Tag Archives: Professional Alternatives to Unions

Wisconsin Teachers Choose to Be Non-Union

Huh, look at that, we are not all union-loving zombies. Some of us like professional organizations that treat us as…wait for it….professionals! Some of us like CHOICE! Have you thought about joining the Association of American Educators? If not, you really should. Below is the newest promotional video from the AAE. Check it out!

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Association of American Educators Release 2013 Member Survey

Cross-posted from the AAE website.

Today the 2013 annual membership survey was released by the Association of American Educators. The survey was conducted this fall, polling AAE members from all 50 states on issues relating to education and labor reform.

Survey results show progressive stances toward education and labor reform, particularly with regard to raising expectations, accountability, school choice, technology, Common Core State Standards, and school budgets and pensions. While educators have approached these new ideas with caution, overall, AAE member are growing in their support of common sense reform, flexibility and options.

As a member-driven organization, AAE brings an authentic teacher voice to the education reform dialogue, rendering valuable input into creating a world class education system from well-informed teachers nationwide. The opinions expressed in this survey are those of real teachers, not bureaucrats or union leaders with partisan political agendas.

As education leaders advocate for raising the bar for incoming educators, AAE members are also calling for a well-prepared workforce:

• 62% of survey respondents agree with the idea that, just as lawyers must pass state bar exams to practice law, teachers should pass a test that proves their ability to be effective.

Regarding class size:

• Further, 59% percent of AAE members would support a 1-2 student increase in grades 4-12 class size to make more money available for teacher pay, more technology in the classroom, and other educational programs.

While the union-backed establishment sees school choice as detrimental to the teaching profession, AAE member teachers support certain laws that advance school choice and promote options for all stakeholders:

• 69% percent of survey respondents support the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) that awards need-based annual scholarships to eligible District children to attend a participating private/ parochial D.C. elementary, middle, or high school of their parent’s choice.

• 68% of teachers agree with an Indiana law that allows any taxpayer who has a child already enrolled in a private/ parochial school or who is home-schooled to claim up to a $1,000 tax deduction per child for approved educational expenses including school tuition, textbooks, fees, software, tutoring, and supplies.

• 74% of AAE members support Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), which enable parents of special needs children to leave their assigned public schools, taking 90% of the state dollars with them. That money, deposited into ESAs, can then be used to access a multitude of education options that better met their children’s needs.

As new technologies make it possible for students to learn at their own pace, states across the country are implementing polices that offer and encourage online learning. While defenders of the status-quo see virtual options as a threat, AAE members embrace new technologies as a means to better prepare students for the job market of the 21st century:

• 64 % of AAE member teachers support a Florida law that guarantees access to online course work.

• 67% of survey respondents agree with a Virginia law that requires students to take at least one online course to graduate.

AAE members also recognize the need for transparency and accountability in funding:

• 95% of survey respondents believe that school budgets should be shared with the public to ensure state/federal monies are being allocated effectively.

• 87 % of teachers believe that school districts should be required to provide an annual fiscal report to the public and that district negotiations should be conducted in open public meetings

One of the most controversial topics in education is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative. Overall, while the jury is still out on the implementation process and its effect on the flexibility of curriculum, AAE members appear to be moving in the direction of support for consistent standards:

• 36% of respondents believe the CCSS will make the U.S. more competitive on a global scale. 53% of member teachers believed they would have no effect, and 11 % assert that CCSS will have an adverse effect on global competitiveness.

• However, 64 % of survey respondents believe that CCSS will provide more consistency in the quality of education between school districts and between states.

• 48% of teachers believes CCSS implementation is running smoothly, while 41 % of teachers are neutral, and 11% believe implementation in their state is going poorly.

The long term sustainability of educator pensions have been hot topics as states and local districts feel the effects of the recession on education budgets. In order to insure that educators are compensated fairly and pensions are fully funded, educators are embracing sustainable models:

• 63% of those surveyed would prefer to negotiate their own contract so that they can negotiate a salary and benefits package that best suits their lifestyle.

• 87% would support a future defined-contribution retirement plan for new newly hired teachers. This system would function like the 401k-style plans typical for the private sector.

• 89 % support an a-la-carte benefits plan where prospective hires could pick and choose salaries and benefits based personal needs.

Click here for the complete results of the survey.

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AAE is in for National School Choice Week 2013!

by Alix Schroeck of the Association of American Educators.

Happy New Year! AAE is thrilled to once again join with other like-minded education organizations and schools in participating in National School Choice Week this January 27- February 2.

At AAE, we recognize that school choice is a vital component of the education reform movement. We know that students learn differently, so a one-size-fits-all learning environment does little to meet the needs of all stakeholders. To foster authentic learning, parents and students must have choices. As educators, we must also recognize school choice as a valuable tool for all parties.

AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner has called the movement invaluable to the teaching profession. “Our primary goal as an organization is to empower, protect, and represent all professional educators,” he stated. “Once limited to rigid traditional school-terms and schedules, teachers are employed in traditional public schools, charters, private schools, religious schools, and online schools just to name a few. Educators will, in turn, have choices themselves when deciding when, where, and how to teach kids.”

As a professional association of educators, AAE recognizes that we are uniquely positioned to join the conversation and make sure AAE member voices are heard when it comes to school choice. By joining this network of organizations, we can directly affect policy that will have a profound impact on improving and modernizing education.

AAE looks forward to celebrating this important week with you! We will be hosting events across the country. Check our website periodically for updates on where we will be.

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The NEA Donates $15 Million to Partisan Politics

The Association of American Educators,  the national non-union professional educators organization recommended by Conservative Teachers of America, recently published a list of the donations of the NEA to partisan political organizations. How many of your colleagues that join the NEA because they “need insurance” do not know this? Take a minute and share this list with them. Oh, and by the way, the AAE does not donate any money to partisan groups. It’s probably one of the reasons they are able to offer twice the liability insurance the NEA offers.

AFL-CIO – $1.15 million

Alliance for Justice – $5,000

America Votes – $376,100

America Works – $250,000

American Bridge 21st Century – $200,000

American Constitution Society – $10,000

American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund – $15,000

Asian American Justice Center – $10,000

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $5,000

Be the Change – $100,000

Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs – $10,000

California Community Foundation – $6,000

Campaign for America’s Future – $20,000

Center for American Progress – $35,000

Center for Economic Organizing – $12,800

Center for Teacher Leadership – $63,178

Center for Teaching Quality – $120,767

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – $50,000

Citizens Helping Heroes – $10,000

Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000

Committee for Charlotte 2012 – $250,000

Committee for Education Funding – $17,713

Committee on States – $25,000

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. – $70,000

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000

Council of State Governments – $6,000

Daily Kos – $30,000

Democracy Alliance – $235,000

Democratic GAIN – $10,000

Economic Policy Institute – $250,000

Educating Maryland Kids – $200,000

Education Writers Association – $10,500

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – $200,000

Excelencia in Education – $10,000

Fair Districts Now – $478,000

Fair Elections Legal Network – $50,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network – $7,500

Good Jobs First – $15,000

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice – $250,000

Health Care for America Now! – $125,000

HEROS, Inc. – $100,000

Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $25,000

Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $1,042,000

Initiative for Responsible Investment – $5,000

Japanese American Citizens League – $5,000

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy – $9,300

Kansas Values Institute – $49,950

Keep It Local North Dakota – $135,000

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – $25,000

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $5,000

Learning First Alliance – $91,200

Learning Forward – $25,000

Marylanders for Marriage Equality – $50,000

MediaMatters – $100,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $10,000

Montanans for Fiscal Accountability – $25,555

Moving South Dakota Forward – $225,000

NAACP – $11,000

National Action Network – $25,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund – $5,000

National Black Justice Coalition – $20,000

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation – $5,000

National Conference of State Legislatures – $31,385

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education – $202,646

National Hispanic Leadership Institute – $25,000

National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000

National Women’s Law Center – $10,000

Netroots Nation – $15,000

New Hampshire Unity Table Fund – $50,000

Ohio Democratic Party – $150,000

Organizations Concerned About Rural Education – $5,000

Opportunity to Learn Action Fund – $300,000

Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $58,353

Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $35,000

Patriot Majority PAC – $100,000

People for the American Way – $135,000

Progressive Majority – $50,284

Project Love Remember the Children Foundation – $250,000

Project New West – $140,000

Protect Maine Votes – $81,500

Public Education Defense Fund – $1 million

Quality Education and Jobs – $50,000

Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000

Ripon Society – $10,000

Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000

SEIU – $15,333

Taxpayers in Support of Public Education – $30,000

TIDES Foundation – $100,000

University of Colorado Boulder Sponsored Project – $250,000

U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $100,000

Voces de la Frontera – $23,515

Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation – $166,666

We Are Ohio – $4,568,000

Wellstone Action – $30,586

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AAE-Join the Next Generation of American Educators!

We are big fans of the Association of American Educators here at Conservative Teachers of America. They recently released a new promotional video that you must see. Please share with a colleague!


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2012 NEA Convention: Membership Declines & Hyper-Partisanship

We wanted to cross-post this piece from the Association of American Educator’s (AAE) blog. For those that are not familiar with the AAE, they are a non-partisan, non-union alternative to the National Education Association. It is our opinion that the AAE is the organization for education professionals. The AAE offers dues that are $15 a month, no donations to any political cause, and liability insurance that surpasses that provided by the NEA.

While most Americans were enjoying a festive Independence Day last week, the National Education Association was holding their annual conference in Washington, D.C. Beaten down after another solid year of negative press, declining membership, and legislative and legal battles, the NEA convention took on a somber and partisan tone in 2012.

The convention was meant to be a rallying cry for union members as the NEA tried to create an atmosphere resembling a political party convention complete with theme music and intense cheering. Despite best efforts, the conference was noticeably lacking delegates and talk immediately turned to harsh budget realities.

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle predicted an even more challenging time in the years ahead calling budget numbers “devastating.” Projected losses total 287,000 active teachers and 21,000 additional personnel over the 2010-14 school years. The numbers amount to a $65 million budget reduction over that same time period, undoubtedly leading to staff reductions and declining political power.

In light of the upcoming election and the union-crippling legislation in states across the country, the speeches at the convention were meant to rally the members in attendance to stay strong despite the obvious setbacks. One of the more partisan speeches came from NEA Executive Director John Stocks who called NEA members “Social Justice Patriots,” according to the union-watchdog Education Intelligence Agency. Stocks said union members’ roles should be to fight “opponents of the DREAM Act and voter ID laws, CEOs who make too much, and big corporations.”

The NEA’s most high-profile guest was Vice President Joe Biden, who was sent in place of President Obama. Vice President Biden mainly stuck to the union staples, including expressing support for their collective bargaining plight and accusing Governor Mitt Romney of not supporting public education. After some grumblings from delegates about his no-show status, President Obama did call in to thunderous applause stating, “The folks on the other side, they want to take us back to the policies that didn’t work in the last decade, they want us to go back to a policy that just does big tax cuts for the wealthiest, [to] cut education spending, cut investments in all the things that help us grow.”

Following the President’s call, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel promised that the union would put its full support behind the president’s re-election: “We believe in you, Mr. President, and we’re behind you all the way.”

Despite the mass applause for candidates and partisan speakers, news broke that Republican and independent teachers among the delegation were expressing frustration with the hyper-partisan tone of the convention. In interviews with The Associated Press, dozens of teachers said they felt pressure from union leaders to support Obama’s re-election — and felt marginalized when they wouldn’t. Some teachers said they were so worried about retribution from their colleagues that they wouldn’t provide their names for publication in newspapers.

Delegate teacher Maureen van Wagner expressed her concern to the media. “What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama.” Other teachers were offended that NEA leaders had been urging members to hold house parties to educate their friends about why President Obama deserves a second term.

In conjunction with their commitment to another Obama endorsement, the NEA approved a series of controversial measures. Among their many policy recommendations, NEA delegates considered resolutions opposing any policy of U.S. military action against Iran, an initiative to gather information on groups that “discourage NEA membership,” and a failed effort to recommend the ousting of reform-minded Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Information from the convention continues to surface following an eventful week. Be sure to read the AAE blog this week for the latest developments. As NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen stated, “Times have been bad before, but they’ve never been this bad.”

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The Declining Popularity of Teacher Labor Unions #TCTOT

We wanted to share this post from the Association of American Educators. “AAE is America’s fastest growing national, nonprofit, nonunion teachers’ association with members in all 50 states.”

This week’s recall election has thrust union special interests and teacher freedoms back into the national dialogue like never before. After a bitter campaign and an estimated $60 million spent on election efforts, the commanding win for Governor Walker illustrates an overwhelming shift in public opinion against teachers unions. As the dust settles on this historic election, it’s no coincidence that according to a new public opinion poll, teacher unions nationally are reaching all-time low approval levels.

In the latest national survey instituted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, scholars found that the share of the public with a positive view of union impact on local schools has dropped by a whopping 7% in the past year alone. Among teachers, union approval has reached an astonishing 16% decline. Whereas 58% of teachers took a positive view of unions in 2011 for example, just 43% feel the same in 2012.

These sentiments are further confirmed by a dramatic decline in union membership nationwide. According to Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci, the National Education Association is reporting a decline of 150,000 members in the past two years and they further project that they will lose 200,000 more members by 2014.

According to researchers the survey’s most striking findings come from teachers themselves. Obviously teachers are frustrated by the unions’ controversial tactics, political spending, and outlandish dues. As the unions cope with the unilaterally negative press and legislative and legal battles across the country, members understandably do not want to be identified with a dying organization based on an outdated model of representation.

Based on the data, teachers are fleeing the unions and seeking alternative organizations in record numbers. It’s no coincidence that while the unions lose members, the Association of American Educators (AAE) and state chapters throughout the country are growing by leaps and bounds. Not only has our membership grown exponentially across the country, but AAE membership has particularly grown in states that are at the forefront of the education and labor debate, including the forced union battleground of Wisconsin.

The results of this poll also give further evidence of the need for a robust non-union educator movement nationally – a movement that embraces innovation and reform while focusing on professionalism, collaboration and excellence. It is this positive voice that teachers are demanding as a professional option. As respected professionals, teachers should distance themselves from the self-serving interest of labor unions and align themselves with an organization that respects their true priorities.

As the summer begins and teachers look to a new school year in the coming months, we encourage teachers across America to take these findings to heart and choose membership in an organization that best represents them and their profession. Those who don’t identify with the unprofessional, hyper-partisan tactics of the unions should join with the over 300,000 other teachers who have embraced truly professional organizations like the Association of American Educators.

If you are tired of the unions in your profession, consider joining the AAE.

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Teacher’s Choice

The Association of American Educator’s released this video recently. We wanted to share it.

Teachers’ Choice presents portraits of four American educators who’ve selected non-standard paths. Teachers at a charter school, an online school and a parochial school are all featured, as well as a teacher at a traditional district school who declined membership in the local union. Their journeys have only one thing in common — the options less traveled.

Kids aren’t all the same. Neither are Teachers.
It’s time they all had choice.

Directed by Bob Bowdon. A Choice Media production.

Production support by the Association of American Educators and National School Choice Week.

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EIA Report: NEA Spends $18.8M on Advocacy Groups

We found this over on the AAE’s Blog. Ever wonder where the NEA spends its plundered treasure? Find out below! Fair warning, your eyes might bleed and your head might explode.

The Education Intelligence Agency, a popular education research blog run by union-watchdog Mike Antonucci, has analyzed the NEA’s 2010-11 financial disclosure report and discovered that the largest teachers union in the country has given nearly $19 million of teacher dues, some collected by force, to advocacy groups and primarily left-leaning causes. Up $5 million from the previous year, the NEA has increased their advocacy spending despite a climate of declining membership and harsh budget realities.

In examining these groups and figures, it is critical to distinguish the fact that this money is not from the separate NEA political action committee, rather directly comprised of NEA membership dues. Despite claims from the union that member dues stay local, the complete list speaks volumes about where member dues are going in a difficult economy.

Among the shocking contributions, financial support was given to groups that advocate for a national popular vote, socialized medicine, several gay rights firms, and an organization that advocates for easier paths to citizenship.

In addition to these advocacy groups, millions of dollars were given to campaigns to stop ballot initiatives that blocked policies such as school choice as well as emergency dollars to states like Wisconsin and Ohio, to preserve forced dues. In Florida alone, the NEA sent $800,000 to Fair Districts Florida, $500,000 to the Florida Education Association PAC, and another $851,000 in financial assistance to FEA, outside of its yearly subsidy.

Regardless of the fact that polls find NEA members have diverse political views, often leaning conservative politically, the astronomical amount of money the NEA spends on partisan political issues is shocking and offensive to millions. Others have no idea they are paying hundreds a year to fund these partisan causes that fuel a union agenda with tentacles reaching into nearly every hot button social issue. Political leanings aside, the NEA claims to have a mission that exclusively supports teachers. How does funding these causes and advocacy groups advance and support educators as professionals?

It is imperative that teachers everywhere understand where their hard earned money is going. NEA members across the country directly support these groups through their dues, despite what local union representatives tell unsuspecting teachers.

At AAE, we are proud to stand in stark contrast to the teacher unions. As a non-union, non-partisan organization, we operate on a lean budget designed to exclusively spend membership dues on liability insurance, legal protection and other professional benefits. We do not support partisan politics and do not take positions on issues unrelated to education. Know where your money is going; let your colleagues know they have a choice. Join AAE today.

The full list of contributions directly from teacher dues is as follows:

400% Is Too High – $50,000

AFL-CIO – $2.2 million ($1.2 million member communication research and strategy, $1 million legislative policy development)

AFSCME – $20,000

American Rights at Work – $10,000

America Votes – $1,721,000

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education – $74,000

American Constitution Society – $10,000

Americans United for Change – $30,000

America’s Families First – $3,150,000

Center for American Progress – $25,000

Center for Economic Organizing – $25,300

Center for Law and Education – $25,000

Center for Tax and Budget Accountability – $20,000

Center for Teaching Quality – $318,848

Center for U.S. Global Leadership – $10,000

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – $50,000

Class Size Matters – $25,000

Clergy Strategic Alliances – $21,000

Coalition for Our Communities – $700,000

Coalition to Save Our Constitution – $25,000

Committee for Children – $10,000

Committee for Education Funding – $19,913

Committee on States – $60,000

Communities for Quality Education – $1 million

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. – $170,000

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000

Council of Chief State School Officers – $50,417

Council of State Governments – $19,750

Democracy Alliance – $85,000

Economic Policy Institute – $255,000

Education Commission of the States – $60,000

Education Writers Association – $11,500

Educator Compensation Institute – $25,000

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – $200,000

Employee Benefit Research Institute – $7,500

Everybody Wins DC – $8,000

Excelencia in Education – $15,000

Fair Districts Florida – $800,000

FairTest – $35,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network – $7,500

Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development – $18,000

Good Jobs First – $15,000

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice – $250,000

Health Care for America Now! – $125,000

Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $10,000

Hispanic Institute – $50,000

HOPE (Yes on SQ 744) – $1,500,000 ($1,758,000 last year)

Human Rights Campaign – $5,000

Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $157,000

Initiative for Responsible Investment – $5,000

Institute for Educational Leadership – $5,000

Jobs with Justice – $10,000

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy – $11,700

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – $40,000

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $10,000

League of United Latin American Citizens – $70,000

Learning First Alliance – $22,800

Lincoln Center Institute – $75,000

MediaMatters – $100,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $10,000

Midwest Academy – $5,000

NAACP – $25,000

National Action Network – $60,000

National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education – $5,000

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education – $17,500

National Association for Multicultural Education – $5,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund – $12,500

National Black Caucus of State Legislators – $5,500

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards – $10,000

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation – $22,500

National Conference of State Legislatures – $40,946

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education – $400,373

National Immigration Law Center – $5,000

National Indian Education Association – $19,900

National Jewish Democratic Council – $5,000

National Labor College – $17,881

National Pan-Hellenic Council – $50,000

National Parent Teachers Association – $6,250

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa – $10,000

National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000

National Women’s Law Center – $10,000

Netroots Nation – $24,999

New Democratic Network – $15,000

New Organizing Institute – $10,000

New Teacher Center – $333,834

North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools– $200,000

One Nation/TIDES – $250,000

Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $10,000

Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $45,000

Patriot Majority PAC – $200,000

People for the American Way – $128,050

Pew Charitable Trusts – $5,000

Phi Delta Kappa International – $50,000

Progress Michigan – $10,000

Progress Now – $125,000

Progressive Future – $100,000

Progressive Majority – $46,625

Project New West – $333,498

Rainbow PUSH Coalition – $5,000

Rebuild America’s Schools – $60,000

University of Colorado Boulder Sponsored Project – $250,000

Republican Main Street Partnership – $20,000

Ripon Society – $10,000

Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000

Rock the Vote – $80,000

Saving First Things First – $50,000

United for a Fair Economy – $12,000

United for Missouri Priorities – $250,000

University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability – $25,000

U.S. Action – $80,000

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition – $15,000

U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $31,004

Voter Activation Network – $71,900

VoteVets.org – $270,000

WAND Education Fund – $15,000

Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation – $167,336

Washingtonians for Education, Health & Tax Relief – $750,000

Will Steger Foundation – $10,276

Win Minnesota Political Action Fund – $50,000

Women’s Voices, Women Vote – $50,000

Youth Service America – $20,000

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Wisconsin Teacher Stands With Courage

We were sent this today and feel it is a story that everyone should hear. It represents exactly what this group wants teachers to do. Elijah Grajkowski is a teacher from Wisconsin, this is his story. His email is listed at the end of the article, if you have the time, send him a few words of encouragement.

My experience with WEAC and why I’ve chosen the non-union option

If the teachers union is as wonderful as it claims, then it should have no problem attracting members, without the need to force teachers to join. How is this any different from any other professional organization that teachers, as professionals, may choose to join? It’s a question I have been pondering since I became a public teacher in Wisconsin.

For years, I have chosen not to be a member of the union. However, this is a choice that I didn’t exactly have before Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill went into law. As a compulsory union state where teachers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the most I could hope for was a “Fair Share” membership, where the union refunded me a small portion of the money that was taken from my paycheck that lawyers have deemed “un-chargeable.”

Every September, after lengthy, bureaucratic and unadvertised hurdles, I would file my certified letter to try to withdraw my union membership. Then, they would proceed to drag their feet in issuing me my small refund. I often wondered why this kind of burden would be put on an individual teacher like me. Shouldn’t it be up to the organization to convince people and sell its benefits to potential members afresh each year? Why should I have to move mountains each fall to break ties with this group that I don’t want to be a part of in the first place? Something seemed dreadfully wrong with that picture.

As a public school teacher in Wisconsin, I’ve thought critically about many unfair policies concerning the teachers union. Why is Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) granted special access to my paychecks through the school district, when other professional groups don’t have this privilege? Why should payroll clerks in school district offices do the job of collecting union dues money and then cutting and sending the union their monthly checks (all on the taxpayers’ dime)? Do other organizations get this privilege? If not, why not? What would happen if I went to my administrator and negotiated my own deal for my own salary and benefits? Why can’t I do this? Maybe I would be able to negotiate something better for myself. I don’t know, as I haven’t been given the chance.

I allowed them access to my paychecks so that they could turn around and tell me just how bad I had it. It’s their job to encourage unrest, discontent and unhappiness amongst the rank and file; this is how they justify their existence. In my opinion, this has encouraged adversarial interactions with administrations. This is not how I want to live my life while being a teacher. I wish to be thankful and grateful about what I have, and realize that there are people out there paying taxes to support my position and benefits. Many Wisconsinites don’t have the salary, security or benefits that I have. I’m really in no position to complain.

All this past spring, I sat watching and listening to Wisconsin teachers and others protesting, shouting, chanting and skipping school to protest in Madison. This is not a group that I wish to be a part of, nor do I wish to be represented by a group who endorses or engages in these kinds of tactics.

Now that I don’t have to pay my “fair share” of union dues, I have been informing my fellow teachers about the premier non-union alternative, the Association of American Educators (AAE). AAE is not a union — it’s a professional, nonprofit organization. The AAE model sees to it that I am fairly and accurately represented via their membership surveys and protected via an individual liability insurance policy and legal counsel. They don’t support partisan politics or issues unrelated to education and their dues are a mere fraction of WEAC. With AAE, I feel like a professional educator, not a union worker that is forced to pay excessive dues and contribute to controversial issues that don’t reflect my beliefs.

This school year, we must let the teachers unions sink or swim on their own, along with the multitude of other professional organizations that teachers can choose to belong to. Now that WEAC no longer has a money stream funneled from legions of Wisconsin teachers, they will have to compete for members just like every other organization. Whether this means downsizing or reducing costs, organizations will be held accountable to market forces. Examine the difference for yourself.

Elijah Grajkowski is a Wisconsin public school teacher. He lives in New Berlin and can be reached at grajkowe@att.net.

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Filed under Speaking Out, Teacher Unions