Figuring Out the Union Cost Premium and Our Priorities for Public Education

One argument in education I’m already tired of is what’s the impact of union collective bargaining on student learning. Do unions help or hinder achievement? The problem is it’s an oversimplified question, as I once explained a long time ago.

But the ever insightful Mike Antonucci from the Education Intelligence Agency put forward an interesting twist to the question on his Intercepts blog. The real effect of teachers’ union contracts, he says, is the 20.7% cost premium for states (including Colorado) with collective bargaining. To take it a step further, it would be good to control this finding for the cost of living to see how much of the premium remains.

On that note comes an interesting story from California (H/T Joanne Jacobs): a school employees union “is protesting a program to place parents in volunteer positions on campus.” I guess it comes down to whether you think our K-12 system is primarily a taxpayer-funded jobs program or a means to help educate students and prepare them for the future.

I vote for the latter. Whichever priority you choose has consequences–including the cost of education. Definitely something that deserves a closer look.