Big Labor Bosses Benefit, But ‘No Current or Future Teacher Wins’
Government union officials like National Education Association (NEA) union President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia and American Federation of Teachers (AFT/AFL-CIO) union President Randi Weingarten like to portray themselves as staunch advocates of higher salaries for K-12 public educators.
But for decades NEA and AFT union bosses have wielded their forced dues-fueled political clout and their monopoly-bargaining privileges to REDUCE the share of public school expenditures that goes into teacher salaries.
Largely in order to try to fulfill exorbitant pension promises wrung out of public officials by union kingpins, expenditures on pensions for K-12 retirees have nearly quadrupled since 2001.
Forced-Dues Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut Among the ‘Worst Offenders’
Skyrocketing spending on pensions and other noncash benefits obviously leaves less money available for K-12 salaries. Moreover, only the minority of teachers who remain in the profession for 30 years or more potentially stand to benefit from the trade-offs teacher union bosses have made.
In an illuminating analysis published in July by The 74, a news site dedicated to advancing the interests of the 74 million Americans who are under the age of 18, education policy expert and former Obama Administration official Chad Aldeman discussed how rapidly rising pension costs are hurting current teachers.
Drawing on data furnished by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, Mr. Aldeman has estimated that annual state and district spending on teacher pensions increased by roughly 261% between 2001 and 2016.
Practically all if not all 50 states have recently been increasing pension contribution rates and cutting pension benefits in order to make up for decades of recklessness.
Big Labor politicians aiming to please government union bosses without sparking a taxpayer revolt lavishly enhanced educator pension benefit formulas even as they cut contribution rates.
And teacher union bosses, apparently calculating that taxpayers would ultimately be left to pay the bill for massive shortfalls, quietly encouraged politicians to underfund educator pensions.
In his July 12 commentary, Mr. Aldeman specifically mentions four forced-unionism stronghold states, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois, as being “among the worst offenders” in terms of “adequately funding their teacher pension plans.”
He also asks what teacher salaries would be today “if states had been more responsible and agreed to put any new money directly into teachers’ pockets, rather than making pension promises.”
Costs ‘Now Outweigh Even The Highest Back-End Benefits Awarded’
Hypothetically, were it not for the pension fiasco NEA and AFT union bosses helped engineer, “states and school districts would be able to spend” about $4300 more “per teacher per year,” equivalent to giving every teacher an immediate 7.2% raise!
In theory, the relatively few teachers who stay in the profession for their entire careers could ultimately receive enough in retirement benefits to make up for the salary losses they suffer as a consequence of the pension schemes Big Labor bosses helped forge and defend even today.
But Mr. Aldeman believes it is highly unlikely any teacher who is still teaching today will benefit: “[I]n reality, the costs of paying for teacher pension plans now outweigh the highest back-end benefits awarded to long-term teachers.”
This is “essentially a giant transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, and no current or future teacher wins from this arrangement.”
National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King commented:
“While both current and future teachers are certainly getting paid less as a consequence of the outrageous pension deals cut by union bosses and complaisant public officials, Big Labor has so far successfully evaded responsibility.
“For decades, union bigwigs took the credit for negotiating seemingly attractive pensions for educators. But sufficient funds were never there, and the union brass must have known it.
“The fraud that NEA and AFT union bosses have perpetrated on teachers as well as taxpayers illustrates why they should never have been handed monopoly-bargaining and forced-dues privileges.”