Kansas Teachers Opt Out of Big Unions
Teachers in tiny Deerfield, Kansas this fall are no longer members of the Kansas National Education Association and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. They voted to decertify in June and have instead joined a local-only teacher association.
In 2012-2013, KNEA and NEA annual dues were nearly $600, said Joel McClure, a lead negotiator for the Deerfield teachers.
“The more information teachers have about alternatives, truly professional alternatives, they don’t want to give their money to KNEA or NEA,” McClure said.
Only five teachers of the 27 in Deerfield had been speaking for all the others as the only certified union members.
“Frankly, we didn’t feel like the union was offering anything that we couldn’t provide for ourselves,” said Garry Sigle, executive director of the nonunion Kansas Association of American Educators, which helped the Deerfield teachers decertify.
Small and Local
Deerfield is one of three Kansas districts that have decertified from the KNEA and NEA. Approximately 15 districts have separated from the NEA across the country, according to the Association of American Educators (AAE).
“Only states without exclusivity in collective bargaining can effectively support alternative means of teacher representation,” said Mike Antonucci, publisher of the Education Intelligence Agency. “The practical and statutory hurdles are high. Deerfield and similar locals also benefit from being too small for the state and national unions to commit large amounts of money and resources to squash decertification.”
Deerfield educators, administrators, and education board members have a good relationship, McClure said: “With KNEA out of the way, the relationship should improve.”
Closer to the Kids
The change will benefit students by putting those in charge closer to their classrooms, Antonucci said.
“These [districts] are highlighting to other teachers out there throughout the state of Kansas there is another option,” Sigle said. “Teachers are now finding out that they don’t have to tolerate 15-20 percent of their teachers having total control.”
Local unions are “the power base of the entire union movement,” said Terry Moe, a Stanford University professor who studies unions. Teachers feel more tied to people they know rather than state union leaders with whom they often disagree politically.
“This is just a drop in the bucket for people who’d like to move away from NEA and AFT control,” Moe said. “We can’t engage in wishful thinking that this is a movement.”
Image by Innovation School.