Where Do School Board Candidates Stand on Collecting Union Political Dues?

We are now well into the silly season of school board campaigning, but the union leaders displaced from Douglas County sure are taking matters seriously. More than a year ago, the American Federation of Teachers lost its monopoly bargaining power when the collective bargaining agreement expired.

But as the Colorado Observer reports, their union rivals at the Colorado Education Association sure have their eyes on the prize. An email from the CEA’s vice president tried to drum up support at a recent rally protesting against the pro-reform school board.

Meanwhile, one of the union-backed Dougco school board challengers stated last week that he wanted to bring union leaders back to the table. The next day, at another event, he sought to clarify that he wasn’t “talking about a collective bargaining agreement.”

One point I would really like to see clarified concerns the school district’s 2012 policy to stop collecting union dues, after they discovered less than 1 percent of the $1.3 million went to local professional development. Is that one of the items the anti-reform board candidates would want to include at the (apparently non-binding) negotiating table?

A month before the DCSD board adopted that policy, the national AFT sent a loud message of “solidarity” against the threat of its lost district-collected revenue. If leaders in a district like Douglas County don’t pay a political price for no longer acting as our collection agent, union leaders must reason, how many others might stop the machine?

Of course, all 40 unionized Colorado school districts serve as union collection middleman. Yet even among non-union districts, Douglas County is the exception rather than the rule. More than just highlighting DCSD’s work of building a better education model, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow’s latest paper also found that about 80 percent of the state’s non-union districts also collect union dues.

How does collecting dues for union political action affect (real or perceived) conflict interest with an elected school board? How does it benefit students and the educational mission of a school district? Those are a couple questions I’d like to see many school board candidates answer, and not just in Douglas County.