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Three Cheers for the Long Beach Board of Education
Battling the teachers union...

[by Jon Coupal] 3/29/06

The Long Beach Board of Education has just mailed a letter to 235,000 constituents declaring that the board will not be bullied by the teachers union into providing more than the 4 percent pay raise being offered.

Most of us love teachers. The popular perception is that they are self-sacrificing altruists dedicated to guiding our children to a golden future. The image is that they struggle to survive on low pay and carry on instruction with few resources.

While this romanticized image may actually fit a few teachers, mostly at private schools, what is seldom considered is that the unions representing teachers are as bare-knuckled tough as those representing coal miners or teamsters.

Jon Coupal

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go to Coupal index]

In California, the teachers unions have been immensely successful in promoting the image of the struggling teacher, while at the same time elevating their pay to the highest in the nation, according to statistics available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

And woe to anyone who challenges the teachers union. When Governor Schwarzenegger increased education spending -- which is more than half the state budget -- but not to the level demanded by the California Teachers Association, they came down on him like a ton of bricks, spending millions of dollars on advertising accusing him of betraying education. It is no coincidence that the governor's standing in the polls began to decline during these attacks.

When the governor backed a ballot measure that would require public employee unions to get permission from their members before they spent dues money on politics -- rather than the core issues of collective bargaining -- the teachers union came down on him like five tons of bricks. The union spent tens of millions of member dollars in an effort to discredit the governor. The outcome of the special election showdown over the governor's reform ideas, including limiting the union's political spending, was not what someone who has seen any of Schwarzenegger's Conan movies would have expected. In this political epic, the union handed Conan his proverbial head.

With this example of organized teachers bowling over the opposition fresh in everyone's minds, it is surprising that anyone within the education industry has the courage to take them on.

Enter the members of the Long Beach Board of Education. Rather than continue to be ground down by the constant attacks by the local teachers union for their refusal to cave in to union demands, they have taken their position directly to school district residents.

Their letter outlines the problems faced by the school district and the generous salary and benefits offer they have placed on the table -- an offer that the union insists must be doubled.

While the LBUSD is experiencing declining enrollment, which has triggered cutbacks in state funding, the board has offered a 4 percent increase in pay and additional money for more experienced teachers. The offer would provide an annual average teachers salary of $57,860 plus $18,848 in benefits, totaling $76,708. Salaries plus district-paid benefits would range from $61,816 for a new teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience to $104,729 for a teacher with a master's degree and 30 years of experience. A teacher with a doctorate and 30 years experience could expect $116,079. For these salaries and benefits, teachers are expected to teach 182 days a year.

The union is demanding an 8 percent pay increase, which board members claim would cost the district another $26.8 million tax dollars and would damage the education of the students.

How this matter is resolved -- whether it be for the benefit of the teachers or the students -- will likely be determined at the ballot box next month.

While the Teachers Association of Long Beach continues to wrangle over pay, they are flexing their political muscles by backing three pro-union candidates challenging incumbents in the April 11 school board election.

If, as is the custom in so many school board elections, the voter turnout is dominated by teachers union members, it is the students who will come out second best. CRO


copyright 2006 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association



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