By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During the summer of 2010, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Congress into a special session to pass a $10 billion “edujobs” bill “to save” the jobs of thousands of public school teachers and support staff – nearly all of whom belong to labor unions.
That “free” money allowed schools to continue their wasteful spending ways for a while longer, in hopes that the economy would come roaring back before school officials were forced to make difficult decisions about their out-of-control labor costs.
But less than two years later, the economy is still stuck in first gear, schools have burned through their “edujobs” money and school budgets are back in the red. School officials will finally have to face reality and deal with their persistent spending problems, right?
Not if U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley gets his way. The New York Democrat has proposed a new $70 billion, two-year bailout plan that would “save or create thousands of jobs for teachers and first responders,” reports the Queens Chronicle.
Crowley’s plan, which mirrors a failed Senate version that was proposed last year by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, would pump $30 billion a year “to help districts nationwide to avoid layoffs, hire new teachers and re-employ those who have been let go due to budget cuts,” the Chronicle reports.
The relatively paltry $5 billion that would be set aside for cops and firefighters shows that Crowley’s bill is little more than the old “edujobs” bill on steroids. Crowley includes the “first responders” in his bill to give it a thin veneer of respectability. A 2011 Gallup poll finds that teacher unions are unpopular with the American people, so Crowley understands that another teacher union bailout, without other groups benefiting as well, would not fly with U.S. taxpayers.
Criticism of Crowley’s plan has centered on how the government would pay for it. That’s a valid question, but it misses the larger point. His teacher union bailout does nothing to address the fundamental problem of overspending, which is caused by union collective bargaining. Teacher contracts are littered with automatic raises and various bonuses and payouts, which drive up school labor costs while providing no discernible benefit to students.
It’s telling that the federal government has not issued an analysis of the previous “edujobs” bailout, telling Americans exactly how many teaching and support staff jobs were saved by their $10 billion, and how it impacted student achievement. Instead, education establishment enablers like Crowley and Menendez want to throw more money down the rat hole, without bothering to analyze the end result.
Nobody had the nerve to talk about public education’s spending problem when the economy was humming and school coffers were awash in tax revenue. Such people would be labeled as “teacher haters” and “anti-education.” But with the economy still sputtering, some lionhearted lawmakers are finally willing to address the disastrous effect Big Labor has had on public education – both in terms of money and student learning. (We offer Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as exhibit A.)
But Crowley’s $70 bailout isn’t really about educating kids; it’s about keeping the Democrats’ union friends employed, and the dues dollars flowing. Crowley, Menendez and other politicians controlled by the education establishment need those union dollars to get re-elected.
That’s what the entire “edujobs” legislation was all about in the first place, and why future versions of it should be treated with a great deal of scrutiny and skepticism.