Proposals Target UEA/Public Schools
In a letter to legislative leaders dated July 14, Education Interim Committee Chairmen Sen. Howard Stephenson and Rep. Bill Wright requested permission to add three issues to the Committee’s priority list: the elimination of collective bargaining for public education employees; prohibiting public employers from collecting union dues from workers’ paychecks; and “tuition tax credits” for private schools.
Sen. Howard Stephenson
A Salt Lake Tribune article quoted Sen. Stephenson as saying his request is “absolutely not” taking a shot at teacher unions.
UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh disagrees. “Not since the voucher battle in 2007 has public education faced so many attacks. The actions being studied by the Education Interim Committee are part of a concerted national effort to privatize our public schools. Our teachers should be treated with dignity and respect, yet these proposals are clearly directed at silencing the voice of teachers and weakening their association.”
Despite opposition from minority party members, all three issues were added to the Committee’s priority list.
“These proposals do nothing to improve education for our students,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “We will stand firm in our resolve to support measures that make a difference in our classrooms and oppose these misguided attacks on our careers and our rights. We urge parents, policymakers and politicians to work with teachers as we seek legitimate ways to improve teaching and learning for all students.”
Educators view collective bargaining as a platform for collaboration between teachers and school boards. It’s a way to get all voices at the table. Removing collective bargaining would effectively remove the teachers’ voice from discussions involving not only salaries, benefits and working conditions, but also those policies that impact teaching and learning in the classroom.
A handful of states have recently attempted the elimination of public sector collective bargaining rights. The result has been rallies, sit-ins, recall elections, lawsuits, frustrated public employees and utter chaos in those states. Even proponents are hard pressed to point to a single non-political positive result from those attempts.
“Teachers should have a clear voice in determining policies that impact their jobs and their students’ learning environment. Collective bargaining ensures this voice,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “This effort tells teachers they don’t matter. Politicians supporting this agenda demonstrate a clear lack of respect for the teaching profession and a lack of understanding the role collaboration plays in student success.”
Payroll Dues Deduction—
The July 14 letter said “the Committee will study whether to prohibit a public entity’s payroll system, or a public education entity’s payroll system, from collecting union dues.”
As a ‘right-to-work’ state, UEA members join their Association voluntarily. Payroll dues deduction is a voluntary method of dues payment that allows members to belong to their professional association with a simple means of payroll deduction in the same way other organizations, such as the United Way, use it.
“The only purpose for eliminating payroll deduction (of Association) dues is union busting,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “It’s an attempt to silence our voice as teachers and an attack on our schools and our careers.”
Tuition Tax Credits—
“Tuition tax credits are nothing more than another name for vouchers,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “It’s a way to shuffle taxpayer money to private schools.”
In a July 19 Salt Lake Tribune article, Utah State Board of Education member Kim Burningham was quoted as saying, “public schools should be improved as much as they possibly can be rather than plopping money into private schools. I certainly hope, if they’re going to have a study, that they’ll have a truly independent study that will involve diverse points of view rather than just a reflection of what Howard Stephenson may think.
“We know the public was overwhelmingly opposed [in 2007] to the funding of private schools by using government money,” Burningham said. “I believe they still would be.”