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Public education employees lobbying on the taxpayer's dime

Public education employees lobbying on the taxpayer's dime

Mitch Coffman
February 8, 2011

Idahoans paid at least $10,670 plus 33 days of leave for 46 classroom teachers and one librarian to testify before the legislative Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Friday, January 21. The calculations by the Idaho Freedom Foundation are based on payroll data from IFF's OurIdaho.com payroll database, the leave policies of their school districts and costs associated with hiring substitutes, where needed. Because it is likely teachers attended who didn’t sign up to testify, it’s safe to assume the number of teachers present - and the expense to taxpayers - was actually higher.

Approximately 600 people attended the morning budget hearing with 133 people signing up to testify and more than 80 speaking over the four-hour period. A few school employees work for districts with Monday - Thursday work weeks. However, most teachers were either missing an in-service or regular school day. Missing an in-service day required a day of leave and missing a regular school day meant a day of leave plus a substitute.

Some absent teachers took personal leave and some took “association leave” where the substitute expense is paid by the Idaho Education Association instead of the district. From the point of view of the taxpayer, this is a distinction without a difference. Idahoans pay teachers’ salaries and a portion of their salaries finance the teachers’ union through dues. Whether an expense is paid out of a school district’s budget or the union’s, the public foots the bill.

Many districts were forthcoming with substitute expenses, with $75/day per employee being typical.

The Idaho Education Association paid teachers’ travel expenses. I asked for those amounts and with its usual inflammatory rhetoric, the IEA characterized my polite email, which I have included below, as a demand. In any case I didn’t receive a reply, so I calculated the costs of round trips from teachers’ southern Idaho districts at $.51/mile and Lewiston-Boise and Spokane-Boise roundtrip airfares of $214 and $283, respectively, for those from the north. I used a $20/day food per diem and $100/night for the cost of a downtown Boise hotel room.

Until the Idaho Education Association is subject to the state's public records law, which it should be since it is publicly-financed and its employees participate in the state retirement program, conservative approximations are the best we can do. Nevertheless, the totals for 47 people were nearly $11,000 in public money and 33 days of public paid leave for one day's worth of lobbying. Public schoolteachers most assuredly have the right to petition their government.

However, how much appealing to the committee controlling the budgets of those doing the asking should taxpayers have to pay for?

Subject: Expenses for testifying at JFAC 1/21
From: [email protected]
Date: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 4:40 pm
To: [email protected]

Dear Sherri,

Could you please tell me the total amount the Idaho Education Association spent or expects to spend for members and others to come to Boise to testify before the JFAC committee last Friday, January 21? Specifically I would like to know what the IEA spent or expects to reimburse to districts for:

- mileage
- air travel
- hotel stays
- the amount you expect to be billed by school districts that needed substitutes for teachers who took association leave to travel to Boise plus any other testimony-related expenses.

Thank you for your help.
Briana LeClaire
Education Policy Analyst
Idaho Freedom Foundation

Idaho Freedom Foundation
802 W. Bannock Street, Suite 405, Boise, Idaho 83702
p 208.258.2280 | e [email protected]
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