What does Janus mean for school choice?
On June 27th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. The 5-4 decision found that forcing public sector workers to pay union fees—or lose their jobs—violates their First Amendment rights. This overturns the court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which allowed unions to impose so-called “fair share” or “agency” fees on workers who don’t join the union.
While the repercussions of this ruling remain to be seen, expanded access to school choice is one likely outcome. Teachers’ unions consistently lead the fight against expanding school choice options. Anti-choice falsehoods are prominent on the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) website. The PSEA spends millions of dollars every year to elect anti-choice politicians – more than double what school choice activists spend on political action. Other teachers’ unions also fight education choice by lobbying, political contributions (see Florida and California), and even lawsuits.
In a 2015 nationwide survey of union members, 76 percent agreed that employees should have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union. The Supreme Court concurred; now teachers who disagree with the union will no longer be forced to fund union activities. In Wisconsin, returning this fundamental right to teachers, in addition to other worker freedoms, resulted in a 40 percent drop in union membership. Similarly, Michigan’s teachers unions experienced a 25 percent decrease once teachers were no longer forced to join. If Pennsylvania sees similar results, unions will be forced to spend less money on political activity – much of which is against parental choice in education.
The PSEA spends millions of dollars every year to elect anti-choice politicians – more than double what school choice activists spend on political action.
For many students, the local public school works well. However, as shown by the popularity of Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs, thousands of families prefer other options. Teachers’ unions have been one of the biggest obstacles to families accessing these options. Hopefully the Janus decision will cause them to focus more on issues directly affecting teachers and less on preventing students from getting the education that suits them best.
Mark Janus’ victory is also a win for teachers, students, and families in Pennsylvania and across the nation.