Sunday, September 12, 2010

Correction to Myth of the Evil Teacher Union

Back in March and April, I wrote a six part series on the Myth of the Evil Teacher Union (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI), and in the sixth part I tried to explain that the reason the Democratic party gets money from the dues of teacher unions is simply because the Dems court the teacher unions with policies that are friendlier to public schools. If you'll forgive me for quoting myself, I wrote "That’s not because the NEA, or our state branch, the OEA, or our local branch, the CEA, is in bed with the Democratic Party. It’s because the party wants our votes more and is willing to side with us in order to garner those votes. We’re not in bed together. The union is single and dating, and the Dems keep asking us out." I stand by that part of the argument.

But my initial premise was flawed. It seems I, too, had been duped by those peddling this particular myth about teacher unions. My teacher union doesn't give any of my dues money to support political candidates, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise. As the past-president of my local chapter, Carol Phillips, pointed out to me, money that supports candidates only comes out of the OEA-PIE, a separate political action committee. If teachers want to make donations to that fund, they can. If not, it does not affect their union membership. That contribution is above and beyond the dues we pay. So union members concerned about the political leaders who tend to be favored by the majority of the union can see to it that not a single red cent of their money goes to a candidate they don't like. They can prevent that by simply not making that contribution (and the contribution is opt-in rather than opt-out, to minimize any pressure to donate). Personally, I do make the contribution. I trust the delegates who run the political action committee (Carol Phillips is one of them) to choose to support candidates who advocate its stated goals. They seek to:

» Support recommended candidates and issues that are critical to children and public education.

» Work for adequate and stable school funding.

» Give [members] a voice in the future of education.

» Allow [members] active involvement in education decision making.

Those things are all important to me. To return to my original point, I don't think any of those goals should be particularly partisan. If a Republican candidate shows they will work harder for stable school funding, or for making sure that educators are involved in crafting education policy, they will get the support of the OEA-PIE. I expect most teachers would not only be satisfied with that, but would be pleased to have both parties trying to one-up one another to claim the mantle of the most pro-public education. If the myth persists that the Democratic Party receives too much support from the teacher unions, that's not the fault of the Democratic Party, or of the teacher unions, but of the individual Republican candidates who haven't been vocal enough in their support of public schools to steal some of that support away. If, on the other hand, the myth is that the financial support comes from member's dues, then some of the fault for that misconception belongs to me for repeating the lie. I acknowledge my error.