Freetoteach.org, a new website created by the Pennsylvania-based Commonwealth Foundation, helps Pennsylvania teachers understand education unions and their rights when it comes to joining a union. It also provides a forum for teachers to share their experiences and opinions.
Although Freetoteach.org is geared toward Pennsylvania teachers, it provides valuable information for educators nationwide. For example, the “Teachers’ Bill of Rights” outlines principles for reforming labor policy in a way that puts teachers’ interests ahead of special interests. It also features links where teachers can get information about union laws for their particular states.
Ever wonder where union dues go? A large portion—45 percent—is spent on overhead, including paying for “luxury conferences, golf outings, and politics,” as well as cushy union salaries. National Education Association president Dennis van Roekel’s $460,000 annual salary is financed by teachers’ union fees.
Politics and lobbying are a major line item for teachers unions as well. As Freetoteach.org notes, the amount of union money spent on political activities and lobbying by the Pennsylvania Education Association has jumped a staggering 121 percent between 2007 and 2011. Teachers’ dollars support unions’ political preferences and causes regardless of whether teachers oppose such causes themselves.
Teachers in Pennsylvania can ask for a “refund” of their union dues on the basis of religious objections. But they are required to donate the full refund to a non-religious charity, which must be approved by the union. So union member or not, Pennsylvania teachers are forced to surrender a portion of their earnings every year to union control.
Freetoteach.org also explains the problems that labor contracts create for many teachers, especially those new to the workforce. Union contracts base teachers’ salaries on tenure and paper credentials rather than effectiveness. This means less pay for newer teachers—even if they are more effective than their more experienced co-workers.
Labor contracts also rule by “last in, first out” policy, which means that newer teachers are the first to go if schools are forced to make layoffs, even if they have excellent classroom performance.
Freetoteach.org supports alternatives to coercive union policies that go against the best interests of teachers and, by extension, students. It supports making union membership truly voluntary, eliminating forced dues, making union contracts more flexible, allowing teachers to be paid based on job performance, and protecting effective teachers from being let go. These standards promote an environment where teachers are “free to teach,” supporting the best interests of not only teachers but ultimately students.
Amanda Lucas is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.