Editor’s note: This editorial ran in The Detroit News on May 1, 2007. Reprinted with permission.

Further proof that the teacher unions in Michigan — and their lackeys in the Legislature — have little concern for anyone but their members comes to us from legislation introduced by state Sen. Michael Prusi.

The Upper Peninsula Democrat wants to let teacher unions bargain for a ban on privatization. It doesn’t matter if hiring outside contractors to serve food, drive the buses or clean the school saves money. He wants the practice to be illegal and has introduced a bill to repeal the law that gives districts the freedom to find the best price available for noninstructional support services.

Prusi joins a long list of Democrats starting with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who are beholden to the teacher unions first and students second.

Instead of looking at ways to reform the system to make it more efficient and ensure that limited dollars actually go into the classroom, they’ve decided it’s better to continue supporting outdated and exorbitant pension and benefit systems. Teachers in Michigan are the eighth-best paid in the nation and enjoy benefits better than what is offered in most of the private sector.

This legislation is so shamefully protectionist that Prusi’s co-sponsors — Irma Clark-Coleman, John Gleason, Raymond Basham, Deborah Cherry, Mark Schauer, Michael Switalski, Gilda Jacobs, Martha Scott, Gretchen Whitmer — deserve equal exposure.

Voters ought to take note of these 10 names. In taking away from school boards the ability to manage their district’s tax dollars as they best see fit, these legislators would guarantee tax increases in perpetuity to pay the inordinate costs that would come from a ban on privatization.

Competition is clearly a concern for unions and that’s not a surprise. But that’s precisely why more — not less — is in order.

When forced to take a close look at costs and delivery of services, vendors find savings and not always by getting rid of people. Union bidders can do this too by loosening work rules, juggling scheduling to eliminate overtime and working more efficiently. Some unions have beaten private vendors for contract.

That’s as it should be. And how it should stay.