What's in a Teachers Union Contract?

Lots of emphasis on the union, not much on students

Supporters of Proposal 2 often claim that government employee collective bargaining is really just about the kids. Here's how one union official put it in a press release:

“We bargain for smaller class sizes, better training for teachers, adequate supplies for students and even books,” said Karen Kuciel, a fifth grade teacher in the Warren Consolidated School District. “Collective bargaining helps kids learn. That’s why it matters.”

It is true that unions typically negotiate over this stuff, but compared to what unions spend most of their time writing into contracts, these things don't seem very important. The "word cloud" below depicts the current Dearborn Public Schools teachers union contract and provides a glimpse into what's prioritized by public school teachers unions:

Union Contract Word Cloud

As you can see, resources and students are mentioned in the contract, but they are overshadowed by rules concerning the union and its members' work schedules, time-off, and pay and benefits. Michigan teachers unions have a track record of negotiating for incredibly expensive health insurance packages, paying gym teachers more than nationally recognized biology teachers and preventing districts from firing teachers who drink on the job. Cementing government union power into the state constitution will prioritize these types of school labor disputes over policies designed to encourage student learning.