Click for audio Unions Have Financial Incentives to Oppose School Choice

School employee unions including the Michigan Education Association often claim that public school students will suffer if laws allow more parents to choose charter and private school alternatives for their children.

However, a new study of union membership rates among all Michigan teachers—public, charter, and private—strongly suggests that union opposition to school choice may involve more than just concern for students.

The study found that teachers in every public school district were represented by—and paid dues to—a union. But unions represented teachers in only five of 139 charter schools, and two of its over 1,000 private schools.

The unions' failure to persuade charter and private school teachers to become dues-paying members gives them powerful financial incentives to oppose nearly any plan that could encourage more teaching jobs in non-unionized schools.

That's because if more students—and therefore teachers—migrate to private schools under a voucher or tuition tax credit plan, unions could lose members and millions of dollars in dues money.

Unions exist to bargain wages and working conditions for their members, and there's nothing wrong with that. But unions' best interests and the best interests of children are not necessarily the same.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.