Is Someone Ready to Take Care of Colorado Teachers' "Hotel California" Problem?

Quite awhile ago I highlighted the work of my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow discussing the issue of union revocation periods. What is that, you say? Well, teachers in 30 Colorado school districts (and other school employees in 11 districts) have just a short window of time to cancel their membership dues deduction.

You read that right. They can decide at any point during the year to start paying dues to a union. But if they wish to stop, they have to wait until the busy first two weeks of September or pay dues the rest of the year. If 148 school districts can accommodate requests throughout the year, why are employees in the rest accorded less equal treatment?

As introduced in an August 2010 article Ben wrote for Liberty Ink Journal, a one-time Denver teacher named Deb found out it’s not just the two-week window that imposes a burden:

After a few years of belonging to the union, she wanted to get out. To do so, she had to go in person to union headquarters during the first 15 days of November (Denver’s opt-out period is somewhat unusual). Deb endured a host of questions and efforts to persuade her to stay before completing the series of forms necessary to quit the union.

Later in the article, after also highlighting the tear-jerking story of Pueblo school librarian Becky Robertson, a non-union member who missed the deadline to opt out of mandatory union fees, Ben cleverly compared the union dues system to the “Hotel California” (You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!). Okay, not exactly “never.” But why does it have to be so terribly difficult?

Well, as interesting as the Liberty Ink Journal column was, I have to admit that Tim Farmer from the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE) did a superior job [don’t tell Ben!] in a posting yesterday on Ed News Colorado. A current Denver teacher explained her trouble opting to change professional membership when she missed the DPS November 15 deadline, which prompted Tim to write about the advice he gave her:

Unfortunately all I could say was that lawmakers and district officials have stood on the sidelines and allowed the union to take advantage of her. It’s absurd; it is easier to get out of a cell phone contract than the teachers’ union.

I’ve seen my parents deal with the cell phone company. I get the unpleasant picture. Maybe someone will finally do something to take care of this problem. Will Colorado be fair to all teachers, or will we let some of them linger in their own version of the Hotel California?