School choice options including private schools, open enrollment, charter schools, school-tuition organizations, and online education have been proving their value for more than a decade. Yet despite documented success, these school options continue to face stiff resistance from entrenched factions in the traditional education establishment. Among the most stubborn opponents of parents deciding where and how their children are educated is organized labor, specifically the teachers and government unions. As a powerful, well-funded force in local, state, and national politics these unions are engaged in a continuous battle to resist educational reform and defend the status quo.
Financed in Iowa by millions of dollars taken from teachers’ and other government workers’ paychecks, the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) unions contribute heavily to local, state, and federal elected officials, whether partisan or non-partisan elections. Once elected, these officials decide how much money to pay the teachers and bureaucrats. The money comes from the voters and taxpayers.
Unsurprisingly, the elected officials the unions contribute to are nearly 100 percent Democrats. The Democrats in the Iowa Legislature do not support school choice, but advocate strongly for increased teacher pay, smaller class sizes, new buildings, and correspondingly higher numbers of well-paid administrators – though the numbers of students educated in Iowa continues to fall and though student achievement remains stagnant. The individuals hired by the officials then contribute to the unions from their paychecks. And round the money goes.
Reprinted by permission from POLICY STUDY, a publication of Public Interest Institute.