Given how the Manchester Education Association continues to get the school board and aldermen to do its bidding and shield it from necessary budget trimming, one might think that the union is holding kids hostage or something.
Oh, right. It is. With no public school choice in the city, most children have to attend their assigned school, no matter how inadequate it might be.
On Tuesday the aldermen voted 10-4, overriding Mayor Ted Gatsas’ veto, to give the schools $152 million, which is close to the school board’s request. It is $2 million more than what Gatsas wanted — and $2 million more than this year’s school budget. Gatsas had proposed not cutting the school budget, but simply level-funding it.
Manchester is losing teachers and pupils, but its school budget keeps going up. Since the 2007-08 school year, enrollment has fallen by 4.7 percent and the teaching staff has fallen by 6.6 percent. But the budget is 2 percent higher. That is what happens when the school board and the aldermen let the unions dictate spending.
This was the year for city elected officials to say to the MEA, “Enough.” The voter-approved spending cap opposed by the unions had taken effect, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker showed that public sector unions don’t hold the power they once did. On the city side, every union had agreed to concessions to save jobs. Not the MEA. With the canard that their perpetual compensation increases are “for the children,” that union has frightened most elected officials into not challenging its demands.
But as the MEA consumes more and more of the schools’ resources, there is less money for other priorities, like routine maintenance of portable classrooms. Elected officials are so afraid of the MEA that the aldermen voted this week to increase the school budget — again — with one-time money that will not be available next year. City sidewalks go unrepaired for another year and less money is put into retirement accounts because our so-called leaders are being led by the MEA, which refuses to agree to benefits concessions because it knows the aldermen will cave eventually. This week they did. Next year, expect more of the same: pink slips, higher costs and capitulating elected officials. It is a vicious cycle that will not end until aldermen and school board members have the guts to say, on behalf of the taxpayers, “No!”