Scott Armstrong State teacher unions betray urban poor

A Pennsylvania school board member joins the ranks of officers Simon Campbell and Heidi Adsett in bringing teacher union power plays to the public’s attention. Scott Armstrong writes in the Daily Caller:

In Allentown, the Lehigh Valley’s poorest municipality, the school district’s 2013-14 preliminary budget calls for an 8 percent tax increase and the furloughing of 155 employees (132 teachers, 12 administrators, 10 custodial and one clerical). Yet these unprecedented measures leave the district short of a balanced budget, and projections indicate further tax increases and cuts will be necessary next year and possibly the year after that.

Even though the district is regarded as one of the state’s best run urban school districts, it is facing a very bleak future. The main culprit is the ballooning cost of mandatory Public School Employee Retirement System contributions that will increase by 37 percent next year (91 percent over the next three years).

The rising cost of these pension costs is, in effect, transferring funding out of classrooms into this very generous and unsustainable retirement system. For now, wealthier suburban districts are able to weather these increases, but for already cash-strapped urban districts there is no margin left to absorb these new costs.

Think again. Right now Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party is putting its allegiance to labor unions ahead of the best interests of urban voters by blocking urgently needed reform of the state’s unsustainable pension system. In other words, the basic educational needs of poor and minority Democratic urban voters are being effectively abandoned by Democratic leaders so that the lavish benefits of more affluent union workers can be preserved.

While the costs of sky-high benefits are bankrupting urban public schools, the teachers’ union tactic is to blame Harrisburg. Rather than enter into useful negotiations that could lead to necessary reform, the teachers’ union points the finger of blame away from itself and its cohorts, the state’s Democratic Party and state employee unions.

Pennsylvania’s poorest children are bearing the brunt of the rising cost of state employee luxury pensions. State employee unions and the state Democratic Party want the current administration to cover the pension shortfall with higher state taxes.

In effect, they want those who have less to pay more to those who already have more. Pennsylvania’s urban poor would be wise to note the obvious duplicity and callousness of their Democratic elected officials.

Scott Armstrong, a Republican, is a member of the Allentown School Board.