By Ben Velderman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lobbying government officials for special perks and privileges might not be the world’s oldest profession, but it’s close.

It’s also happens to be one of the fastest-growing professions around.

The Fiscal Times reports that 421 groups have hired lobbyists this year “to work against the more than $100 billion of looming spending cuts in domestic and defense programs.”

And education groups are right in middle of the action.

Organizations representing teacher unions, school employees, school boards and their university-level counterparts account for 91 of the groups that are lobbying Congress and President Obama to keep the federal budget from going over the so-called fiscal cliff, the Times reports.

The National Education Association is one of the bigger players, with $5.4 million in lobbying expenses so far this year. The “junior” partner in the teacher union racket, the American Federation of Teachers, has spent merely $1 million to lobby for an uninterrupted and undiminished flow of federal K-12 dollars.

All told, the education establishment (K-12 and beyond) has spent $67 million in lobbying efforts so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

But establishment members aren’t just relying on their hired guns to lobby Congress.

“College presidents, governors, state officials and even local school board members are working feverishly to rally support among lawmakers and the Obama administration” through intense letter writing campaigns, websites, social media and face-to-face meetings with members of Congress, the news site reports.

If the federal budget goes over the fiscal cliff and automatic spending cuts are triggered, it would reduce education funding by 9.1 percent in 2013. Even though they’ve known about the possible spending cuts for nearly a year, most school leaders are unprepared to deal with it.

In a survey from earlier this year, 90 percent of state and local education leaders said they would be unable to “soften the impact” of automatic K-12 spending cuts that would occur if the federal government went over the fiscal cliff.

Most school leaders have grown so accustomed to seeing their budgets grow steadily every year that they simply can’t fathom the idea of doing with less. Neither can the nation’s multitude of school employee unions.

If the federal government reduces K-12 aid, school officials would be forced into cutting costs. And that would require them to do battle with union leaders over pension contributions, health insurance costs, automatic pay raises, privatizing service work and the like.

In other words, some school employees would have to give up their seats on the K-12 gravy train. At the very least, some may be forced to ride in coach for a while.

That’s an unacceptable scenario for the members of the chummy education establishment, which is why they’re pulling out all the stops to make sure Congress keeps the checks rolling in.

One university official defended the intense lobbying efforts and said educators deserve federal dollars because “we’re preparing the next generation of great minds.”

If only that was true ….

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