What will get a new teacher in Washington State to willingly join the Teachers’ Union?
Yup, I dared to touch one of the third rails of public education — the Teachers’ Union. Let’s see if I’m still alive in the next few weeks or if I died by a thousand cuts from reader comments. But first, I want to say I am not anti-union. I do think unions need to adjust their services to members as society changes.
Over the last six months or so I’ve been trying to map out a way to make the Washington State public school system one of the best in the country. I’m not the first to attempt this and I’m certainly not the last. Just need to try in the glaring absence of actual leadership at the state level.
Anyway, the Washington Education Association (WEA) which is the state teachers’ union and the local district teachers’ unions play a huge role in how teachers are paid, managed (how teachers can be released from duty, how teachers can file complaints, etc.), how much they work and when they work. They do all the bargaining at the state and district level for these functions and the teacher are required to pay dues to the tune of about $730 per year for the service, which feeds the WEA about $25, 860,000 annually. Here is how the money is spent for the 2015-2016 school year according to the official site of the WEA.
|Implementing a governance process that fosters member participation and democratic decision-making through the Representative Assembly, Board of Directors, Executive Committee and other member/staff involvement in policy development. Includes membership communications on public policy and rebates to Councils to support such activities.||$39.26|
|Expanding and maintaining support systems for members, councils and local affiliates, including legal reimbursement programs that protect and enforce rights of members.||$32.34|
|Providing financial and membership management that ensures sound fiscal stewardship, human resource system to advance the work of the association, facilities operation that produces a clean and safe environment, and information technology tools that help leaders and staff communicate and work productively.||$93.09|
|Establishing a clear public image of WEA as an effective and responsible advocate for public school quality, enhanced student achievement, and producing communication vehicles for members, leaders and the public that provide a common understanding of our priorities.||$24.02|
|Assisting affiliates by providing UniServ Staffing Program, training tools and packages, and technical and financial support directly to councils, local associations and members.||$159.10|
|Providing assistance to members, councils, local associations and individual schools in developing and implementing strategies for member and school improvement through effective and best educational practices.||$29.83|
|Building visible and lasting bipartisan support from opinion leaders and policy makers for public education and the needs of our members.||$41.36|
|Paramount Duty Special Assessment.||$12|
Now we all know that currently if you want to be a teacher in Washington State, you pretty much have to join the union (except if one is a religious objector for instance), so it’s not like they have a choice at the moment. However, there are a number of states (Alabama and Wisconsin for example) where requiring teachers to join the Teachers’ Union was made illegal and it was reported that the membership dropped by 20-30% almost overnight. It’s just a matter of time with current lawsuits in play before union joining requirements fall in every state–including Washington.
When the day comes (and I predict within 3 years) that Washington can no longer require teachers to join the union, what will get a new teacher in Washington State to willingly join the Teachers’ Union?
I’m soliciting ideas here, not giving them (yet). So here are some questions for you to ponder assuming the state stepped up to set salaries (fairly of course) and management policies (with room for districts to apply local adjustments) so every teacher in our state would know what their rights are no matter where they work in the state:
- What if the WEA helped superintendents to
- restructure their schools so instead of being building administrators, principals are responsible for creating the environment to support teachers’ quest for excellence.
- set aside regular times for teacher collaboration?
- What if the WEA worked with colleges of education to
- help shape teachers programs to produce teachers who are ready for service in urban and rural areas?
- develop a proper apprenticeship program that will develop newly minted teachers more effectively?
- What if the WEA and the local union worked with teachers to
- develop teacher support teams within schools so they can be more like teammates instead of competitors?
When you think about these questions, please try to think about what CAN be, now what is. Don’t think about the current barriers or the brick walls made of flesh. Just act like we’re starting over to build something that really works to advance the professional development of teachers which will in turn advance the education of students.
If you are so inclined, please take a minute to post a forward thinking, aspirational, yet doable action.