Douglas County Aftermath Means Time to Inform about Teacher Member Options

So no more union monopoly collective bargaining agreement exists for teachers in Colorado’s third-largest school district… Now what? Change certainly isn’t easy. And the group losing its prestigious status, in this case the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, isn’t just going to walk away quietly into the shadows.

The largest teachers union, NEA, already is experiencing a serious membership decline nationwide. So I’m sure national AFT leadership doesn’t want its largest Colorado chapter to set the precedent of surrendering exclusive bargaining authority, government dues collection, and taxpayer-funded personnel. In that sense, seems like they almost had to ask the state to get involved. What state officials opt to do is almost anyone’s guess.

I pointed out before that while taking such a bold step may be unsettling to some employees accustomed to old patterns and relations, that in the end Douglas County teachers will have both a less filtered professional voice and more effective membership options without a master agreement. Reporter Jane Reuter’s new story for Douglas County newspapers brings home that latter point quite well:

The dissolution of the collective bargaining agreement between the Douglas County School District and its teachers’ union alarms state union leaders, and excites another teachers’ organization.

The Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE), a non-union teachers’ organization, hopes the change may prompt some Douglas County educators to consider joining it. PACE doesn’t engage in collective bargaining, and its membership director says the group is nonpartisan. Its benefits include liability insurance, legal protection, scholarships and other professional resources for $15 a month. That amount is about one-third of the dues assessed by the Douglas County Federation, the union whose collective bargaining agreement expired.

“We think it’s good teachers are going to have more options for their professional associations, and we’re excited about that,” PACE membership director Tim Farmer said. “There are a lot of teachers who don’t know there are other organizations they can join instead of a teachers’ union.” [link added]

While some uncertainty remains in the aftermath of significant changes in Douglas County, it’s incumbent on us to do our part and help make teachers aware of their membership options to empower them as professionals. PACE is one such option, and it’s growing quickly in Colorado. As the article points out, the association promotes teacher voice without engaging in either partisan politics or bargaining.

On the other hand, through its connection with AFT, the DCFT engages in both. Currently, there is no option of a local-only organization that bargains but keeps member dues out of politics. Maybe a different kind of choice will emerge. But in the meantime, the more teachers making well-informed choices and the more teachers see excellence and professionalism rewarded fairly, the better.