Helen Whalen Cohen
To some, unions might all seem the same. But one stands out as particularly egregious. The National Education Association and state affiliates have an iron grip on education. And the problem is worse than we imagined. If you thought that public education was an industry people entered not to make money, but to help children, you’re in for a surprise. The damage done by public schools is chronicled extensively in The Cartel, an independent film being screened nation-wide on a limited basis. Directed by television producer Bob Bowdon, it exposes the real aims of teacher’s unions-money and power. Focusing primarily on the New Jersey Education Association, The Cartel uncovers how much is spent per classroom, and how tragically little those dollars accomplish.

Schools in New Jersey achieve an average of 39% reading proficiency on one of the most popular education tests, the National Assessment of Education Progress. Pop quiz: how much should a school spend, per classroom, to achieve such low standards? If you said less than $300,000-$400,000, then go to the back of the class and watch The Cartel, because that's how much is poured into New Jersey’s poorest school districts. Most of the people interviewed in the film predicted that schools spent under $100,000 per classroom.

Where does all of this money go? The first expense to come to mind is usually the teacher’s salary. Other costs include pensions, benefits and administration. Many of these expenses can be contained. They can also spiral out of control. In Maryland, for example, there are 24 school districts. In New Jersey, there are 616. That’s a lot of extra administrative positions, and would add up even without 400 administrators in Newark who are paid six figure salaries to do paperwork. And these are only the above board expenditures.

The expenses go beyond budget gimmicks. There have been cases of faked financial reports, teachers pocketing field trip money and selling prescriptions out of the nurse's office. One school went as far as hiring an athletic director with mob ties.

Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.