published Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Union fails teachers

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.

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rolando said...

What?? Without teachers' [and other public] unions, we would have quality education [and whatever]. Can't have that, can we. Those poor people [including union officials] would have to go on food stamps/unemployment/etc. They already are? Oh. Never mind.

November 11, 2012 at 5:22 a.m.

Ah, somebody's upset that the Teacher's Unions donated millions to political campaigns. While completely failing to mention how many hundreds of millions were poured into various political campaigns across the country from a variety of other sources?

When are you going to get upset about the other donations? Oh wait, you aren't. You won't even mention them.

Here's the difference between the Teacher's Unions and those donations: The Teacher's Unions have votes open to their members.

But how dare a Teacher's Union have interests and spend dollars upon it! Money is not speech! Oh wait, wait, didn't you get the memo from your Supreme Court decision?

Nah, let's give Corporations free reign while getting hysteric over the evil unions. Oh wait, that measure FAILED in California, because people realized exactly what the intent was.

Silencing unions while letting Corporate interests have free reign.

Do you think we're still dumb?

Apparently you think that the elected leadership of the NEA is somehow WORSE than the McMahon, Romney, Trump or other interests?


rolando, unions have a specific duty to their members. Why are you upset about this? Is it because you resent the fact that teachers and other individuals value how they are treated, and want appropriate compensation, while recognizing that in order to have appropriate bargaining power, they have to act in concert?

Is it upsetting to you that people recognize the strength in cooperation?

November 11, 2012 at 11:39 a.m.
chet123 said...

Another Page from republican play-book.......

who are you fooling?....

November 11, 2012 at 1:51 p.m.
nucanuck said...

rolando, would it be fair to assume that you favor ending all government related retirement programs? How would that work for you? Were you a member of a government union before retirement?

November 11, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

PET is independent and non-partisan? Who are you trying to fool with that nonsense? Most of the advocacy papers on their website exclusively provide supporting "evidence" from right-wing sources. The posts from executive director J.C. Bowman read like they are coming straight from this side of the newspaper - which is probably why he was invited to speak at a meeting of the the Chattanooga Tea Party last year.

Shame on the liar who wrote this piece!

November 11, 2012 at 3:11 p.m.
GeometryGil said...

Twice the insurance sounds nice, but look at PET's own website. Their policy is reimbursment only if they win their case in court. Not many teachers could afford to pay legal fees "up front." TEA has stood by our teachers for many years and will continue to do so for many years to come. Furthermore, no TEA or NEA dues money is used to support political causes; PAC money is voluntarily contributed. Finally, TEA is much more than just an insurance policy. It is a professional organization which provides quality professional development and services to its members.

November 11, 2012 at noon

November 11, 2012 at 4:14 p.m.
aae1049 said...

AlmostAmanda, Why would you convey untruths? The Tea Party and Pachyderm don't invite people based upon party affiliation. That is not true. It is issue driven. EPB's CEO and the Substantial Development Director for the City have spoken to these groups, and I don't deem them conservative.

Good business decisions have no political party. If the insurance is a better deal, then buy it. Right or left. Your attempt to make this a partisan issue is just wrong.

J. C. Bowman speaks everywhere. I heard him at Lee University. Why are you attacking him with untruthful information?

November 11, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

I returned home from my fourth war campaign to find this city in economic ruin. On Veteran's Day, you chose to provide this disgusting editorial insulting teachers. Our city is desperate for adequate education. Public education is the only practical answer to our commercial needs.

Of course, the Free Press' position is that we should be too selfish to pay for education.

No editorial on war. Insults about education. The continuum of intellectual failure continues from the Republican party.

Guess why you lost the election. No one wants or needs a bunch of haters who choose to be ignorant. That's what's become of the Republican Party. Changing that starts with you.

Happy Veterans Day. Tennessee has had Soldiers deployed every day since 9/11. Hope you enjoyed your day off from thought in editorializing.

November 11, 2012 at 5:51 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

I'm attempting to make this a partisan issue? Did you read the editorial?

PET's advocacy bulletins reference primarily conservative organizations, Mr. Bowman's editorials do have a conservative spin, furthermore a Google search shows numerous articles and organizations which promote him as a "strong" or "outspoken conservative." PET is neither independent nor non-partisan. They are a conservative teachers organization. That's not making the issue political, that's being honest.

November 11, 2012 at 6:11 p.m.
aae1049 said...

If the insurance is a better deal, it becomes a business decision vs. a political decision. Could care less, if PET is not wasting membership dues on their pet organizations, that is good, isn't it?

November 11, 2012 at 7:33 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

The insurance isn't a better deal as GeometryGil explained. And it is political when PET is advocating positions from a highly conservative standpoint while falsely claiming neutrality. There's also the matter of how much, if any, of their money is being spent for Mr. Bowman to go on mostly conservative speaking engagements all around Tennessee. Of course, that's a matter for their membership.

November 11, 2012 at 9:36 p.m.
FreeTeacher47 said...

Hey, GeometryGil...having happily been a PET member for 16 years, I think about all the money I've saved, support I've received, and values I share with my association. And PET just admits that after a certain point teachers are reimbursed for legal fees, where TEA does EXACTLY the same thing. TEA just won't admit it.

And 328Kwebsite...Why is it that every time ANYONE denounces or disagrees with TEA, they are "attacking" teachers? Those who took a stand in the legislature to support new thinking and giving ALL teachers a say in their profession were vilified and denounced as being against teacher's rights. Puh-leeze. Oh, and I might add that as a Vietnam Vet, I can say that you've got it wrong and you are a biased "hater" yourself. This is no attack on education, but a reproach to a left-wing teacher organization, TEA. Happy Veteran's Day, brother.

Oh, and AlmostAmanda, anything to the right of TEA's positions must be conservative. Seriously, why are you attacking conservative teachers? Don't we have a right to our own organization? Thank God that in Tennessee we do! Maybe you prefer that we be like the other states that require teachers to join the Union.

And to the Times Free Press...Thanks for letting folks know about the existence of PET. I've heard the organization is growing exponentially since the new law in Tennessee allows for professional organizations to have equal access to teachers. TEA no longer has a grip on the throat of communications to and with teaches. Once teachers learn about Professional Educators of Tennessee, they are fully informed and can make an educated decision. And TEA absolutely hates this.

November 12, 2012 at 1:16 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

FreeTeacher, I certainly hope you don't teach reading comprehension because you clearly need to work on yours. Can you point out where I attacked conservative teachers, stated that there shouldn't be a conservative teacher's organization, or suggested that union membership be mandatory? I have no problem with PET as an organization or conservative teachers. I have a problem with PET and this editorial painting it as politically neutral when it, by your own admission, is not.

November 12, 2012 at 5:05 p.m.
eiela1980 said...

"Instead, NEA leaders allot these funds, taken from membership dues, in order to promote their own political agenda." Inaccurate. NEA's spending is directed by almost 10,000 representatives from local affiliates around the country at their annual meeting. Who decides the causes PET supports? NEA's PAC funds come from donations teachers contribute, NOT their dues.

"Associations like the Professional Educators of Tennessee are working to more effectively protect the rights and working conditions of educators." Please give an example of one bill PET has promoted that improved the rights and working conditions of educators. Class size? Planning time? Duty-free lunch time? All of those were pushed by TEA. TEA had representatives at every meeting concerning the new evaluation system to share members' views. Did PET?

"TEA's radical liberal agenda." Here's TEA's legislative agenda, which is adopted by vote during its Representative Assembly. It doesn't look too radical: "Daily planning time for all educators within the instructional day. Adequate funding for necessary instructional supplies and equipment."

Liability insurance: Using liability insurance is actually VERY rare. What teachers use MUCH more often is legal assistance. When a TEA member needs legal help, TEA has experienced education lawyers that can assist them at no cost. From PET's website: "Our employment rights insurance reimburses up to $10,000 in defense costs if the member is successful and up to $1,000 regardless of the outcome." $10,000 in defense costs is not very much for a complicated, lengthy case. A divorce can cost that much! TEA members do not have to come up with the money up front and wait to be reimbursed.

November 12, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.
TruthInEd said...

eiela1980: I did some research too here is what I found out. You are using old information. 2 items, Professional Educators have a legal staff in house. Not only do they use an outside firm like TEA, but they also have in-house counsel. I believe the General Counsel’s name is Michael Sheppard. I called and talked to him at their offices today. Also are you not required to join the local union, the TEA and the NEA…all three? Are the dues not really closer to $600? And hasn’t the NEA just changed their insurance policy this year? I think easiest thing to do would be to compare the two policies and let teachers decide, which policy is best.

The limits of liability on the PET policy are $2,000,000 per member per occurrence and $3,000,000 per occurrence (if more than one member is involved), plus defense costs. Civil rights cases are covered within the above limits. There is no policy aggregate defense limit. I believe the NEA policy the limits of liability on the TEA policy are $1,000,000 per member per occurrence not to include any civil rights issues or claims; $300,000 per member per occurrence for civil rights issues or claims and not to include any other claims; $3,000,000 per occurrence aggregate for all claims, including civil rights and civil rights claims. In the legislature last year I believe both organizations agreed that both organizations had great insurance coverage, so let’s be fair.

You criticize PET for not being at the bargaining table, but isn’t it true most contracts that the union has with school districts keeps them from the bargaining table? And there is no doubt that the union has embraced a decidedly left agenda. A Wall Street Journal editorial noted, the union's financial disclosure forms "expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students." The NEA has long known that its political expenditures don't reflect the views of its members. According to the NEA's own "Status of the American Public School Teacher 2000-2001," only 45 percent of public school teachers are Democrats. But the best place to learn about the NEA is here, not from the union themselves.

I have no problem with you extolling your organization, but why do you always have to tear down another organization that works so hard for Tennessee teachers and students. They are at the capitol during legislative sessions working hard for all Tennessee teachers, even those who don’t share their values or agree with them.

TEA’s dominance is history. Professional Educators of Tennessee’s era has just begun. After all, isn’t it time for all public school educators to collaborate for the good of the children and the profession? Have a great day.

November 13, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
FreeTeacher47 said...

@AlmostAmanda: The last time I checked, Professional Educators did not endorse or give money to even one political candidate or political party. Sounds like that is neutral to me, doesn’t it you? Also,I can assure you that my comprehension skills are excellent...especially when I read that which is well written.

November 13, 2012 at 2:47 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Well FreeTeacher, can you use those excellent reading comprehension skills to show me exactly where I attacked conservative teachers, suggested they should not have an organization that represents their interests, or that union membership should be mandatory? Or could you just admit that you accused me of posting something I didn't?

Financial contributions and endorsements are only one way for an organization to demonstrate their political sway. As I've mentioned, PET's own website shows that they cite numerous conservative sources to support their issue positions, their director is positively promoted on a number of sites as a solid conservative, and they take a largely conservative view on a number of issues. There is nothing wrong with that, but why pretend to be neutral when they are clearly not? And before you respond, please remember that this is an organization you defended by asking me, "Don't we (meaning conservative teachers) have a right to our own organization?"

November 13, 2012 at 4:58 p.m.
TruthInEd said...

Amanda: I am confused here. So, if someone is conservative and works for or is a member of an organization that organization is conservative? So does that mean that the TEA is a Liberal Organization? And no doubt, lots of NEA leaders were at the National Democratic Convention, some estimates say 1 in 8 were union teachers. I would ask the same question the other lady asked: Professional Educators did not endorse or give money to even one political candidate or political party ever. Sounds like that is neutral to me. I thought that was your complaint. I say they are neutral just like the editorial said.

November 13, 2012 at 6:07 p.m.
rolando said...

To answer your first question, nucanuck, I see no connection with the article. Retirements were not mentioned.

To answer your second, no I wasn't a union member. And never will be...they have already destroyed everything they "support". Their time has come and gone.

So how are things up in Canada?

November 15, 2012 at 4:21 p.m.
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