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Commonwealth Foundation Blasts Teacher’s Union

AFT ad, as it appeared in the Patriot News
AFT ad, as it appeared in the Patriot News

The war of words between the Commonwealth Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers escalated yet again today.

Commonwealth Foundation, a think-tank which specializes in advocating free-market policies, placed ads in several PA newspapers accusing the AFT of using taxpayer money to lie.

Last week, the AFT ran ads in the same newspapers that scolded Governor Corbett for closing schools and firing thousands of teachers.

“The truth is, state funding for schools is at an all-time high and the mythical ‘cuts’ the AFT complains of was federal stimulus money that everyone knew was temporary,” said Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation and former high school teacher.

The organization also asserted that the AFT paid for the ads using public funds.

“What’s worse, this latest political smear by AFT was paid for using teachers’ dues money that taxpayers helped collect through automatic payroll deduction from teachers’ paychecks,” Brouillette continued. “Unfortunately, teachers had no say in whether or not to participate in the AFT’s deceptions.”

PoliticsPA is seeking comment from AFT regarding these allegations.

Commonwealth used this episode to bring attention to “paycheck protection”, one of their pet issues. Paycheck protection would seek to end the collection of dues by the government. It’s possible that this proposal could leave teacher’s unions with less funds overall as they would be responsible for collection and disbursement.

In effect, this issue is another volley in the long-running battle between the conservative think-tank and the labor union.


26 Responses

  1. Smitty-
    They wouldn’t walk from the union if they had to give up the hard fought union wages and be at the mercy of no contract.

  2. State and local governments have no business collecting campaign contributions for Democrats, and forcing people to belong to unions. Collect your own dues. You know that given the choice, 30%of your members would walk in a heartbeat and that without forced dues collection your little party will end. We smell your fear.

  3. “Obama Sucks” obviously you have NO IDEA what you are talking about. Teachers along with all state employess DO pay for their pensions, they have a percentage automatically taken out of their pay…THE SAME WAY THE DUES MONEY IS COLLECTED.
    The state pension system is broke because while employees paid in the state who was supposed to match their contribution DID NOT PAY IN, and even worse Fast Eddie “Gov.Rendell” took money OUT OF STATE PENSION account to pay other bills…this is not an accusation or rambling nonsense like you posted but actual facts that even the state reps have admitted too. This is also why the state reps with consciences are now having a hard time rolling back state pensions, they admit it’s their fault the state pension system is broke and agree state employees shouldn’t be the ones to be punished for that. State employess are not retiring millionaires…take a look at the Governor and State Reps if you want to really see who is retiring a millionaire, and unlike state employees they don’t have to work 35 years to get a 100% pension, but merely serve a couple year term. Time to close your mouth and open your eyes and read my friend.

  4. David,
    Please, please, please keep defending the unions’ need of governments to collect their electioneering money for them.

    Hat tip to “guest” below for the link.

  5. Anthony Bowers-
    Do you really think an accountant is verifying/entering the deduction for each paycheck? It’s got to be a formula/algorithm programmed into the payroll software and most teachers have weekly salaries. It’s pretty automated. You might as well complain about teachers using the water in public funded bathrooms when they are on lunch break (which probably costs a lot more than the payroll deductions).

    I haven’t seen the software program, but I’m pretty sure that when they run 10,000 paychecks, they just total up the deductions and do one lump sum transfer to the unions, not 10,000 wire transfers.

    Advancing the goals of teachers and education funding through union advertising is not a “private political interest”. It’s an inherent obligation of unions, and they would be misusing the funds if they didn’t spend some to advertise and advocate.

    Can’t unions spend money on picket signs? Lobbying? Well, putting out ads informing the public/voters/taxpayers is a form of lobbying as well.

    The fact is that unions fight for better wages/conditions. The teachers union fights for things like lower class size. Without them, there would be 50 kids in a class and education would suffer.

  6. You don’t know why this is on PoliticsPA?
    What rock did you just crawl out from under?

  7. Shouldn’t this article start with, “In a shocking turn of events, teacher and teachers’ union bashing organization, bashes teachers and their union?”

    Why is this even posted in the main page of politics pa instead of where it belongs – partisan garbage aka the ‘opinion’ section.

  8. Isaac L,

    “Wow – what a sad waste of $10,000.”

    So you disagree with how he chooses to spend his $10,000 in support of a specific political position? It is a good situation for you then that you are not being forced to give money to him without having any say in the matter. That would be an unfair and inequitable situation if a taxpayer, without their choice or voice in the matter, was forced to give money to another entity which later uses those funds to support political causes which it disagrees with.

  9. Wow – what a sad waste of $10,000. I certainly hope you have enough that it’s not going to cost you some vacations or trips to see the grandkids.

    I don’t understand how we let people divide us – how we let the monied interests convince people that they didn’t need to stand together, bargain together, with strength in numbers.

    I’ve seen plenty of arguments that suggest schools should be operated more like businesses. Well, businesses deduct union dues from paychecks using the business computers and accountants too – this seems like such a non-issue, it’s depressing.

  10. Screw you teachers and your union thugs. Party is over.Time for you to invest in your own retirements. No more lofty pensions . Your not worth it !!! Now that the union dues scandle has been exposed doesnt it feel scummy to be a teacher knowing your dues pays for all your political support. I have had enough. I have had enough of your lying bullshit that you need more money for education…SCREW YOU !!!!!
    You answer to us ..the tax payers of Pa.
    We will crush your union….they are no damn good.

  11. I see the Union propaganda machine is commenting here in full force. The notion that Commonwealth Foundation is funded by out of town billionaires is one of the many lies told.
    I am a retired Lifelong PA resident who is incensed to see that the Teachers Union spent over $5 million dollars on Political Ads in the last election cycle. I have seen the Obama Ads with the Union signature. I am so offended at the politics and the lies that I dug into my retirement savings and donated $10,000 to the Commonwealth Foundation. I’m certainly no billionaire so there ya go Mr Union Boss thug.
    You are telling lies, you know it and we know it.
    I have nothing against Unions, I was a union member in the 1970’s. If the Unions are to truly serve their members then they should have the guts to collect their own dues so they can be accountable to those who fund them. They are fighting this because without a legal mandate forcing employers to collect and members to pay, a whole lot of members would drop out.
    Running scared. Telling lies. Paycheck Protection is important and needs to pass.

  12. Of course, the teachers union’s p.r. company and this commonwealth foundation (which is a form of p.r. company for its private donors) are engaged in propaganda. It is how a citizenry is required to seek truth in democracy which is through the weighing of arguments of propagandists. Nuclear energy would be too cheap to meter … if not for safety, waste disposal, and operating expenses.

  13. David Diano,
    You are missing the point. No one has argued that the union dues themselves are public funds. Rather, this article and the Commonwealth Foundation have argued that union dues can and are used for a number of purposes including political reasons such as “advocat[ing] for the teachers” which you specifically mentioned. The critical problem is that public funds are being used to benefit a private organization. The union is using public funds when computers owned and paid for by the taxpayers are used to collect its private dues. The computers don’t just “handle the deductions”. An accountant is needed to enter the data, reconcile the information and direct the electronic transfers. Speaking of the transfers, are you contending that they are free? I expect the facts would demonstrate the costs are more significant that you contend in your argument. Regardless, the significance of such cost is not an issue. Public funds should not be used to further private political interests.
    I would guess that you know this though which is why you resorted to ad hominem attacks, red herring statements, and straw man arguments.

  14. People understand that whether it’s a dollar or a million dollars, their government shouldn’t be collecting money that can be used for campaigning.

    Furthermore, something inside makes them suspect of individuals who defend the practice.

    Realize that unions are no longer popular. You gotta pick your battles.

  15. 1) Union dues aren’t “public funds”, regardless of how they are collected.

    2) “taxpayers helped collect through automatic payroll deduction from teachers’ paychecks”
    a) Teacher salaries are already paid by taxpayers.
    b) Payroll deductions are handled by the computers and electronically transferred to the unions.
    c) Why does Mr. Brouillette think this automated deduction process has any significant cost?

    3) The purpose of the AFT is to advocate for the teachers and education for students. So, putting out an ad complaining about school budget cuts is exactly what they are supposed to be doing.

    4) “federal stimulus money that everyone knew was temporary”.
    Well, “everyone” should include Corbett, who should have taxed the shale extraction to make up for the short-fall, or found some other revenue.

    5) “Paycheck protection” is a misnomer for “union busting”. Just as “right to work” is really “right to lose collective bargaining and work for less”.

    6) “this issue is another volley in the long-running battle between the conservative think-tank and the labor union.”
    Actually, it’s a continued deception by these “think tanks” to undermine unions and collective bargaining. These think tanks are trying to solve the “problems” of
    a) workers making decent wages
    b) workers having decent work/safety conditions
    c) workers not getting taken advantage of
    d) with slavery and indentured servitude gone, employers need new ways to exploit workers.

  16. Any information put out by the “Commonwealth Foundation” is suspect and should be scrutinized with the utmost skepticism.

  17. Commonwealth Foundation is nothing more than a right wing propaganda machine.

    Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda statements may be partly false and partly true. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes.

    The one thing that once made this country great was public education provided to everyone regardless of wealth or social standing. It built a strong working middle class. Now the top 1% want everything for themselves and the select few pour million$$$ into groups like the Commonwealth Foundation.

  18. PA ranks 6th to 8th in the nation in reading and math scores. Yes, there is a cost to that and I will pay it. If you want shitty schools and low taxes, Mississippi is calling.

    Get f#cked Commonwealth Foundation!

  19. And these ALEC-paid commenters – citing Commonwealth Foundation Lies as proof! Lolol… I hope your soul doesn’t suffer too much in the Afterlife, now that you have sold it to the Devil for money!

  20. PoliticsPA – DO YOUR JOB PROPERLY! Any post about Commonwealth Foundation that does not disclose the well-known and easily-available facts that they get ALL their funding from out of state billionaires (through various laundering entities) and are part of ALEC and the State Policy Network – means that YOU are generating Propaganda for the Rich. Like that stupid Push Poll you advertised for them – complete propaganda and lies. They are UNION BUSTERS and nothing more. Shame on you the writer for disseminating Lies as a “news story.”

  21. The only reason state funding for education is at an all-time high is the pension crisis, which we all know is the proverbial can kicked down the road. Semantics allow Corbett and the Commonwealth Foundation to play fast and loose. Corbett’s budget proposal kicks the same can down that same lonely road once again.

  22. CentPADem. There was not, in fact, a time that the “state share” was 50%. This is another myth that has been spun by the union (and the Education Policy and Leadership Center). Moreover, Pennsylvania spends near the national average on state funding per-pupil. Our “state share” is only lower because local spending/taxes are so high relative to the rest of the nation.

    Get the raw numbers here:

  23. It is funny how these conservative talking heads distort facts. The main fact that needs recognized is that the state for 25 years now has been decreasing the percentage of state funding. There was a time when the state funded 50% of public education costs and 50% was local. Now it is more like 30% state and 70% local.

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