Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How Obama's teacher bailout prevents needed solutions

Stephen Moore has the story of Milwaukee's battles with the teachers union and how Obama's promise of a teacher bailout is preventing Milwaukee from taking the necessary steps to reform their system of paying benefits to teachers.

The story is that Milwaukee has to lay off 428 teachers and people are, of course, upset. However the city proposed a quite reasonable reform of teacher benefits that would have allowed them to keep those laid off teachers and maybe even hire more.
The current health plan costs taxpayers $26,844 per family, compared to the typical $14,500 cost for a private employer family plan. The plan does not require teachers to pay any premiums toward the cost of the health plan—a situation that is all but extinct in private employment. In the spring, the school board offered a new health plan that would reduce costs to $17,172 per family. The plan would have saved money by requiring co-pays.

According to a budget analysis the MacIver Institute obtained from the Milwaukee public school system, shifting teachers to the plan offered by the school board could have saved $47.2 million. This would have prevented, according to the report, the lay offs of "approximately 480 teachers"—more than the number that ultimately lost their jobs.
Sounds like a reasonable solution, doesn't it? But the union absolutely refused and wouldn't even let their members vote on it. They threw those 428 teachers under the bus in order to maintain an unsustainable benefits package. Why not even let the members vote on the proposal?

Ah, that's where the Obama teacher bailout comes in. The union is so confident that he will get it through Congress that they figured they were safe turning down the school board's proposal.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association was immovable on benefits in part because it placed a bet on its Democratic friends in Washington rushing to the rescue. "The problem must be addressed with a national solution, a federal stimulus package that will restore educator positions," Pat Omar, the union's executive director said in June. The union's strategy in recent weeks has been to stage rallies demanding a federal bailout, and it used hundreds of school kids at those rallies as political props.
It's time for cities and states to accept that they're in a very bad place and they need to make drastic choices. If they keep depending on Obama and the Democrats to come along and bail them out, they'll never do what they need to do. The Obama bailout is preventing the necessary, albeit painful, reforms that must be made.