By Kyle Olson
Here’s a story problem to get kids ready for the new school year:
If Congress borrows $10 billion to bail out the public schools, and if toilet paper costs fifty cents a roll, how many rolls of toilet paper will each of the nation’s 132,000 K-12 public schools receive?
The answer: Zero. Zip. Zilch.
The average American can be forgiven for thinking that the $10 billion “edujobs” bill signed into law last week by President Obama would directly benefit the nation’s school children. That’s certainly how the National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel spun it: “As a result of this vote, we expect to see less crowded classrooms, reinstated bus routes and restored education programs and services,” Van Roekel said.
What a windfall for the kids, right? But how to make sense of this headline in The New York Times: “Back to School? Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.” Just five days after the $10 billion bailout became law, the Times reports that schools all across the country are sending out shopping lists to parents and students, requiring them to help stock the janitorial closets that have been stripped bare by shrinking school budgets. Wasn’t that money supposed to prevent this kind of thing?
It’s a fact that school districts all across the country have smaller budgets to work with, due to the aftermath of “The Great Recession.” It’s also a fact that unlike most American workers who have had to take less pay and fewer benefits to keep their jobs, many teacher unions all across the country have refused to make any concessions (i.e. accepting a freeze in pay or contributing to their health insurance costs). Left with no other options to balance their budgets, school districts were forced to cut teaching jobs. This resulted in a “crisis” and led to Congress’ $10 billion bailout.
With Congress pumping all this new money into the education system, the teacher unions can forego any unpleasant concessions and can protect the status quo. Meanwhile, parents and students are forced to stretch their back-to-school budgets to help stock the restrooms with toilet paper and Kleenex.
Despite all the spin, it is clear that the “edujobs” bill was simply a bailout for the intractable teacher unions dressed up as being “for the children.” Once again, the nation’s school kids are asked to do with less so the teacher unions can do with more.
Welcome back to school.
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