Pennsylvania Teacher Union Officials Hurting Students

Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation, demonstrates how teacher union officials are hurting students by preventing school reform, and pressing more and more teachers into paying for agendas they do not believe in.  But, then, Pennsylvania allows union officials to collect dues from teachers in agency shop districts.  The story is in The Hill.

Teachers’ union dues from across the country are funding an effort to prop up Philadelphia’s failing education system. And it’s not just the Keystone State that sees government unions fighting against reforms.

The AFT pools dues from teachers nationwide to fund their national political agenda. These dues are usually deducted from teachers’ paychecks using taxpayer-funded payroll systems.

What’s worse, the union’s political agenda ends up hurting students by putting perks and benefits ahead of quality education. There’s no better example of this than the battle currently playing out in Philadelphia.

In the School District of Philadelphia, 70 to 80 percent of the district’s students are not reading or doing math at grade level, and only 64 percent of students graduated on time in 2012. With results like that, you wouldn’t expect anyone to fight for the status quo, but that’s just what the teachers’ unions are fighting for.

The AFT is bankrolling a campaign dubbed “Fund Philly Schools,” which lobbies for more spending and higher taxes while blocking proven solutions.  They’ve fought against needed seniority reforms and in favor of gutting charter schools as a way to “fix” the school district’s budget deficit.

Need more perks? How about $2.6 million for legal services—including preparing a will to buying a home to $15.3 million in severance pay? Such giveaways are utterly foreign to the taxpayers footing the bill.

Philadelphia schools will remain in crisis unless the district makes spending reforms, and the local union puts students first.

Despite the mounting evidence of the district’s structural fiscal problems, union leaders remain obstinate.

In the 26 forced-union states, teachers, and government workers can be required to join a union or pay a fee just to keep their jobs.  Moreover, in Pennsylvania, government union contracts often require automatic dues collection – where taxpayer-funded payroll services deduct union dues, fees, and even PAC money from employees’ paychecks.

With steady streams of funding, it’s no surprise that unions are giants of political advocacy. Nationally, union leaders spent a whopping $1.7 billion on lobbying and electoral politics over the last two years, according to an analysis by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.  Indeed, 11 of the top 20 federal political donors are unions.

Unions do have a right to get involved in policy debates. However, taxpayer resources should never be used to support anyone’s politics. Moreover, teachers shouldn’t be forced to bankroll – and kids shouldn’t have to suffer from – government unions’ partisan political agenda.

It’s time we ended the unfair practice of automatic dues collection and level the political playing field for students and taxpayers alike.

Brouillette is the president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation (, a free-market think tank.