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Breath of Fresh Air: Teachers Stand Up Against Tenure Lawsuit, Union Bullying

It’s a special Friday. For various reasons, you probably have, or at least should have, other things to think about than what I might tell you about the world of K-12 education. But here are a couple observations to share that remind us all teachers are not in lockstep with a certain group’s efforts to focus on narrow interests and defending the lowest common denominator.

It was just two days ago I shared with you a few thoughts on tenure reform and how to avoid the munchkins. While Kansas is contemplating ways to weaken tenure, Colorado’s largest teachers union is fighting to strengthen the practice that often hurts students and costs taxpayers.

Thankfully, as a Westword piece by Melanie Asmar pointed out yesterday, some teachers do not agree with the CEA lawsuit and are willing to speak out about it:

Lisa Nicholson has been an educator in Jefferson County for fifteen years — thirteen of them as a classroom teacher and the last two as an instructional coach. While JeffCo isn’t experiencing the same issues around the implementation of Senate Bill 191, Nicholson has been paying attention to what’s happening in Denver. She’s opposed to the lawsuit because she doesn’t want to return to the days of direct placement. Nicholson says she’s taught with teachers who were placed — and it can be bad for kids.

It is refreshing to hear real educators serving on the ground, like Nicholson and DPS’ Zachary Rowe, debunk the phony arguments behind the union lawsuit. Kudos for their courage, honesty, and focus on students.

Meanwhile, a clip out of Maryland highlights how many teachers may like some aspects of the local association but would stand up against bullying by the bigger union machine. Later this month teachers in the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA) will be holding a vote to secede from their state and national affiliates. Union officials went beyond trying to persuade WCEA members to demonstrating obnoxious, intimidating behavior:

In response to the impending vote, loyalists to the state union secretly entered the WCEA’s offices, changed the locks and security codes, altered office equipment, and fired the WCEA’s sole employee, all in violation of the law and the governing documents of the WCEA, according to WCEA leadership.

This response is akin to the bully tactics of a neighborhood gangster after a local business misses its latest “protection” payment—but instead of “protection” extortion, the state union is ensuring that it won’t lose county teachers’ annual dues in excess of $500,000. It appears the MSEA is making an example of Wicomico Country teachers, lest any other small county teachers decide they don’t need to pay half a million dollars or more to a politically-charged, scandal-ridden state union.

The Net Right Daily story points to the example of Roscommon, Michigan, as a precedent for local teachers breaking free of the state and national organizations. But my Education Policy Center friends have compiled at least seven other examples of the local-only union approach.

Let’s be thankful for both the fresh spring air and the fresh air of freedom, and hope that Colorado union officials steer clear of Maryland’s example. Colorado teachers who have been afraid to speak out in the past should take notice.