Union members have a right…to their paychecks
One of Mike’s failed predictions for 2011 – that Michelle Rhee would embrace paycheck protection as part of her ed reform agenda – is still a worthy idea for StudentsFirst and other education advocacy organizations in 2012. These laws require members of teacher unions to give their express consent for the union to use their dues to make political contributions.
Teachers do not speak with one voice on political issues, even when it comes to K-12 policy. The “new normal” of tough budgets exposes how the incentives of newer teachers differ from more experienced ones, and new organizations like Educators 4 Excellence (which just opened an LA chapter) fight for a political voice for them that is independent of the union establishment. Last election, the Ohio Education Association actually attacked the husband of one its members in vicious television ads, using the teacher’s own dues to finance them.
Teacher unions are among the most powerful political actors in America on a wide range of issues (just ask Terry Moe, Paul Peterson, or Mike Antonucci). It’s not a given that that should be so, however, or that union intervention in partisan elections is always (or even often) good for teachers as a whole. Rhee and other education reformers would do well to add paycheck protection to their toolkit of reforms to increase parent power over education policy – and protect the rights of teachers to spend their paychecks on political issues they believe in, not on the agenda of labor leaders.
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Chris Tessone was a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Director of Finance of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He has strong interests in governance and education finance, especially teacher compensation and school facilities finance.
May 16, 2013