Spring Break Is Here: Can I get my unemployement insurance check?

Did you know that school bus drivers and cafeteria workers file unemployment claims whenever schools take a vacation break?

Unemployment insurance is supposed to help those unfortunate workers who lose their jobs as the result of an economic contraction or their own company’s need to regroup.  But those who work for the public schools, institutions that only seldom need to retrench and that hardly ever close their doors, have nonetheless found a way to convenient way to collect unemployment benefits.

As those who have followed the school battles in Wisconsin and Indiana know well, school employees enjoy generously funded health-care benefits and handsome defined benefit pension plans that are driving many state and local governments to the edge of bankruptcy.  Now, add still another give-away to the public employees of the nation’s schools—unemployment benefits for those weeks when kids are given their spring break.

I learned all this simply because the number of people seeking unemployment benefits went up last week, which may signal that the U. S. economy is at risk of falling back into another recession.

But, says the Wall Street Journal’sMarketwatch” (April 19), we can’t be sure these numbers tell us much about the direction of the economy. “The weekly claims data is often hard to decipher in April because of the Easter holiday and spring break,” it reports, “when many school workers such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers are eligible to receive temporary benefits.”

I leave it to you, dear readers, to tell me just how bus drivers and cafeteria workers pull off this scam.  I had always thought the wages and salaries paid to public employees take into account school vacation times as well as the days they are on the job.  I thought the unemployed had to prove they had been fired from their job to get those marvelous (to coin a phrase) unemployment benefits.  How did bus drivers get access to those unemployment funds during holiday week?  Does this also happen in late December?  How about summer time? Who else gets them?

I’ve also heard the rumor that teachers are delighted when they get the spring pink slip in those years when the state legislature has yet to vote state aid for the schools the following fall.   Everyone knows that the legislature will eventually pony up the dollars, but school districts hand out pink slips to teachers anyhow, telling them they are fired, at least for now, because no one knows when the state dollars will flow.

Although sob stories about frightened teachers appear in the local paper, the truth, I’ve been told, is that the slip gives them the right to collect unemployment benefits even if they use the money to take a European tour prior to returning to school in the fall.

That’s the rumor I once heard.  Tell me it’s not so.  Tell me the wages and salaries and benefits that school employees officially receive are all that they get.

– Paul E. Peterson

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