Pa. teachers deserve accountability

For years, educators have joined teachers unions thinking their money was going to advance their profession. Unfortunately, the National Education Association and its state counterpart, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, have drifted from their original mission as a professional education association to a behemoth political organization that has lost its focus. Luckily for Pennsylvania teachers, a bill designed to protect the paychecks of hard-working educators is gaining momentum in the state legislature.

Paycheck protection, or House Bill 1507, is a policy that would prohibit unions from collecting dues via payroll deduction for political purposes. This policy provides a critical check on union power by ensuring that tax dollars are not used for partisan political activity and campaigns.

The fact that this situation even needs to be addressed is ludicrous. Co-mingling taxpayer resources and political campaigning often result in national scandal and jail time for the offending party. Why should the union be immune to this ethical standard? Once implemented, the legislation would remove the burden from the district of unfairly utilizing taxpayer-funded payroll services to bankroll union political activity.

Most importantly, this law would ensure that teachers and education employees are not paying for political activity they are not aware of or do not support. It's only logical and fair to allow teachers and other education employees to understand where their union dues are going. Unfortunately there are thousands of teachers in Pennsylvania who are unaware or misinformed about where their dues money goes.

As regional membership director for the country's largest, national non-union teachers' association, the Association of American Educators (AAE), I speak with teachers daily who are unaware of this injustice. The fact that union dues go to more than just benefits and services is not widely known. This legislation promotes fairness and transparency like never before in Pennsylvania.

As a non-union, professional organization, AAE was established, at least in part, by the fact that teachers were frustrated with their money going to partisan political causes or candidates. This legislation would allow teachers to make conscious decisions about where their hard-earned dollars are going. No educator should fund causes or candidates without their direct consent, period.

Furthermore, educators are often provided misinformation or experience intimidation when questioning what their union dues are funding. During my teaching career, I requested the audited budgets from the local, state and national unions. I was told that this information was either: non-existent, not allowed to be seen by educators, or was something that could only be reviewed if I were to go to the union offices and sit with an official to have the budgets explained to me. It was only after I did the research and threatened a lawsuit that I was given the information.

This process took over six months, and required certified letters, deadlines and numerous mailings each year I completed the requests. Finally, after the budgets were disclosed, I learned the hard truth about where union dues go. As part of the NEA's unified dues structure, every member, regardless of state, is paying for ballot initiatives and political groups that support issues like D.C. statehood, abortion and gay marriage. Regardless of a teacher's personal beliefs, contributing funds to these organizations do not help teachers in the classroom.

As I continued to demand information from the union I was paying monthly, I was met with hostility and misinformation every step of the way. This legislation frees school districts and administrators by providing educators with accurate information. Paycheck protection laws also increase fiscal accountability on the part of associations, a practice imperative to teacher freedom.

The fact is it's high time for teachers understand their options. If you are an educator or work in a school and are frustrated by the agenda of the PSEA, you have a choice in organizations. The Association of American Educators provides liability insurance, legal services, and professional development resources. We already serve hundreds of Pennsylvania teachers for a fraction of the cost of PSEA dues.

Take this opportunity to examine the difference for yourself. If the new bill passes, tax dollars will no longer be used to process payments for partisan issues, and it will cause teachers to evaluate their relationship with the PSEA. Professional educators deserve an organization that they can be proud of.

— Kristi Lacroix is a former public school teacher of fifteen years. She now serves as a regional membership director for the Association of American Educators.