In the hopes of stopping taxpayer funded union work in its state, the Idaho Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging an agreement that allows the practice among Boise county teachers.
“They’re paying teachers to do union work,” Foundation President Wayne Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s unfair to the students going to school, expecting to get an education.”
Government officials doing union work instead of their actual job is a common practice. Its known as official time on the federal level and release time in states. The Foundation hopes its lawsuit will have a huge impact with other public sector unions across the state.
“When taxpayers shell out money to the government the expectation is they will get a return on their tax dollars,” Hoffman noted. “[Instead] they’re spending their time union organizing.”
Under the agreement, teachers don’t just get to keep their pay when doing union work, they also keep their job title plus employee benefits. Boise county was chosen because the recent labor agreement signed between the Boise Education Association (BEA) and the Boise School District (BSD) takes release time to a new level. According to Hoffman, it goes far beyond other labor agreements in the state.
The amount of release time granted to an official is dictated by the labor agreement. It can range from a few weeks a year to a couple days a week. In the case of Boise, the amount of time allowed goes far beyond any other public sector labor agreement in the state. This includes the union president getting a whole year.
The Foundation argued in the lawsuit, which was obtained by Watchdog, the contract violates state law. The state constitution prohibits school boards and districts from giving money to private associations.
The Idaho Education Association (IEA), which was not listed as a party in the lawsuit, noted they are looking into the matter. The union stated they have seen the BEA and the BSD do a lot of good for the schools.
“The Boise Education Association and the Idaho Education Association have been made aware of litigation involving the Boise School District,” Paul Stark, the general counsel for IEA, told TheDCNF in a statement. “While we are investigating the situation further, we have no concerns about the appropriateness of the relationship between the teachers and the school district.”
“The BEA and BSD have developed a strong working relationship over many years, which has made the Boise School District one of the best educational environments for students in the state of Idaho,” Stark continued.
The policy is costly. According to Trey Kovacs, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, it has cost the federal government at least $1 billion between 1998 and 2013. The exact amount may be much higher, however, due to bad recordkeeping and a lack of transparency.
Official time may have also played a major role in the recent scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A 2014 report from the Capital Research Center found that many veterans may have died as a result of healthcare officials doing union work instead of their job.
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