Just why are Utah teachers unions against school choice In Utah?

January 27, 2023

By Tim Worstall

The Deseret News reports that the largest of the Utah teachers unions, the Utah Education Association, is against the current school bill choice going through the State Senate. As this bill includes a $6,000 pay rise for teachers this is remarkable – so, remark we shall. Why is a teachers’ union against a very good-looking pay raise for teachers? They are:

Utah Education Association President Renée Pinkney said members of the state’s largest teachers association are carefully monitoring the legislative process with respect to HB215.

“If it passes tomorrow, we will be devastated. Our hearts will be broken,” she said.

UEA members are “incredibly upset” that the salary increase was not decoupled from the choice scholarship so each could be considered on their respective merits, she said.

As we’ve been pointing out in Utah and more generally, school choice is not a party politics issue. This is about which institutions have power over our children’s education, not which letter – R or D – they have after their name nor what animal they have as a party mascot. Is it we, we parents, who decide how our children are educated and about what, or is it some other? Some other powerful group that insists upon how schools work?

School choice means we do, not-school choice means that the educational bureaucracy gets to decide.

This is what makes that reaction from the major teachers union so educational. If the union worked as unions should and often do, for the benefit of their members, then a $6k pay raise would be great (there’s another $1,800 rise in benefits on top) and that would also be that. The union would be in favor – because it benefits its members.

But they’re not in favor, are they? Their concern over losing that power over our children outweighs the obvious benefits to their union members. They’re actually insisting that the pay rise not go through because they would prefer not to lose that power. They are, after all, arguing against the bill so they must think their own power loss outweighs the benefits to its members.

Now stop and think through this again. The union leaders are prepared to take nearly $8,000 a year out of the mouths and wallets of their members in order to maintain their own power. We want people that are hungry for power over our children to have that power over our children, do we?

School choice is not about political parties, it is not about doing wrong to teachers. It’s about this one very simple thing. Who has the power to determine what our children are taught and how? If we think it should be us then school choice is the answer.

Florida gives us an example of how this works out. This also has nothing to do with party politics, it’s about what happens when that power nexus gets drowned in the well. As The74Million (a newspaper aimed at the education sector) points out:

Eastpoint is a commercial fishing village an hour and 40 minutes from Tallahassee on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast.” It has 2,614 people. It’s in a county with 12,451 people. And it now has a distinctive little private school called EDCorps High School. Most of the students there are from working-class families, and nearly all use state-funded choice scholarships.

Private schools like this one have emerged all over rural Florida, many of them in towns as small as Atoka. This is the reality of education choice in rural areas, from a state where it is not an abstraction.

The one crucial word there is “emerge”. When choice is possible then choices emerge. When education budgets follow the student then education suitable for the student does that emerging. The demand for it calls forth the supply – as any economist would tell you, demand does create supply.

Rural Florida, as a result of school choice, is now filling up with schools that parents desire to send their children to. The legislative change both creates those schools and also means that parents can afford to educate their children as they wish. ‘Bout time the rest of the country got that same blessing, no?

Sure, the education unions and the bureaucracy are against this. But why on earth should the rest of us be?


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