District 51, MVEA do right by taxpayers

Most of the largest school districts in Colorado, it appears, pay a teacher’s salary while he or she takes time off from teaching to serve as a leader of the local teachers union.

Thankfully, that’s not how it’s done here in Mesa County. The Mesa Valley Education Association reimburses School District 51 for its president’s salary while that person is on leave to serve the union, and for the cost of substitute teachers when its members are temporarily out of the classroom to participate in union activities.

The news of school districts paying for teachers’ salaries while those teachers were engaged in union activities — including the salaries of union leaders when they’re absent from the classroom — was detailed in a report in The Denver Post last Sunday. The newspaper looked at the state’s 20 largest school districts and concluded that nearly all of them used taxpayer money in the past five years to subsidize the activities of local teachers unions.

In a few of those districts, the accounting was so opaque that the Post couldn’t determine whether any money had been spent by taxpayers to subsidize union costs.

In only one district — School District 51 in Mesa County — did the numbers show taxpayers have not spent a dime to pay for union leaders’ salaries while they are on leave, or for substitute teachers who temporarily replace union members.

That’s welcome news for taxpayers in this school district. But citizens in other districts should be irate. Although teachers unions serve a worthwhile purpose, they should be funded by their members, not taxpayers. Why, after all, should taxpayers foot the bill for union leaders who understandably push for more money for their members, but may very likely add to the costs for those same taxpayers in the process?

Kudos to School District 51 and the Mesa Valley Education Association for avoiding that taxpayer trap, and for keeping expenses for the school system separate from union costs.


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