News Story

Union Doesn’t Always Support ‘Public Funds Only in Public Schools’

Not when its own officials are collecting those public funds

The Michigan Education Association’s president, Paula Herbart, recently wrote an article criticizing the Legislature for authorizing a $2.5 million grant to private schools to make up for the costs they incur while complying with state regulations. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer praised the op-ed on Twitter, writing, “Public funds belong in public schools. Plain and simple. [Paula Herbart] is absolutely right.”

ForTheRecord says: The union’s demand that public funds only be used in public schools is applied selectively. Sometimes, it favors using public funds for a private organization — the MEA. When she took over as MEA president, Herbart became the latest in a line of union officials using the state pension system to spike their retirement benefits.

It works like this: School employees who are also union officials are granted leave by the public school district that employs them when they take a full-time job with the private union. The employees technically remain on the public payroll even though they are actually working for the union and – in the case of Herbart and other recent teacher union presidents – still collecting paychecks from the district.

While the union reimburses the district for the pay of someone on leave for union business, the arrangement also results in that person getting a bigger state pension due to remaining on the public payroll for additional years. This all means that some public funds do not stay in public schools, but are instead used to boost the pension of private union officials. Senate Bill 796 has been introduced to ban this practice, but not yet been voted on by lawmakers.