Teachers are the victim of their unions and politicians. For many years unions and their political allies negotiated agreements that favored non-cash compensation such as generous pensions, health benefits, PTO and retiree health care benefits. The true cost of these benefits were ignored and generally invisible to the public. In many cases adequate funding was largely ignored by the politicians. The total compensation for teachers and other state workers is generally far greater than the average citizen in their jurisdiction.
Compare the above to salaries, which are totally visible, and must be paid concurrently.
Now it is all coming home to roost. Many states face massive unfunded liabilities and any funding being done is drawing from vital government services. The promises are simply unaffordable. Some states have started to trim benefits, if not for current workers, for new hires.
Teachers are caught in the middle, they expect and have a right to expect fulfillment of the commitments made, they also deserve good salaries, but taxpayers can not afford to do both.
If teachers keep all their current benefits and receive salary increases, the problem becomes worse. Taxes must be raised and/or state services must be cut, neither outcome being desirable.
There is no easy or quick solution. However, if teachers want higher salaries, to be fair to all taxpayers it should come in large part from a realignment of cash and non-cash compensation. The measure of fairness and affordability for any public employee should start with a comparison of total compensation for the private sector tempered by the tax burden required.
Teachers are the victims of too much of a good thing and of those responsible, meaning unions and politicians, ignoring the consequences of lucrative agreements. If you want a private sector analogy, look to the auto industry and it’s unions and what they had to do once their inability to sustain the situation was clear.