Email Doug Stephens. On his government email. “In a confidential way…”

Utah could break the back of the teachers’ union,” a friend told me over lunch. “They could do it tomorrow, if [legislators] wanted to. All they would have to do is look into the corruption, fraud and waste in the school .”

Well, now. That’s a bold statement. And it’s exactly the over-the-top type thing that a couple of guys say over lunch when it doesn’t matter and no one is listening (and no one has to back anything up with facts, those pesky little things).

On the other hand, what is it with unions, especially teachers’ union? If the (unions, generally) are really so fantastic, why do judges feel the need to prohibit unions from throwing feces?

I can’t help but wonder at the underlying threat of violence that seems to follow them.

Back to Utah and over-the-top statements and backbreaking and such.

A few months back (meaning last year), the Ogden School District decided it had had enough of unions breaking its back. Specifically, the Ogden Education Union (“OEA”), the local version of the Utah Education Association. The recession is still on, people are still having babies, and the number of students signing up for school is growing.

It gave Ogden teachers a choice: sign the contract we send you, or hasta la vista. Oh, and we’ll give you a 3% raise, almost double the Utah Consumer Price Index (CPI) and a third greater than the national CPI. In other words, inflation has only increased the cost of stuff by 1.7%, but we’ll pay you 3% more.

All you gotta do is sign the contract.

The OEA balked. It told the teachers to stick it to the man, and force the school district to negotiate with the union on the teachers behalf. Don’t sign those contracts with the 3% salary increase…

All but one teacher signed. See, they’re teachers. They can do the math. They know a good deal when they see one.

The upshot?

While several other school districts are passing new tax increases this year, including Alpine and Davis, the Ogden School District has not raised taxes. They were also able to give raises to their teachers without collective bargaining – imagine. They have not cut the school year, or reduced staff.

But unions aren’t interested in the general welfare of their clients–the children and parents and teachers of the district–they’re interested in themselves.

And so, on August 15, Doug Stephens, President of the OEA, sent an email to all those recently rehired teachers with the 3% salary increases. He wanted just one thing: money. (Well, not exactly. He also asked teachers to sign up for another year of ineffective collective bargaining, to join a protest, to exert peer pressure on “fellow teachers who are not O.E.A. members,” and to read a really bad poetry analysis, and but that’s beside the point…or is it?)

Courtesy of Holly “on the Hill” Richardson:

Our political battles will take large amounts of O.E.A/U.E.A.- P.A.C. dollars. We are asking each member to give at least $30.00 to our P.A.C. fund this year. That is less than $5.00 a month between now and when school ends in May 2012. All the money we raise this year in our P.A.C. will stay with us. To be able to give a candidate, that we select, for a school board race, thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteers to help in a campaign is unbeatable in a local election.

That’s right. In other words, Doug is say that “We couldn’t help you last year, we’re in a state that loathes us, and we’re losing ground…all while you’re getting a raise higher than the rest of the population and ahead of inflation. But please: by all means, keep sending us your money!”

Seriously. Teachers would get a better return in the stock market than sending $30 to the OEA this year. Heck, they might get a better return in a lemonade stand.

To return to my friend’s comment over lunch: perhaps Utah legislators could break the back of the UEA and its mini-me local unions just by looking into the fraud and waste that goes on in the school system. I don’t know. I haven’t looked into if there is that much.

The reality is, however, that it may not matter. Utahns care about their kids and they care about their schools, and they are willing to pay what they can to prove it. In a baby rich, cash poor state like Utah, that Ogden was able to provide a 3% raise in the midst of a recession is proof positive.

But don’t tell that to Doug Stephens. Unless you want to. His email address, if you want to communicate with him “in a confidential way,” as he asked in his email, is dstephens1@weber.edu . (What is he doing giving out a government email for union promotion in what is clearly political work, anyway?)

(H/T to Holly Richardson for Ogden School District vs the union at hollyonthehill.wordpress.com)

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