Local teachers may no longer be forced to pay union fees

By  John Derby
Times Publisher
January 21, 2016

An ongoing argument between some teachers and the California Teachers Association (CTA) is highlighting the law which forces educators to pay union fees even though they don’t agree with the politics of the union.
Regarding “Friedrichs v. the CTA,” the Supreme Court appears ready to hand down a ruling which will change that law for the first time in 40 years. The justices are weighing in on whether compelled union dues violate the First Amendment.
In the past, the court has upheld the reasoning that teachers have to pay for the cost of union bargaining. The new opinion, which the court seems to agree with, states that any action by the teachers’ union is political no matter if it is involved in bargaining or lobbying for action being taken by politicians.
As one of the most powerful lobbies in the state, this could have a major impact on the future of the union by taking away funds which have been used to buy votes and to campaign with. Since the union has a long history of supporting Democratic Party policy, and Democratic candidates, the decision could affect future legislation.
Conservative groups have long argued that teachers unions have wielded too much power in the state legislature. Rarely have new laws found their way to approval unless they have support from unions.
We have for a long time questioned the amount of influence the teachers union has had on the laws regarding the number of school days, the length of school days, and the curriculum which at times seems to be in favor of the teachers at the expense of the student.
We also note that the state is rife with laws which make the cost of education more expensive than it needs to be.
For instance, when a school district builds a new school, it does not have the option of taking a plan which has previously been engineered and approved, over a brand new plan. This means the school district has to pay for large engineering fees when other states have found there were big savings in having standardized plans.
There are still many incompetent teachers teaching in our classrooms while administrators find it impossible to remove them from the classroom.
This is not to say our schools are made up of bad teachers. Most are very dedicated, but sometimes the more dedicated they are, the more they are subjected to rules which dumb down their class program.
Today we have standards which tend to dumb down the curriculum so every student can achieve. The problem is that not every school district is the same. We have school districts where more than 50 percent of the students do not speak English as their first language.
Is it fair to expect those schools to bring these students up to the level of children who are English speaking by birth?
We are not saying the student who is born speaking a foreign language is not as smart as the English speaking student. It does mean that their learning experience and program for learning is going to be different than a student with a fully English-speaking background.
There is one other thing which has changed in school districts in the past 50 years. Once the school district was in control of its program, and the teachers worked in unison toward achieving local goals.
When the state took over school financing, the schools became a battle field, and teachers unions had a field day --- many times at the expense of the students. To some extent that has moderated in recent years, but school districts still do not have the power to control what is best for their students.
Certain subjects like art and music have been given a back seat in relationship to other things like reading, writing and math. All of these are important and allow the student to grow up in harmony with their life. Taking art and music out of one’s life is like living without balance.
Why have these subjects been removed? All too often we are told that the school cannot afford them. What has happened since the old days when art and music were part of the regular curriculum?
We feel that it is time for teachers to speak out, but not be harnessed by the teachers union which does not represent everyone, and certainly has no business demanding fees from teachers who do not agree with union politics.

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