I have never been an advocate of strikes, particularly in the public sector.  Beginning last year, and in recent days, several media outlets have contacted our organization about “teacher strikes” in Tennessee.  Members of our organization have always believed that educators have the right to teach without being forced to join any particular organization, and that strikes or work stoppages are detrimental to children, parents, the community and the profession. 

Strikes are rooted in the erroneous Machiavellian belief that the end justifies the means, it is also emphasized in the works by Saul Alinsky.  Most educators understand the important role that our public schools play in society.  In many cases, public schools offer the critical support necessary to maintain student health, nutrition, and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions.  This includes many children living in poverty, and those who are homeless. Professional activists and agitators that urge educators in our state to strike do not care about these children, and truth be told, have little concern for the professionals in our classrooms. 

The former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, an ex-union organizer wrote in a Washington Post editorial that a teacher strike hurts families and kids.  He said: “under today’s circumstances, a strike isn’t what we need to improve our schools.”  He is correct.  A strike is a throwback to an archaic factory model of governance.   More importantly, public servants usually have a higher expectation associated with their trusted role.  Governing magazine’s Heather Kerrigan points out: “Teachers, firefighters, and police are the public workers who people feel a lot of empathy for because of the challenges of their job.”  She adds: “I think that public opinion and tolerance level for public-employee strikes is probably fairly low.”   

So, as you read or hear buzzwords like “collective action,” “sickout” or “strike,” remember that it is critical we avoid alienating the public.  The old expression rings true: “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  However, we can and must inform citizens through a more positive means about significant issues impacting our public schools and the children we serve.  Educators do need to be more vocal about spending priorities at the federal, state and local levels.  It is why educator associations like ours are vital, and why we have been engaged in the debate. 

Tennessee has made tremendous investments in public education in the last decade.   Not including new investments projected by Governor Bill Lee in his new budget, Tennessee added $1.5 billion in new dollars to public education from 2011 to 2019 under Governor Bill Haslam.  There is still much more work to do.  We must continue to invest in our educators and teacher assistants, and critical school staff, making sure those dollars reach their pockets.  We must work to reduce testing and give districts other options to measure student achievement.  We still need to work to create a simpler and more fair evaluation system.  We must address student discipline issues that are spiraling out of control.  We survey our members on a regular basis and these are issues of importance across the state according to educators in Tennessee. 

However, it really does not matter our opinion about strikes:  Teacher Strikes have been illegal in our state according to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) since 1978.  In TCA 49-5-606., Unlawful Acts include that it is illegal for educators to engage in a strike.  In addition, it is illegal to urge, coerce or encourage others to engage in unlawful acts as defined in this part.  The next section of the law 49-5-60., Strikes – Remedies offers more clarity:When local boards of education have determined which employees have engaged in or participated in a strike, the employees may be subject to dismissal and, further, shall forfeit their claim to tenure status, if they have attained tenure, and shall revert to probationary status for the next five-year period. Any professional employee who engaged in, or participated in, a strike and who is not a tenured teacher may also be subject to dismissal.

Public education in Tennessee wins when we all work together through civil discourse to address our considerable issues.  Education is the great equalizer for all children in the state.  Passionate and effective teachers, principals, and superintendents must lead with creative solutions to problems, and not with outworn strategies from the industrial age. In the 21st-century, we must be policy driven, mindful of economic concerns, providing realistic answers to difficult challenges.  Adversarial tactics spurred on by outside groups, with dubious agendas, simply will not benefit Tennessee educators or children.       

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical” is a quote usually attributed to Thomas Jefferson, which surfaced in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. James Madison and George Wythe also championed the statute. Wythe was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Madison later played a critical role in drafting the U.S. Constitution and our Bill of Rights. No doubt that concept was prevalent among our founders.

That position has been one of my guiding principles, as both a classroom teacher in public schools here in Tennessee, and now as the CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Our members continually reiterate to us they do not want their dues money going to political candidates or parties, nor do they want us in the endorsement business. We respect that position. We work with legislators regardless of their political affiliation, and that has helped us build bridges in addressing key education issues.

This election cycle we have already seen an influx of unaccountable cash, known as dark money, which pours into our state. The Nashville Scene’s Steve Cavendish did an excellent article on the subject of dark money in politics. Frank Daniels III, formerly of the Tennessean, also did a terrific analysis. Daniel’s conclusion: outside money hurts more than it helps. Daniels wrote: “Tennessee voters were not swayed by big spending outsiders.” It is worth noting the message the outsiders bring is almost always negative. The point raised by Cavendish was: “If you don’t think this is an erosion of democracy, you’re not thinking about it hard enough.” Cavendish referenced Walmart and Microsoft billionaires, as well as unions, as the main culprits. We agree.  The formula is simple:  Dark Money + Union Money = Corrupt Politics

Our commitment to our members is simple. We are completely funded by the dues of our members. Our members are educators from the state of Tennessee. No other teachers’ association in this state is as well-respected in the legislature as Professional Educators of Tennessee for what we stand for, and how we go about our business on our member’s behalf.

When we take our message to policymakers, they understand this: we fight for public schools, because we understand the historical and philosophical basis of why public education exists. If public education is to continue to be successful, it will take all the policymakers and stakeholders working together. And we want to be the educators voice in Tennessee.  We are not a state chapter of a national organization.  We are created by, and for, Tennessee educators.  Our focus is on Tennessee.

We encourage our members to register to vote. We encourage them to vote. We encourage them to campaign for the candidates that reflect their values or beliefs. What we will not do is tell them who to vote for in this or any other election. A strong public education system is a key to our state, a foundation to build our economy, and the means by which we can help all Tennessee children achieve their dreams.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

The-House-Always-Wins

I have grown fatigued with blue ribbon panels or listening tours.  I have never found either strategy very useful in formulating public policy.  Especially when that policy is agenda-driven, with pre-determined outcomes.  I am also not a gambler (sorry Kenny Rogers).  I understand that the house always comes out the winner in the end. A casino has a business model premeditated to ensure its success.  Much like a blue-ribbon panel, or a listening tour.

From a political standpoint, why would the state of Tennessee try to conduct a listening tour at this time?  We are in the middle of election season and the Governor is in his final days.  What more can he add to the education debate after 8 years, that he hasn’t already tried?  All stakeholders want to get testing right. We have already had an Assessment Task Force, which has done a pretty good job of collecting input and holding serious discussions.  The state has already been engaged in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration of tests.  We have already gathered feedback on the delivery of state assessments.  We simply have not executed the plan.  There are just a few vendors across the nation who have the resources and ability to be selected as the state’s next assessment partner.  We have been through several of those vendors already—and were disappointed by those results.

If the state wants to discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments, then we better figure out how to get the results back to those in the classrooms capable of making better academic decisions for students. We will want to provide baseline assessments of learning/study skills, identify areas of potential academic concerns, highlight learning strengths/weaknesses, and provide effective and efficient strategies in getting academic intervention when needed by students.  This is something unlikely to occur on a listening tour and is already known by the K-12 Community.

We can and should discuss the value that assessments can provide.  We must also discuss how the emphasis on testing is missing the bigger issue:  student academic growth measured by flawed testing.  Then the results being used in educator evaluations.  This is certainly more problematic to educators than the actual tests themselves.   It should be problematic to parents as well.  When two superintendents raised the testing issue and requested a pause in testing, Commissioner McQueen correctly pointed out that as a condition of receiving federal funds, the feds through Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires state education agencies to implement statewide assessments.  Many states exceed federal requirements.

McQueen pointed out that “both state and federal law require an annual statewide assessment.” So, if we want a discussion on testing perhaps we should be directing at the Federal Branch as well?  Should we not also look at our ESSA Plan while doing this pointless tour?  The initial ESSA plan was based on feedback from thousands of Tennesseans over the course of a year.

How did we get here?  With an infusion of $501 million federal dollars of Race to the Top money our state hurried to increase standards by adopting Common Core, which was soon corrected by moving back to state standards. We then increased testing, changing both format and frequency. Tennessee also adopted new evaluation methods. The teachers’ union supported the incorporation of TVAAS data into the state’s teacher evaluations, which landed Tennessee $501 million from the federal Race to the Top grant in 2010.

Former Governor, Phil Bredesen, said that former Senator Bill Frist had contributed a lot to the state’s proposal, but that his own role in persuading the Tennessee Education Association, a teachers’ union, to sign on had been important, too.  

So, how do we get out of this mess?  It probably won’t be the result of a listening tour.  And our next Governor had better put forth policy ideas pretty quickly, or he will be saddled with an unworkable plan right out of the gate—just like Governor Bredesen and Governor Haslam.  The people who got us into this mess, probably aren’t the people to get us out of it.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

 

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In April, 2018, Professional Educators of Tennessee raised the issue on Testing, with a hard-hitting editorial called the Trouble with Testing. Now the Superintendents of two low performing districts, Shelby County and Metro-Nashville Public Schools are eliciting media attention by challenging testing across the state. Welcome to the club.

Testing has taken a wrong turn in public education. I have always tried to keep it simple: testing is like your school picture; it is what you look like on that particular day. Kids go in to take a test. Teachers show up to make sure kids are taking their own test. Parents encourage their children to do their best. However, like Ozzie & Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, and the Lone Ranger, those days are gone.

With an infusion of $501 million federal dollars of Race to the Top money we hurried to increase standards by adopting Common Core, which was soon corrected by moving back to state standards. We then increased testing, changing both format and frequency. Tennessee also adopted new evaluation methods. The teachers’ union supported the incorporation of TVAAS data into the state’s teacher evaluations, which landed Tennessee $501 million from the federal Race to the Top grant in 2010. Professional Educators of Tennessee did NOT support the use of that data on teacher evaluations, nor did they sign a support letter on the original grant submission.

Not everything Tennessee tried was damaging, but it is not debatable that, thus far, the Age of Accountability has failed students, teachers, parents and taxpayers. Since 2012, Tennessee has had one misstep after another in testing. In 2013, our tests were not aligned to our standards. In 2014, the issue was transparency, notably quick scores and test score waivers for final semester grades were the major issue. In 2015, the new TNReady online tests had issues in the post equating formula. In 2016, we fired the vendor, Measurement, Inc. because after the online platform was botched, they were unable to get out a paper version of the test. In 2017, we were again plagued by issues due to scoring discrepancies. This year 2018, had issues related to testing, including the belief by the testing vendor, Questar, that the Questar data center was under attack from an external source, although it is never thought that any student data was compromised.

At no point since 2012 were any of the testing issues the fault of students or educators. However, for educators, they are often the ones who bear the brunt, quite unfairly, of parental anger. Students also suffer, with everything from loss of instruction time to not understanding their educational progress. When we make education decisions on the basis of unreliable or invalid test results, we place students at risk and harm educators professionally. This is especially unfair to the hardworking teachers in our state. To policymakers and stakeholders alike we must ask these questions:

  • Why are we relying so heavily on test scores to make important educational decisions about students, teachers or schools, especially when the process is flawed? For example, when officials thought the Questar data center was under attack from an external source, there should have been no greater priority by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to identify and prosecute those individuals guilty of this activity and confirm that no student data was compromised. Fortunately, there was no attack.

  • Should we question the reliability, validity, and accuracy of testing in Tennessee since 2013? Especially when shifting between online to paper tests? Note: Reliability relates to the accuracy of their data. Reliability problems in education often arise when researchers overstate the importance of data drawn from too small or too restricted a sample. Validity refers to the essential truthfulness of a piece of data. By asserting validity, do the data actually measure or reflect what is claimed?

In Tennessee we appreciate straight talk and candor. We unquestionably detest hypocrisy. We understand mistakes are made by individuals, by companies and even by our government. We are not pointing fingers, just stating a fact. Clearly there is a problem with testing in Tennessee. It isn’t our students or our educators. It is a flawed testing system.

Shawn Joseph and Dorsey Hopkins timed the announcement of their joint press release well. A sitting group of mostly outgoing legislators were at the Capitol at the time to discuss education. It is also political season. Their joint letter will momentarily take the attention away from their own issues. However, we welcome the discussion. Unfortunately, simply offering the much-ballyhooed solution of another “blue ribbon” panel to discuss the testing issue is a mere diversion. For teachers, thank Race to the Top which was supported by the previous Superintendents of Shelby County and Metro-Nashville Public Schools and the teachers’ union. I wish both men had offered a solution. We will help you out- Eliminate TVAAS data from teacher evaluations. That would an enormous leap forward.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

The Godfather Logo

When the Janus Decision came out we knew that the unions would pull out all the stops to keep from losing members.  This is very much true.  In Tennessee, the National Education Association (NEA) affiliate is one of their least profitable and losing members the quickest according to this 2016 article.   The latest tally may even bode graver for the union affiliate.  In Tennessee, the union affiliate has lost a self-reported 34.3% of their active members.

The NEA employs more than 500 people at its Washington, D.C., headquarters; the average salary is $123,613 plus benefits.  All told, NEA’s payroll for 2016 was just over $68.6 million for 555 employees — an average of $123,613 per worker.  By comparison, the average 2016 teacher salary of $58,353.  Tennessee teachers earn much less than their national counterparts.  It is unknown what teacher union bosses earn here in Tennessee, or how lucrative are their benefits.

Mike Antonucci, the foremost expert on teacher unions in the United States wrote a detailed article The National Education Association — a $1.6 Billion Enterprise With a Red-Ink Problem.   Antonucci wrote: “NEA and its affiliates are cumulatively in what accountants call balance-sheet insolvency. In consumer terms, it’s as if your mortgage and credit card debts are larger than your net worth, but you can still make your monthly payments because you haven’t lost your job.”  Whether or not that is the case in Tennessee is not known.

Recently, two candidates for Governor, Beth Harwell and Craig Fitzhugh were endorsed by the National Education Association affiliate in their parties primary.  Both lost decisively at the bottom of their primary.  In fact, the union squandered significant dollars in losing efforts across the state.  This is very problematic for all teachers who get painted with the liberal brush of union politics across the state.   The candidates who won will likely not look favorable upon public education after being targeted by the teacher union.  And it makes our jobs even more difficult.

The Tennessee Star correctly pointed out at the time of the Harwell endorsement: “high opposition to TEA money and influence among likely GOP primary voters, Republican candidates who have accept financial support and endorsements from TEA can certainly expect their opponents to use that information in campaign attack ads — if they are considered to be competitive.”  Republicans like Barry Doss and Tim Wirgu who took the teacher union money lost, and Gary Hicks narrowly won.  State Senator, Ken Yager, received $5,000 to his political action committee, Keypac.

However, political donations only tell part of the story.  In Tennessee, high priced strategists and companies also were paid significant dollars from the union PAC:  Counterpoint Messaging, Spry Strategies, Direct Mail Services, DirectFX, Graphic Creations were among them.  The Heartland Accountability Project in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa received $44,000.  Heartland targeted Senator Brian Kelsey, Senator Todd Gardenhire and Senator Reginald Tate in the past.  Heartland Accountability Project is listed as a client of Evolution Strategies, along with the National Education Association and Phil Bredesen.  It is an interesting circle.  Follow the money.  Then draw your own conclusions.

Teachers unions consistently rank among the top spenders on politics. Their goal is not improved public education, but rather power, money, and influence.  Leo Doran a reporter for InsideSources wrote in How Liberal Politics and Teachers’ Unions Got So Entangled: “Experts long active in the upper echelons of education research and policy-making say that the politicization of the teachers’ unions has gotten more intense in recent years.”  Doran then adds about the teacher unions that the structure of the unions “make their lobbying platforms susceptible to mission creep. The end result, however, is a Gordian knot of politics and labor battles that have ensconced the teachers’ unions…”

For groups like Professional Educators of Tennessee, it is simple.  We must advance public education without the divisive tribalism of partisan politics, and we will only get involved in education related issues.  The union never stops in its quest for power and control over public education.  We must keep that from happening.  In the movie, The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone lets someone know that the man is now in the Godfather’s debt.  He tells the man, “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me.”  If a candidate for political office takes political donations from the union, assume they are bought and paid for.  The question is:  when will the politician have to pay the debt?

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Race to the Top 2

Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said in an interview that Republicans like former Senator Bill Frist had contributed a lot to the state’s proposal, but that his own role in persuading the Tennessee Education Association, a teachers’ union, to sign on had been important, too.

I was able to get the T.E.A. to accept some things that probably a Republican wouldn’t have gotten done,” Mr. Bredesen said.

Source New York Times

 

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I recently read a fantastic editorial by political strategist and analyst, Steve Gill, on the National Education Association, The Californication of the Teachers’ Union.  The article sheds much light on the union, the amplified influence by more liberal state affiliates like New York and California of the National Education Association, which makes them “loyal foot soldiers to advance liberal extremism.”  Mr. Gill makes a compelling case, and it is well worth the read.  I would have added:

  1. NEA and its affiliates had money difficulties well before the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. As Mike Antonucci writes: The union “ability to adapt to a new environment depends less on their political and organizing skills and more on their willingness to reform themselves financially.”  So, why are union bosses seeing their salary continue to increase?
  2. Teacher Unions continue to put roadblocks in place to prevent their members from exercising their freedom of association. Often, they will use any legal means at their disposal to combat members who want to resign. Take, for example, the difficulty in terminating automatic drafts to pay membership dues. Unions often place a narrow window of opportunity for employees to drop union membership and escape the requirement of paying union dues or fees. For educators, that date may be limited to summer months and are designed to be inconveniently timed for members. In addition, unions blatantly will contribute to political candidates.
  3. When it comes to a private entity making a killing from public education, the teachers’ unions have the market cornered. The next time you hear a union boss talk about “privatizers” who seek to profit from public education, point out for them that “union leaders neglect to point out that teachers’ unions are themselves de facto corporations, though with a difference: all their income—money they get from teachers, voluntarily or otherwise—is tax-free. No teachers’ union—or any union—pays a penny in taxes.”  As teachers’ union watchdog Mike Antonucci writes, “The NEA sinks lots of money into mutual funds, which invest in big corporations, including “AT&T, Verizon, Target, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, Coca-Cola, Philip Morris, Microsoft, Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and Aramark.” The NEA “invests in 9 of the 10 richest corporations in the United States,” added Mr. Antonucci.
  4. Four unions combined to spend more than $1 billion on political activities since 2012, according to federal labor filings. Those four are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), National Education Association (NEA), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). This is a conservative estimate on public-sector union spending, since they do not count the spending of local unions or state chapters on such activities. Nearly all of the unions’ federal political contributions went to Democrats or advanced liberal causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Stan Greer who analyzed federal labor filings which disclose how much unions spend on political activities at the federal, state, and local level for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) wrote:  “Big labor is increasingly turning its focus away from workplace matters and more and more towards buying political influence.” No surprise.

The NEA’s unification policy, which means all members are forced to pay dues to the national association, effectively killed the independence of the local and state associations.  While national union bosses thought it would be a media coup to highlight their most recent convention online.  In reality, people got to see a group of very angry people often focused on issues completely unrelated to public education, mad that they lost compulsory unionism. Mickey Kaus, a blogger and the author of “The End of Equality,” and former Democratic candidate for U.S. senator from California, wrote: “the answer of most union leaders to the failure of 1950’s unionism has been more 1950’s unionism.” Most educators are not buying into a more militant, progressive labor movement beholden to the far left.

Educators nationally often spend hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of dollars per year on union dues.  There are much more cost-effective alternatives, like Professional Educators of Tennessee.   That is what makes groups like Professional Educators of Tennessee different.  We offer a modern approach to educator representation, legal protection and unmatched educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.  There are non-union alternatives for educators in other states as well.  Nobody wants to return the 1950’s.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

img_20180422_212449-1394880902.jpgAs professionals, our members are committed to supporting quality public education and the professional rights and obligations of the education community. Our members set the policy and priorities of  our association to meet the needs of Tennessee educators. Working in partnership with parents, business, community and government, we provide the programs and services that enable educators and schoolchildren to achieve their highest potential.  Professional Educators of Tennessee was created by Tennessee educators for Tennessee educators.  Our focus is the state of Tennessee.      

From professional development to information on the latest education trends, we offer a myriad of resources to help you in and out of the classroom. For over 39 years, Professional Educators of Tennessee has been serving great teachers across the state of Tennessee.  Our members have often been  at the forefront of education in the state.

As the fastest growing teacher association in the state, we know that our members can be catalysts for innovative solutions to the many challenges facing education.  We look forward to creating mutually beneficial partnerships to rethink curriculum, offer professional development, develop sound policy and improve educational environments and outcomes for students across Tennessee.  We have great legal services and member benefits as well!

Protecting your career is just as important as protecting any other life investment. That’s why we provide eligible members a superior protection package to protect you in the classroom with $2 million worth of liability insurance with access to our attorney’s that are available by phone, e-mail or fax during normal business hours.  In fact, we will gladly compare liability policies with any education organization serving teachers in the state. You can join for $189 a year, not over $600 like a union, with a national agenda.  Keep in mind we do not endorse or contribute to political parties or candidates with your dues. We are not a union.  

We work year-round as a professional, positive voice focused on uniting educators in support of an exemplary public education for every student in Tennessee.  We know vitriol and anger only hurts public education and never solves problems.  We understand in order to create a more effective system that provides the basic academic skills necessary for success in life for our students, that we must all work together. Education is a parental right, a state and local responsibility, and a national strategic interest.

It would be our honor to serve you.  Check Professional Educators of Tennessee out at www.proedtn.org

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Supreme-Court

The United States Supreme Court has been busy this week.  I have only been focused on the Janus Case.  The justices ruled 5-4 to prohibit unions from collecting fees in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31. The justices also ruled that workers must affirmatively opt into the union before fees can be taken out of their paychecks.

It will effectively break the cycle where government unions can collect compulsory fees from government workers and then use it to help elect pro-union politicians to achieve and maintain political power — who then empower and enrich the government employee unions.  Think about this for a minute, the unions were arguing in this case: “that government has a duty to financially prop up a private enterprise.”  “In what universe?” the Supreme Court Justices must have thought.  The legal rationale was questionable at best.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in the majority opinion and addressed that directly: “It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from nonmembers and transferred to public-sector unions in violation of the First Amendment. Those unconstitutional exactions cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”  Justice Alito then added: “We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

The opinion added: “The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

The Tennessee branch of the National Education Association is already saying the ruling will not impact them.  They have already lost almost 35% of their members in the last five years according to the Education Intelligence Agency.  However, the Janus ruling will have an indirect impact, as the unions will have fewer resources, and will undoubtedly be focused (in the short-term) on simply keeping the members they have. The NEA has projected a loss of some 307,000 members over two years if the Janus decision went against public-employee unions, with an expected $50 million two-year budget cut, or 13 percent.  Today’s decision will ultimately reduce the political activity of public sector unions.

Referenced by the Education Intelligence Agency, former Tennessee Education Association employee and Uniserv Coordinator Chris Brooks wrote about the unions: “Many state associations are run by their staffs. Rarely do they engage in meaningful fights at the school or district level. Annual lobby days mobilize a tiny fraction of members. Teachers and school support staff feel only loosely connected to the union.”  Brooks’s former union bosses cannot be happy with his comments.  However, it proves that educators need more effective voices and other organizations to speak up for their interests.

“The unions will call this tortious interference with their business expectancies. Disinterested people will call it an affirmation of individuals’ constitutional rights” according to Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist George Will.  No American worker should be forced to become or remain a union member. People should be free to join, or not join any organization or union they want, without losing their job or be forced to pay for political agendas with which they disagree based on political or ideological purposes.

The Janus Decision will not create drastic structural changes to unions.  It will simply make them more accountable to their own members.  And in the case of teacher unions, this greater accountability should focus on making the quality of education front and center, help public education rebuild support from the public for issues like raising teacher pay and school funding, and work for the common good of all students and educators. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.  The Supreme Court Decision in the Janus Case was the right thing.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.