Emboldened by successful strikes in 2018 and 2019, they may attempt to hold the economy hostage.
Teachers unions know how to play hardball. Last year saw teachers strike across the country, from Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., to Denver and West Virginia. This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaders of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have signaled that they would consider strikes if schools reopen without sufficient safety protections.
The NEA’s and AFT’s safety concerns are reasonable. But looming behind the debate is a coming spike in the cost of unfunded pension obligations. A one-two punch of increased pension costs and recession-dented revenues may influence whether some schools reopen.
Unless Washington provides more education funding, the pension tab will force states and school districts to slash spending that reaches the classroom. That will drive the teachers unions to oppose reopening schools—while claiming the moral high ground of student safety.
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