As we understand from reading the horror stories in local newspapers across Idaho, the Legislature didn’t give enough money to public schools. Now, kids to have read books by candlelight in shifts (one kid to read, another to hold the candle). And of course, we’ve all read how the budget cuts have prompted children to have to walk to school, uphill both ways, waist deep in snow while being chased by rabid man-eating geckos the size of a house. (The Legislature thoughtlessly cut funding for the clubs that the children would have used to fend off the man-eating geckos.)
An Associated Press story last week told the typical tale of woe, of school administrators resorting to all kinds of wild stunts to encourage kids to raise money for their beleaguered schools. A principal in Ammon kissed a pig and rolled in kiddie pool filled with Jell-O. Hilarity ensued, but of course, the laughs were merely a cover for the tears of the suffering little children. Anguish and torment are everywhere, so declares the media. We’re told that in Meridian, science labs are shut down and even a second-grade class can’t afford the materials needed to teach phonics. The local PTO is filling in by raising money to buy PE equipment and paper.
Oh, if only reality were so simple. And here it is: While parents are being told that kids are going to have to huddle together in rooms of 30-40 kids and while kids and parents are being told that favorite programs either have been or will be shuttered, millions of dollars are being squandered to satisfy the goofy provisions of collective bargaining agreements negotiated by schools boards with their local teachers’ unions.
Even in this budget climate, school districts still allow teachers to get paid to attend to union business while on the taxpayer dime. Some teachers spend an entire school year receiving taxpayer-paid salaries and benefits without having to step foot in front of classroom of students.
Many districts still provide taxpayer support for memberships in professional organizations, require taxpayers to pay 100 percent of employee health insurance premiums for Cadillac health plans and provide funding for union dues, college courses, professional development and staff sabbaticals.
Districts are often contractually required to hire the most expensive teacher and most expensive substitute, even when a better suited educator is available at less cost. Some school districts have even negotiated contracts that require the school district to pay teachers special honoraria to give input to administrators and board members on school budgets, health insurance plans and other district policies.
Many school patrons and lawmakers aren’t aware of how collective bargaining agreements have tied our education dollars in knots. The contracts are almost always negotiated in secret and some school districts keep the final agreement a secret unless they’re asked to give it up.
Yes, I made up the bit about man-eating geckos and children reading books by candlelight. However, it’s a hundred percent true that schools have closed programs and that a principal in Ammon raised money for his students by kissing a pig and rolling in Jell-O. That’s the reality created not by the Legislature but by the teachers’ unions and their outrageous contracts.