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Strikes need to go out of style

October 16, 2015

Some things are in such good taste they will never go out of style. Navy blue blazers, trench coats, jeans. Others fade in and out, like bellbottoms and techno music. 

Then there are the things we wish would go away, like fax machines, Saved By the Bell reruns, and teachers’ union strikes.

Especially strikes.

As we write this, the Scranton Federation of Teachers in Pennsylvania ended a two-week long strike that earned them a 2.7 percent salary increase and a 1 percent raise for teachers that decide to stay for more than one year. Health insurance deductibles will increase by $100.

The Scranton High School football team had to forfeit a game, students with special needs went without services, and the 80 percent of Scranton students that are from low-income families and rely on school for at least some of their meals had to find alternatives like food pantries. The strike affected some 10,000 students.

Teacher strikes don’t help students learn or prepare them for the future. While the unions chase taxpayer money, students lose out.

Scranton schools reopened just in time for teachers in East St. Louis, Missouri to go on strike. And Chicago news outlets forecast a teachers strike for the bitter months of January and February. Schools in Ellwood City, outside of Pittsburg, narrowly avoided a strike after unions forced a pay raise.

In a high-profile strike earlier this year, Seattle teachers delayed the first day of school for 53,000 students. Ironically, the only public schools to remain open for students in the metro area were the charter schools that the state supreme court had just ruled unconstitutional and may be forced to close. 

Goldwater Institute research found that public employees’ unionization and bargaining power has pushed their pay and benefits 44 percent higher than the average private sector worker’s. Institute analysts note that public sector collective bargaining is part of a vicious cycle that involves unions helping to elect the public officials that determine their salaries and the taxes that the average person must pay to cover unionized-worker salary increases.

Even though law prohibits most public sector unions from work stoppages, teachers unions act as though those rules do not apply. For the benefit of students and taxpayers, lawmakers should ban public sector union collective bargaining and the contracts that result. Virginia and North Carolina lawmakers have adopted such reforms. 

In states where strikes seem to never go out of style like Illinois and Pennsylvania, state policymakers should make sure parents know they have more educational options for their children. The Goldwater Institute, Beacon Center of Tennessee, and Palmetto Promise Institute in South Carolina have products that demonstrate how to help parents find a quality education for their child. 

Students deserve the best we can provide them. Strikes need to become a thing of the past.



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