Why You Can't Have Your Teacher Back

Dear Johnny,

President Obama is driving around the country on a bus trying to drum up support for a $447 billion jobs bill. In North Carolina, the President said that if the bill didn't pass we would have to explain to children why they can't have their teachers back.

Okay, I'll explain it to you: The biggest reason is the federal debt. Last year the government spent about $3.6 trillion dollars. That's a very big number. It looks like this: 3,600,000,000,000. That's a lot more money than the government actually had, roughly $1.5 trillion more. We already owe almost $15 trillion dollars overall! I'm not going to be around to pay that back. That will fall to you and your generation. With interest. The least I can do is add as little to that debt number as possible. Which is why many people oppose the President's bill, which has a dubious chance of fixing the economy.

But that's just the big picture. Schools and teachers aren't the responsibility of the federal government. This money would be coming to bail out states because many of them are more broke than the federal government. Why are the states so broke? There are many reasons but a big one is the power of the unions. For years, unions have helped certain candidates get elected, then negotiated their labor contracts with those same politicians. That has led to sweetheart deals for all unions, particularly the teachers' unions.

And we can't afford it.

Your teachers have guaranteed pension and health care benefits, from the day they retire, often as early as age 55, until the day they die. That just doesn't work out financially. And Daddy and most of your friends' daddies and mommies don't get that kind of deal.

And one more thing, you know that teacher that got laid off and President Obama wants to pay to bring back. There's a good chance he or she was a young, hungry, bright, motivated teacher who still wants to work and educate our youth. So why can't we get rid of the old, miserable grump who isn't even trying anymore? It's because of something called tenure. Short of committing a felony, there is nothing a tenured teacher can do to get fired. So when layoffs come, the first ones to go are usually the best ones.

It's not just the teachers' unions. Billions of dollars each year are spent on school construction. President Obama once said "How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart?" So we spend billions of dollars to build and improve schools. We can expect you to do your best anywhere, by the way. But here's where the unions come in again. School construction is a municipal project, and most municipalities use union labor. Which means paying a union scale, which means paying union construction workers' pensions and health care too.

And that's why you can't have your teacher back.