Boston Taxpayers Pay $8.4 Million for Teachers' Union Softball, Legal Defense

Kyle Olson

12/28/2010 2:51:04 PM - Kyle Olson

In Boston, a special fund established in 1968 pays for teachers’ funeral expenses, hearing aids and a softball league as well as legal services that have nothing to do with classroom instruction.

In the last school year alone, Boston taxpayers shelled out $1.3 million from the trust to help teachers with wills, bankruptcy, real estate, name changes, and legal defense against some misdemeanor criminal charges, according to the Boston Globe. This year taxpayers will contribute $8.4 million to the teachers’ trust, even as the district faces an anticipated $63 million budget gap that is necessitating the closure or consolidation of 18 schools, the Globe reports.

This unnecessary expense is ludicrous considering the current economy, and is urging city leaders to eliminate the trust as they craft a new collective bargaining agreement with teachers. The city’s residents, struggling to cover the rising costs of their own health coverage, shouldn’t be required to subsidize these extra perks for public school teachers.

Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, said it best when he told the Globe that “It’s time to rethink health and welfare and treat teachers exactly as other employees in terms of benefits, and eliminate the expenditures for these other services. “It really ought to be an item on the list in terms of trying to negotiate changes,” he said.

The Boston Teachers Union has predictably defended the fund, negotiated in 1968 as an alternative way to compensate teachers. “It came in lieu of salary,” BTU President Richard Stutman told the Globe.

Unfortunately times have changed, and Boston taxpayers can no longer afford to shower their public school employees with millions of dollars in special perks each year. Private sector workers in virtually every industry have sacrificed to keep their employers afloat, and we see no reason why Boston teachers shouldn’t be required to do the same.

We suspect that the vast majority of Boston taxpayers do not view a softball league or private real estate advice for teachers as a critical expense necessary to educate the city’s school children. With an expected $63 million budget gap, the district should be eliminating every expense that it can to maintain student programs and avoid cuts that would impact academics.

The fact that the BTU continues its lame attempt to justify the existence of this enormous annual expense only further demonstrates that its true priorities have little to do with educating the city’s youth.