In today's WSJ, Stephen Moore tells Milwaukee's version of the oft-repeated, shamefully misleading Tale of Teacherpocalypse. The capsule version: Teachers' jobs are in danger, and only federal dollars can save them!
The truth is always more complicated:
Because of declining tax collections and falling enrollment, Milwaukee's school board announced in June that 428 teachers were losing their jobs—including Megan Sampson, who was just awarded a teacher-of-the-year prize. Yet the teachers union, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, had it within its power to avert almost all of the layoffs.
The average pay for a Milwaukee school teacher is $56,000, which is hardly excessive. Benefits are another matter. According to a new study by the MacIver Institute, a state think tank, the cost of health and pension benefits now exceeds $40,000 a year per teacher—bringing total compensation to $100,500....
Many Milwaukee teachers have been quoted in the local press complaining that union officials never offered them a choice to make health-care concessions, and many say they would have been willing to go with reduced benefits to avoid the firings. The school system superintendent, William Andrekopoulos, says he was "surprised" how uninterested the union was in negotiating a reasonable cut to prevent the firings.
Nothing like taking out a teacher-of-the-year or two to make a plea for federal dollars (which we don't have, by the way, because We Are Out of Money) seem more compelling. Milwaukee is a great reminder that what unions want and what most teachers (or parents, or kids) want aren't always the same thing.