Last month, I had the honor of standing with my union to oppose HB 418 before the House Labor Committee. This passing of this bill would eliminate the teachers, firefighters, and police unions from collecting membership dues through payroll deduction. Despite hours of testimonies from teachers, school superintendents, firefighter and police chiefs, and other taxpaying public servants, the House Labor Committee voted in favor of the bill. Common sense would say: The members of these unions choose to have their dues deducted from their payroll, so why is this an issue. The counter argument posed by Alan Seabaugh (R) on the House Labor Committee was: Union dues should not be paid with taxpayer dollars (like we’re not taxpayers). What’s wrong with having the dues drafted from the members bank accounts by filling out this simple form?
I’ll tell you why. As a public school teacher who is constantly bombarded by the state to prove that I do my job in six different ways, a simple form can be literally tip the scale.
By the way, that “six different ways” comment made in the previous sentence was not an exaggeration. We have student learning targets (SLTs) that we have to complete at the start of the school year, in which we administer a benchmark test to the students, and then use those results to predict what gains will be made at the end of the year. We have two formal observations throughout the year, and evaluations based on these observations. We are also expected to allocate 20 minutes of class time to Response to Intervention (RtI), in which the teacher works directly with a group of about four students, while the other 24 students are working independently on an assignment. Wait, let me restate that in a way that paints the picture more clearly. The other 24 middle school, seventh grade students are doing exactly what they’re told, and working on an assignment while the teacher pays special attention to a small group. Needless to say, in a best case scenario RtI can be a beautiful thing, but in a typical low-income populated middle school it can morph into a mental nightmare. Along with RtI comes progress monitoring, for which the teacher must test the small group students every two weeks, record the data from these test, and make a separate set of lesson plans to teach the small group. We also administer a DAZE, CARI, or DIBELS reading test three times a year which must be scored and analyzed. Finally, we have the godfather of test-mania, the PARCC, or iLEAP, or whatever the next assessment “savior” is that will rescue student achievement from the depths of idiocy.
If you read the previous paragraph closely, you may have noticed one thing missing–actual teaching. My students are so mind-numb from excessive testing that learning is a burden, not a joy. Sadly, teachers are feeling the same way about teaching.
As a public school teacher, I feel as though my voice is muffled by the heavy political donors of the state. Which is why I need my union to be a strong, well represented voice in the legislature. HB 418 took away my union’s option to deduct my membership dues from my payroll in efforts to weaken the membership of the union. I now have one more form to fill out, on top of the many other forms that legislators have tacked onto my profession and one more red number on my online banking statement.
The most disheartening aspect of HB 418 is that it costs the state nothing to allow unions to deduct membership dues from payroll. Our legislators have used taxpayer money to focus on taking away an option to pay dues to organizations that specifically exist to protect the workers that serve our communities.
Keep in mind that our systems work because of the workers, but if we allow legislators to continue to pander to wealthy donors instead of listening to voices of those on the front line the future of our state will be in extreme peril and we will fail as active citizens.