By Ben Velderman

NEW YORK – Try to imagine this scenario: A week before Major League Baseball begins its playoff season, the baseball commissioner announces that the umpires for each game will be chosen by the home team.

That would allow teams with good pitching to hire umpires who call a generous strike zone, while good-hitting clubs would find umps with strike zones no bigger than a postage stamp.

The games would be completely stacked in favor of the home team. The entire playoff race would become a farce, as baseball fans would be cheated out of seeing honest competitions.

While such a scenario would never occur in professional sports, a similar deck-stacking practice is being used to negotiate teacher union contracts all across the country – and Mitt Romney wants to put a stop to it.

During yesterday’s NBC Education Summit in New York City, the Republican presidential candidate said it was “an extraordinary conflict of interest” for teacher unions to make political contributions to political candidates – namely school board candidates – who may be directly involved in negotiating the union’s next labor contract.

“That person is supposed to be representing the public, vis-à-vis the teachers’ union, but actually most of their money came from the teachers’ union,” Romney said, according to Politico. “This is an extraordinary conflict of interest. That’s something I think is a problem and should be addressed.”

Romney’s proposed solution is to ban teacher unions from making political contributions altogether.

“I believe that we simply can’t have a setting where the teachers unions are able to contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians, and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interest of the kids,” Romney said, according to the Washington Post.

Romney’s analysis is spot-on. For decades, teacher unions have cunningly helped elect labor friendly school board members whose idea of negotiating is to hand union leaders a contract and ask them to fill in the blanks.

That self-serving approach has led to policies such as automatic “step” raises, free or low-cost health insurance, “last in, first out” layoff policies and generous payouts for unused sick and personal days. As a direct result, many school districts are running out of money and have taken to laying off young teachers and making deep cuts to student programs.

By raising awareness of this problem during a high-profile presidential campaign, Romney has provided a great service.

Taxpayers need to be aware of the underhanded tactics that are being used by teacher unions to run their local school districts into the ground. Americans wouldn’t accept such practices in their favorite sports league, so they certainly shouldn’t accept them in their kids’ school, either.