Denver Teacher Finally Able to Exit Union, But Happy Ending Isn't for All

I have a (sort of) happy ending to a story shared here back in April. Though she had to wait nearly a whole year, Denver teacher Ronda Reinhardt finally was able to exercise her right and revoke her union membership.

In many Colorado school districts (including Denver), a teacher who wants to exercise her right to leave the union can only do so during a brief window of time and under certain conditions. These opt-out periods vary from district to district. As Ronda’s experience highlights, many teachers don’t know about the restrictions until they want to quit and find out it’s too late.

Tim Farmer from the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE) shared the account of Ronda finally being able to exercise her choice:

As if the burden to cancel wasn’t difficult enough, the union insisted that Ronda travel to their office to do it person. Her attempts to cancel over the phone or through e-mail were denied. Once at the office, a union leader appeared to ask her why she was cancelling. After providing her explanations, the union leader tried to convince her that she should feel lucky to be in a state that allows her to cancel at all. You see, many states require the payment of union dues if you want to be a teacher.

Ronda didn’t feel lucky. She felt like she had been taken advantage of by the very group that purports to be looking out for the interests of teachers.

“One can’t help but feel like all they are interested in is your money,” she said after the experience.

Only interested in a member’s money? Based on what the National Education Association’s latest IRS filing shows about the union’s financial challenges and the continuing need to exert political influence, the only surprise might be that they let teachers out at all. In the competing values of individual rights and administrative convenience, it’s clear to see which side Colorado teachers union officials come down on.

Anyway, a lot of customers might find it easier to get out of a cell phone contract. Too bad the Colorado legislature rejected House Bill 1333, the recent attempt to fix the problem by requiring that teachers be allowed to join or leave a membership organization at any time with 30 days notice. So other educators out there still await their chance at something resembling a happy ending.

Besides the fact Ronda finally was able to get out, the only bright spot I see is that Denver’s opt-out window falls in November, not July — the only two-week period in which teachers in Clark County, Nevada, can bypass their summer vacation to leave the union.

Given the significance of this week, I guess Colorado teachers have to be thankful for tiny favors.