Two Bad Choices in Washington State: Higher Taxes or Shorter School Year

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Hundreds of protesters are converging on the state capitol in Olympia, Washington to protest cuts in K-12 education spending, and promote various plans to restore that funding.

We wish we could be on hand to join the protest – but for very different reasons. The teachers unions and Occupy crowd want higher taxes on those they call rich. Gov. Christine Gregoire wants a sales tax increase or the unthinkable – a school year shortened by four days.

Those are the only two choices they’re offering. What a crock!

The fact is the state of Washington, like the entire nation, is embroiled in a vicious economic recession. That means people are making less money and paying fewer taxes. And that, in turn, means government institutions like public schools are facing financial problems.

When a private sector company has money problems, it necessarily cuts costs. While we realize that Washington schools have already cut a lot from their budgets, we doubt they’ve looked under every rock.

Every school district in the state should open its teachers union collective bargaining agreement and start identifying costs that could be frozen or cut.

We guarantee there are many, including automatic, annual step raises for teachers (regardless of performance), free or low-cost employee insurance coverage, free or low-cost retirement pensions, reimbursement for unused sick or personal days, seniority bonuses, retirement bonuses, longevity bonuses, salaries and benefits for union officials who do not teach, etc.

The list of pricey provisions in a typical teachers union contract is quite long. That’s why most school districts spend 75-80 percent of their budgets on labor costs.

The real shame is that the public knows little about these costs, and how teachers unions use their collective bargaining privileges to protect their goodies from school boards that are desperate to balance budgets.

Perhaps if the people knew more about these hidden expenses, they would pressure the unions to step up and offer a few more concessions to help schools survive. Taxpayers already cough up enough money. Local school boards need the power to put the money they already receive to better use, particularly in this emergency situation.

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