Opinions / Op-eds

The Unseen Enemy of Children – Part II

The Teachers Union and the Fight for Education

The fight for sanity and common sense in our elections is going to start at the local level. There are many great teachers who have been called to teach children but are trapped by a union (Idaho Education Association) that they have nothing in common with. Their values are contrary to the values that the union espouses. On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in an epic 5-4 decision that mandatory dues as a condition of public employment, said the Court, violated First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association. Idaho law currently requires school districts to engage in collective bargaining with a teachers union if a majority of district educators select union representation. How about a fair election involving the teachers in every district?

Of the 117 traditional public-school districts in Idaho, according to the Freedom Foundation in Seattle, approximately 83 currently negotiate with a teachers union. Of the 83 districts with known teachers unions analyzed, at least 52 deduct union dues from educators’ paychecks and forward the funds to a teachers union. Over the course of a year, these districts collect about $4.4 million in dues from over 5,000 teachers, about $1.1 million of which is forwarded to the NEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and used to advance its political advocacy. The total cost to taxpayers of school districts’ dues collection for teachers unions could run tens of thousands of dollars. At least 51 school district teachers union contracts include release time provisions requiring taxpayers to foot some or all of the bill for teachers’ time spent out of the classroom while attending to union business during working hours. The total cost to taxpayers could easily exceed half-a-million dollars per year, equivalent to about half-a-dozen teachers working full-time for the union at taxpayers’ expense.

Let’s take a look at what is in the labor agreements of some local districts. Here is language in the Coeur d’Alene district in their labor agreement that is enforceable in a court of law:

Christ Troupis Book

“Section 4. CEA President Released Time

Beginning with the 2002/2004 school year, the CEA president or designee shall be released the equivalency of two day a week to conduct CEA business. The cost of the first 38 days shall be paid 100% by the district. Any days beyond that will be paid by the Association.”

Remember, the “Association” and the CEA (Coeur d’Alene Education Association) are the union. As you can see by the language the district has been paying a teacher up to 38 days a year to take care of union business for the last twenty years. Never mind about teachers taking care of business in the classroom and wondering about raising performance. If you thought the school board is running the district, take a look at the entire contract.

The Post Falls district also provides 36 days of leave for the union and in addition to the paid leave one day per month is granted to the PFEA (union) president to “attend to PFEA business”. Now what business does he have because here is the language in the labor agreement between the district and the union: “The District Administration Office will process payroll dues deduction for the unified dues of the PFEA, the Idaho Education Association and the National Education Association.” Isn’t that great, the collection of dues from the union is done by the district so the President of the union isn’t bothered by that while working away on their 36 days of paid leave.

These are just two examples from local school districts but you can find this type of language throughout Idaho and the nation. When you read about a “financial crunch” with the local school district read through the labor agreement with your neighbors and come up with some cost cutting suggestions. The union is not a friend of students, parents or education, rather they see themselves as “agents of change” by being the power brokers in the school district.

Here are some suggestions to advocate today by concerned taxpayers. 1) Demand an election to be sure the union represents a majority of the teachers in the district 2) Support a voucher type system similar to Arizona or South Dakota that empowers parents to choose the education for their children 3) Hold the school boards of the government run schools accountable that they retain the management rights to run the schools as they see fit (the union has the right to advocate for pay and benefits but that is all in the agreement) 4) All negotiations should be public and the labor agreement with the union presented to the public and not hidden.

The taxpayers deserve no less.

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