The Denver Post recently analyzed the cost of taxpayer subsidies to teacher unions in the 20 largest districts in Colorado and found they added up to more than $1M per year. In many places across the country, school districts pay some or all of the salary and benefits of union presidents and other functionaries who don’t teach for a single hour. The fact that the practice is common doesn’t make it impossible to change, however:
Douglas County Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, who started in June 2010, said she cut the district’s payments to union members nearly in half last spring and will end the extra spending altogether in January.
“I’d rather not make comments on the past,” Celania-Fagen said. “Going forward, my responsibility is to do what’s right for our students in these economic circumstances and to be accountable for taxpayer dollars.”
It’s difficult to make an argument that taxpayers should be directly subsidizing union leaders. Organized labor already extracts indirect subsidies by skimming dues from teachers’ paychecks, sometimes against the desires of teachers. Kudos to the Post for shining some light on this. Hopefully the districts they found that don’t track these costs at all will start paying attention in light of the story.