Twenty-seven states in America force their teachers to join unions before employment. These organizations are nationally-linked and politically charged, often directing money gained from membership dues towards political campaigns that do not represent the views or interests of their members.
Thankfully, Tennessee is not one of those states. Still, because of liability insurance coverage offered by the Tennessee Educators Association, many Volunteer State teachers join the state's teachers union, even if they don't want to. Fortunately, they have another option.
The TEA is part of a national network led by a single organization, the National Education Association. Operating in a top-down fashion, the head of the NEA makes the financial decisions for its smaller state affiliates -- often pouring millions of dollars backing controversial politicians and political schemes.
In 2011, the NEA gave more than $18 million to advocacy groups around the country. These giveaways of teachers' money include handouts such as:
• $25,000 to the controversial Democracy Alliance.
• $141,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
• $100,000 to the extremist Progressive Future Organization.
• $600,000 to the Fair Districts in Florida Organization.
• $250,000 to the liberal Economic Policy Institute.
• $200,000 to the pro-Democrat Patriot Majority PAC.
None of these associations have programs that meet the immediate needs of NEA affiliates.
Instead, NEA leaders allot these funds, taken from membership dues, in order to promote their own political agenda.
Teachers frustrated with the militant nature of labor unions or the political orientation of union leadership are finding more efficient representation in state-based associations.
Tennessee, like twenty-two other states, is a "right to work" state, giving its educators freedom from mandatory union membership and unified dues.
In these environments, independent and state-based associations, like the Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET), are rising to both improve the education system and to better represent educators in the workplace. Though not a union, the PET is a professional organization of almost six thousand educators in Tennessee.
Associations like the Professional Educators of Tennessee are working to more effectively protect the rights and working conditions of educators. PET intends, according to their website, to advance "the profession of education through teacher advocacy and professional development and to promote excellence in education for students." Membership dues go entirely towards accomplishing decided organizational goals within the state -- not national PACs or political campaigns.
The TEA charges Tennessee's teachers $258 in annual dues. For that money, TEA members get $1 million liability insurance -- and scores of dollars poured into divisive, extreme political projects and organizations. Dues for PET members are only $165 annually -- and PET provides twice the insurance benefits for teachers than the TEA. The difference in dues cost is related to the TEA's massive overhead expenses and outrageous political spending.
TEA members are not only being poorly represented, they are getting less bang for their buck.
For Tennessee's teachers who don't support the TEA's radical liberal agenda and want better liability coverage, PET sure makes a lot of sense.