Just a quick observation to start the week after a gorgeous, long Minnesota weekend. The Strib featured two front page articles on Labor Day: one was entitled ” Students Pay Price for Cuts in Education” and the other, noting labor’s disappointment with Obama and a shift  of focus to the states as the main battleground, was called “ Union Optimism Fades to Frustration“.

As I contemplated the juxtaposition of these articles, I wondered why the reporters did not think to ask the school districts whether they would welcome the kind of flexibility and big savings that Wisconsin schools are now enjoying  following the changes in collective bargaining (which allow schools to now competitively contract for things like health care benefits for teachers).

When an operating budget declines, whether it is a school district or private business, the managers should be able to cut expenses to deliver a quality product to its customers. In the case of schools, we tie the hands of district managers with expensive and inflexible union contracts for teachers and staff.

And then there was Teamster Jimmy Hoffa’s indelicate remarks about the tea party over the weekend when introducing President Obama for his Labor Day speech: “President Obama, this is your army, we are ready to march,” Hoffa said. “But everybody here’s got to vote. If we go back, and keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.”  Apparently, the president had no comment.  Read more at Fox News….

Then this morning I saw that thanks to former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, we are spending millions of federal tax dollars on sidewalks  to encourage kids to walk to school, while districts struggle with reduced operating budgets. (Walking to school may or may not be a “good thing” but is this a smart way to spend federal tax dollars? And why are the feds directing this kind of local decision? Education–and sidewalks— are not a core function of the federal government; it belongs to states, local government and school districts. Duh.)

It is time for Minnesota to join its Midwest neighbors and reform collective bargaining rights for public employees so that school districts can both deliver a high quality education to our children while honoring excellence in teaching. Taxpayers are tired of being bullied by the unions–and we suspect many public employees feel the same way.