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
) 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,
, 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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