The Los Angeles Times ran a story today about a deal between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers' union, in which teachers agree to a shorter work year as a way to save the struggling system money. This represents the fourth consecutive year teachers have voted for a shorter work period. As the LA Times notes elsewhere, this is actually in the interest of teachers, not students:
Some critics accuse [school] officials of taking the path of least resistance -- under pressure from influential teacher unions. There is, in fact, a strategic advantage for unions in taking furlough days and shortening the school year. The salary cuts that result are temporary; they expire after one year and must be renegotiated every year. In the process, teachers avoid making permanent concessions on pension or health benefits. L.A. Unified employees still pay no monthly premiums for health insurance for themselves or family members. And teachers still receive raises based on experience or additional education.
Of course, during good times, the school board also made questionable spending decisions under the influence of powerful unions.