I'm trying to figure out how Idaho taxpayers can put up with their money being spent in support of labor unions. Still, this continues to happen, even as public schools contend they need more and more money.
The Boise School District recently, again, penned a contract with the Boise Education Association that called for taxpayers to pay the salary of its union president. Says the contract, "The Association president shall be allowed a leave of absence for his/her term of office with salary and benefits to be paid by the Association for the time that the president is released from teaching duties."
The district is, in essence, paying a teacher not to teach, at a cost to taxpayers of about $35,000 a year. This is nothing more than a gift to the labor union. When we exposed this practice four years ago, many more districts provided generous benefits to their unions that called for taxpayer funding of union presidencies.
The Idaho Legislature, in 2011, debated a bill to ban taxpayer support for union activities. The bill passed the House but not the Senate. Remember that the next time a friend tries to convince you how "conservative" the Idaho Legislature is.
Some school districts have since cut back that practice, including the Nampa School District. Nampa's contract, in 2010-11, allowed time off for the Nampa Education Association president, with costs largely on the school district. That contract said, "A suggested starting position for sharing costs might be that the (school district) would pay all costs of the NEA President and one half the costs of the replacement with the (teachers union) paying the remaining one half of the costs of the replacement."
That less-than-stellar arrangement is gone from the district's 2014-15 deal with the NEA. The new contract puts the cost burden on the union, although the contract leaves open, at least slightly, anyway, the possibly that taxpayers will pay for up to 15 days of leave time for employees on union business.
But Boise's money-is-no-object approach to union business continues to be striking, especially given rather obvious public discussion taking place statewide about the adequacy of education funding in the state. Those considering greatly expanded education funding should wonder whether such a practice on the part of Boise helps the cause. I argue it does not.
In 1995, the attorney general opined about whether taxpayers should have to pay costs associated a United Way program in which state employees were "loaned" to the charity for weeks a time at taxpayer expense. The attorney general said, “State of Idaho employees or facilities may not be shared with or loaned to private charitable foundations unless such action serves a public purpose and is directly related to a function of government."
Running the union is obviously not a function of government, and I think there's a definite parallel to the district's decision to fund union activities with taxpayer dollars. But even if there were not, I ask again, how can Idaho taxpayers possibly put up with this practice?