But this week, the unions themselves became the bullies, in a big way.
In Arizona, the teacher-funded Arizona Education Association (AEA) and the taxpayer-funded Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) filed a lawsuit to remove more than 100 children with special needs from the private schools of their parents' choice.
What did these children with special needs do to deserve a lawsuit? Their parents decided to apply for an Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), allowing them to tap into their own tax dollars to send their children to private schools (or other educational settings) that best meet their children's needs. ESAs are "outplacements," the process by which school district officials send children with disabilities to receive services from qualified private providers. Except with ESAs, parents—not bureaucrats—select the outplacement. And so, given their top-down mentality about educating kids, and their fear of empowered parents, the AEA and the ASBA filed suit to strip these families of their rights.
We know from experience that transferring power to parents raises the hackles of the establishment, especially in a year like 2011, when more school choice programs were passed into law than ever before in American history. In Indiana, the unions are clawing their way through the court system seeking to repeal a school voucher program for low- and middle-income children. In Colorado, where a local school board had the audacity to create a locally-directed voucher program, the unions are pursuing every legal option available.
There's no doubt that these lawsuits will take months, if not years, to meander their way through the court system. For parents of children with disabilities in Arizona, the AEA/ASBA suit means months and years of confusion, worry, concern and fear. Meanwhile, the AEA will continue to soak up teacher money to fund their lawsuits (with most dues-paying teachers likely unaware that their money is bankrolling this suit), and the ASBA will continue to bring in big dues payments—funded out of the same pot of local taxpayer money designed to educate kids.
The AEA and the ASBA are bureaucratic bullies—with lots of cash. And while their tactics might be different than those used on the schoolyard or in the lunchroom, the end result, and the cruelty, is exactly the same.