I Want to be Out of School for Christmas, but Not for a Teacher Strike

It’s a few days before Christmas, and school is out. Students and teachers are supposed to be home, getting ready for the best holiday of the year. But what about when students and teachers are home when they’re not supposed to be? No, I’m not talking about those fun snow days. I’m talking about teacher strikes.

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today about one state where the problem of teacher strikes is rampant:

Teachers unions routinely claim that the interests of students are their top priority. So we would be interested to hear how the Pennsylvania affiliate of the National Education Association explains the proliferation of teacher walkouts in the middle of the school year.

According to a recent study by the Allegheny Institute, Pennsylvania is once again the worst state in the country for teacher strikes. No less than 42% of all teacher walkouts nationwide occur in the Keystone State, leaving kids sidelined and parents scrambling to juggle work and family, potentially on as little as 48 hours notice required by state law.

The strikes take place despite the state’s ranking in the top 20% nationwide for teacher salaries in 2006-2007 — the most recent data available — with an average of $54,970. Those paychecks go even further when adjusted for the state’s cost of living compared to top-spending school districts in places like California. [link added]

Is making teacher strikes illegal – as 37 states do, and the Journal recommends – the best strategy to solve the problem? Maybe, but it can’t be the only strategy. States are different, and it depends a lot on local conditions.

Colorado is one place where the state courts have ruled public employee walkouts to be legal, and we haven’t had a teacher strike since the one that happened in Denver in October 1994 (ancient history, man!). To learn more about it, you can read the paper “No Work, No Pay” (PDF) by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow.

A few days before Christmas also means I’m almost done blogging about education for the year – tomorrow’s posting will be the last on this site until 2009.

Now, look: Don’t give me a hard time about it. Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of toys (and maybe a new bike?) to try out during the next week. This will take a lot of time to build. And you can’t go wrong buying something for me from this site, either.