CV NEWS FEED // A new report exposed backroom deals that gave Louisiana’s unionized public school teachers access to school choice for their children – despite teachers unions’ hardline opposition to school choice for families in the general public.
The Pelican Institute’s “most damning discovery involves a form of school choice for teachers with kids that is not available to other parents in two school districts,” The Daily Signal’s Tony Kinnett reported Wednesday:
Under current Louisiana state law, Louisiana families are only allowed to move their children from “a failing school to a higher performing public school,” severely limiting school choice and parental preference. In the collective bargaining agreements for St. Bernard and Vermilion parishes, however, teachers are granted the opportunity to “select a different school that fits their children,” including non-public schools.
The unions also lobby consistently and passionately against expanding to parents the same school choice opportunities that their St. Bernard and Vermilion Parish members enjoy. The Pelican Institute report dubs this policy “School Choice for Me but Not for Thee.”
The think tank released several other details of the collective bargaining agreements, which Kinnett noted were conducted in “secret.”
“Six Louisiana school systems and two New Orleans charter schools annually broker bargaining agreements between Louisiana teachers unions and the school system, regulating school policy and teacher behavior,” Kinnett added. “These collective bargaining agreements, like most around the country, are made in secret.”
Kinnett explained that the secret agreements were “made on behalf of teachers whether they are in the union or not.” He wrote that they “restrict what teachers and administrators can do to determine how the school operates and only allow teachers to leave the union during a specific window.”
Attorney Sarah Harbison is the General Counsel for the Pelican Institute and the author of the report. She told The Daily Signal that her findings confirm what many critics of public-sector teachers unions have been saying for years.
“Schools exist for the sake of kids, not for the sake of unions,” she said. “Instead of unions focusing on serving their own ends, we should all focus on how to make education better for our children—and that means ensuring that every kid gets a school that fits.”
Harbison is also known for her representation of a Louisiana grocery worker who became the first person to bring a federal suit against the Biden administration’s OSHA vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses with over 100 employees. The challenge in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals resulted in the mandate being stayed, which the Supreme Court eventually upheld in NFIB v. OSHA (2022).
The Pelican Institute’s discovery comes at a time when teachers unions face increased public scrutiny over alleged hypocrisy regarding school choice.
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Stacy Davis Gates was recently widely criticized for her decision to send her eldest son to a private Catholic school despite multiple past comments calling school choice “racist.” She was later grilled by CNN host Abby Phillip for her apparent inconsistent stance on the issue.