Non-Union Kansas Teacher Groups Try for Equal Snow Fort–Er, School–Access

The last couple days I’ve been pretty busy playing outside, given all the snow we’ve been covered with here in Colorado. You should see the snow fort my friends and I put together in my backyard. We’ve set it up so no one else can get in — especially icky girls! If you try, beware of a barrage of icy cold snow balls!!

Apparently, that’s kind of like the attitude many teachers union officials have about schools. They’re a little more sophisticated about it, of course, writing rules that keep competing professional associations outside school walls so teachers can never hear from them. An almost-hot-off-the-virtual-presses School Reform News article by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow tells how some teachers are urging Kansas lawmakers to change the policy:

Ryan Noel just wanted his fellow teachers to see him receive money for his classroom. But teachers union officials in Valley Heights, Kansas, barred him from receiving the award at school, because it came from Noel’s new, non-union professional organization, the Kansas Association of American Educators (KANAAE).

“Here’s someone giving to education to help students, yet the strong arm of the union was really not willing to allow that to happen,” said Noel.

This February, more than a year after the incident, Noel testified in favor of House Bill 2221, legislation that would guarantee Kansas union and non-union membership organizations equal access to school mailboxes, bulletin boards, e-mail systems, and meetings. Currently, unions get priority and can muscle out competitors.

That certainly sounds unfair, doesn’t it? I can see why it’s hard for groups to let go of control and share access to the different ways teachers can be reached with information. Here in Colorado a lot of the same policies exist that make it more difficult for hard-working educators to know about their membership options.

An interesting side note? The executive director of the Kansas Association of American Educators quoted in the article was interviewed for an Independence Institute podcast nearly four years ago. Garry Sigle told the story of how he and other teachers in Riley, Kansas, decided to secede from the National Education Association.

Here’s hoping our neighbors to the east can break the barrier and set the example for some other states. Some union officials may want to take cover in their forts and pelt other teacher groups with snowballs for daring to come near, but I think my mom just happens to be right on this one.