Employee Freedom Means Giving Teachers More Chances to Opt Out of Union

June 23-29 has been designated the first-ever National Employee Freedom Week. “National Employee Freedom Week is a national effort to inform union employees of the freedom they have regarding opting out of union membership and making the decision about union membership that’s best for them.” The Independence Institute is one of more than 40 organizations across the United States to join in celebrating the occasion. The following post is part of a series highlighting the issue’s impact in Colorado.

One thing we can definitely celebrate this National Employee Freedom Week is the fact that Colorado teachers do have membership options — including the right to join nothing at all. But in many cases, a teacher can’t always get out of the union when she wants to, or needs to, do so.

Look at the case of Ronda Reinhardt, a Denver Public Schools teacher who had to wait nearly a full year to opt out of her union membership. Why? Because DPS negotiated with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association that teachers can only stop their membership and dues payments between November 1 and November 15 — by going down to the union office during the (school) day and filling out some forms.

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New Phi Delta Kappa Poll Makes Case for Teacher Membership Alternatives

Update, 8/23: The new PDK poll isn’t alone in making the case for teacher alternatives. PACE membership director Tim Farmer makes a great case that “professional associations are the future of teaching” today on the Ed News Colorado blog.

The state of American public opinion on teachers and their unions, as reported in the recent Phi Delta Kappa / Gallup poll, suggests a strong value to giving our public educators not only professional membership alternatives (which Colorado law allows) but also the information to help them make wise and suitable choices (one of the main reasons for this website). A new release from the Association of American Educators explains:

Results of New Poll Confirm Need for Non-Union Teacher Organizations

Alexandria, VA — A survey released last week by Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup indicates that Americans overwhelming support teachers, but not teachers’ unions. Among the survey results 71% of respondents said that they have trust and confidence in America’s teachers. However, when asked about the teacher unions, 47% say they believe the unions have hurt education, compared to only 26% believing the unions have helped education. While the findings are nothing new to the growing number of teachers disenfranchised with their unions, it appears that the public has begun to draw a distinction between teachers, as individual professionals, and the actions of the teachers unions.

AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner commented on the national poll today, releasing the following statement:

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PACE Leader Advocates Professionalism, Down on Denver Strike Threats

Denver education officials recently averted a strike by the local teachers union, which had made veiled threats of a walkout during the tense standoff. But in a letter published in the Rocky Mountain News yesterday, Dr. Kris Enright – the leader of another organization teachers in Colorado can join – advocated for a different approach:

The Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE) believes that strikes and boycotts are detrimental to students and to the reputation of teachers as professionals. While we do not provide “envelopes of cash.to buy doughnuts for teachers passing out fliers,” we do provide advocacy, protection, and professional development resources (i.e., scholarships, classroom mini-grants, partnerships, and sponsorships). We actively support a variety of personal professional development and educational advancement initiatives which will improve teachers’ skills, their knowledge, and ultimately their profession. Such should be the primary purposes of an educator association.

Education is indeed a calling. However, professionalism is a choice.

Therefore, we applaud DPS professional educators. We encourage them to remember why they teach and hope they choose to “focus on the kids.” After all, the behavior of one teacher or a group of teachers reflects upon us all.

To be fair, Colorado’s teachers unions also provide legal protection and some avenues for professional development. But it’s a much smaller piece of what they do. PACE has a narrower focus and much smaller dues because it does not participate in collective bargaining or political campaigns.