows the student, the parents and students will use the taxpayers’ money to get the best education possible for their child. This competition also helps the nation by producing new generations of leaders and likely better teachers.

A free, competitive market will provide the best education for our children. It allows all schools, public or private, to compete for the taxpayers’ money spent on educating students, not supporting unions and all their silly work rules, outrageous demands, and total disregard of the people who pay teacher salaries.