With 75,000 Unemployed Teachers in Illinois, Why Don’t We Just Replace Any That Go On Strike?

As we have discussed recently, Illinois is producing about 18,000 more certified teachers every year than we need. This is because Illinois public schools have a 92.5% retention rate meaning of the 160,000 employed only about 12,000 leave including about 5,000 retirees. In 2007 Illinois handed out about 30,000 teaching certificates leaving 18,000 unable to teach even though they are certified to do so. Over the last 5 years the total is about 75,000.

Huntley District 158 is the latest example of how the teachers union completely controls the public education system. In a democratic society public schools should be controlled by parents and taxpayers not by unelected public employees. But in Illinois the system is held hostage by a political process that has allowed teacher unions to make political contributions in excess of $35 million dollars thus assuring themselves guaranteed jobs (tenure) at above market prices. They can’t lose their jobs by striking so why not do it? Better parents and taxpayers suffer than teachers not get what they want.

One of the complaints from the union is teacher salaries at other districts are higher therefore District 158 salaries should match or exceed those. Let me suggest a different solution: teachers should go and apply at any school district they perceive would be a better place to work. Of course the teachers know that every suburban school district has 100’s of resumes from those 75,000 unemployed teachers and they would have little or no chance of getting hired.

Better yet why not go into the private sector and make all those big bucks teachers are clamoring for. Then you would be just like the rest of us, being paid on merit based upon your ability and production. I know that is a little frightening but come on, jump in, the water’s fine. If it doesn’t work out there’s unemployment payments of $375/week to hold you over until the next tenured job pops up.

Of course the union is not interested in the free-market principle of job competition a system that taxpayers work in every day. They are interested in socialist principles such as: to each according to his perceived needs (teachers) from each according to his ability to pay (taxpayers).

If you are a teacher and are not willing to give up tenure, a 9 month work year and a multi-million dollar pension at age 56 then you are overpaid. Be grateful for what you have or exercise your constitutional right to leave your job and find employment somewhere else. We your employer, the taxpayers of Illinois, will easily find someone else to do your job and almost certainly for a lot less money. After all, there are 75,000 people eager to replace you.

And that doesn’t count the pool of experienced private sector teachers making an average of $43,000/yr (see here) 28% less than the $60,000 average for Illinois teachers and 50% less than the $88,000 average at District 211 in Palatine. And private sector teachers have neither tenure nor multi-million dollar pensions.

It makes no sense to pay an art teacher $196,000/yr and a pension of $4 million when the teacher unemployment rate is over 30%. Obviously a lot of people would like to have a teacher’s job and would be willing and able to do it for much less than $196,000. Why should taxpayers have to pay a premium for a service that is available in the private sector for a fraction of what the government supplies it for? If taxation’s purpose is to provide for the common good then what common good ensues from overpaying for a public service?

In 2007 we saw a $196,000 art teacher salary, $100,000 annual salary increases for superintendents and 40 administrators whose salaries increased more than the median income of a full-time Illinois worker. By the way, that $196,000 was a 22% increase over his 2006 salary of $161,000, which was an 18% increase over 2005’s $136,000 which was a 16% increase over 2004’s $117,000 for a total of $81,000 in increases over 3 years.

This teacher’s pension will start at $114,000/yr and during the 27 years of his expected lifetime he will collect more than $4.4 million in pension payments. How do those numbers compare to your salary increases over the last 3 years? And how does that $4 million pension stack up to your 401K?

So for us cynics does the new contract at District 158 include limits on annual increases a teacher can make? Let me guess – no, there is no limit on salary increases.

So let’s ban teachers from striking. If an agreement cannot be reached then each side puts their best offer on the table and we have a referendum to allow the taxpayers to decide which one is appropriate.

Let’s take back the schools from the teacher unions.

Bill Zettler is a free-lance writer and consultant specializing in public sector compensation. He can be contacted at this email address.