Jonathan Butcher

Why is the Weakest Teachers Union in the U.S. Going After Students with Special Needs?

Posted on November 01, 2012 | Author: Jonathan Butcher
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For the second time in a decade, Arizona’s teachers union is trying to block children with special needs from getting the best education they can find. After kicking children with special needs and foster children out of Arizona’s opportunity scholarship program three years ago, the union is now trying to rob these children of their education savings accounts.

It’s not clear what came first—the union’s attacks on children or their dwindling influence. But this week the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison, which ranks Arizona’s teachers unions as the weakest in the U.S. Teacher union support of sales tax increases and lawsuits in the past ten years has made it clear that their priorities are not children but money and education bureaucrats. .

First, the Fordham report says the union has an “appetite for funding.” Living up to their reputation, the National Education Association and the AEA gave $656,500 to the Prop 204 campaign this year (which would raise Arizona’s sales tax by 1 cent). This shows that they would rather spend six figures to make sure your taxes go up than create a plan to spend more in the classroom or even raise teacher salaries. Prop 204 says nothing about classroom dollars or teacher pay.  

Second, the union has fought and is fighting the most child-centered education innovations in Arizona history like private school tuition scholarships and the unique education savings accounts. In 2009, the union blocked children with special needs, like Lexie Weck, who struggles with cerebral palsy and autism, and foster children from choosing a school to meet their needs. Today, the union is suing to take away these children’s education savings accounts. The Goldwater Institute is proud to defend these children in court and give them hope for a better future.

The Fordham report says unions have their place in public education, but in Arizona, we have to wonder what that place is—and if they have gotten lost. Because what’s best for children like Lexie and the 400 students with special needs using education savings accounts seems to be lost on the teachers union.

Learn More:

Goldwater Institute: The Myth of Education Cuts and Why Money Can’t Buy an A+

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison

Education Next: School Choice Marches Forward

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