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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Spearville teachers drop union

  • A group of teachers from Spearville’s Unified School District 381 have left the state’s largest teachers union, the Kansas National Education Association and have signed on with the Association of American Educators, a non-union teachers' organization.The move by Spearville means that, instead of using a K...
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  • A group of teachers from Spearville’s Unified School District 381 have left the state’s largest teachers union, the Kansas National Education Association and have signed on with the Association of American Educators, a non-union teachers' organization. The move by Spearville means that, instead of using a KNEA local to negotiate their annual contracts, teachers may create a bargaining unit unaffiliated with state or national unions. KANAAE, the state affiliate to the teachers' organization, does not engage in collective bargaining. A local union representative from the Spearville district could not be reached for comment. Garry Sigle, Executive Director of the Kansas branch of KNEA’s non-union rival, the Association of American Educators, or KANAAE, said he viewed the vote as a move in the right direction. “They’re better served because everybody now has an opportunity to provide input as opposed to those who just join the union,” Sigle said. KANAAE is a professional teachers’ association that claims to offer a lower-cost alternative to a union. It also claims to avoid partisan politics and offers an individual insurance policy with comprehensive liability and legal protection, services that had also been provided by the union and the main reason teachers joined unions, Sigle said. KNEA spent $18,185,565 on primarily left-leaning political causes in 2012, according to the political spending website OpenSecrets.org. It spent an additional $6,579,747 on "outside spending," political expenditures made separately from candidates’ committees through party conventions or so-called "super PACs," for example. Independent expenditures from the union included $1,965,924 for Democrats, $0 against Democrats, $631,887 for republicans and $3,850,426 against republicans. The shift by Spearville teachers may have been aided by the passing of the "Equal Access" bill during the 2013 legislative session. The bill, HB 2221, prevents school boards from granting unions exclusive access to teachers’ school email addresses, mail boxes and teacher orientation meetings. Sigle spoke in support of the bill, arguing that it allowed organizations other than the union to reach teachers, and was opposed by KNEA, which claimed the bill and Sigle's organization had anti-union aims. "Teachers are college-educated professionals who can be trusted to make their own decisions about which associations they wish to join," Sigle testified to the House Education Committee last year. "However, they can only make educated choices when their options are presented to them fairly. HB 2221 empowers individual teachers to make professional decisions about which education employee association best fits their priorities. In my experience, teachers welcome having an option." Secondary science educator Claudia Boyles of Holcomb, USD 363, echoed Sigle in her own testimony to the committee. “This bill would allow educators around the state the opportunity to hear about their options as well,” Boyles said. “I am excited to have found KANAAE and now don’t have to pay for political activity that I am not aware of or do not support. It also empowers me and other education employees to make financial decisions that best fit our budgets and beliefs.” The vote came on Wednesday and marked the fifth Kansas school district in the past year to decertify from the union, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The other districts are Caldwell, Deerfield, Rolla and Vermillion. Spearville employs around 30 teachers and the four districts that have decertified in the past year have about 145 combined. Christopher Guinn contributed reporting to this story

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