(Lori Piotrowski) – On Monday, the Association of American Educators released survey results from a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll showing that 71% of Americans support and have confidence in teachers. The same poll shows that these same Americans have a low opinion of teachers unions. In addition, 47% of survey respondents claim that unions have hurt education.
Gary Beckner, executive director of the Association of American Educators (AAE), commented on the national poll, saying, “Americans are beginning to realize the disconnect between teachers and unions.”
We wondered whether this poll result would ring true to Nevada teachers, so we asked several conservative teachers what they thought.
Jim Blockey, a local educator and author of Teachers… It Ain’t Your Fault, disagrees with Beckner, saying, “People may believe that they recognize the difference between the teachers and the teachers union; but their actions do not support that belief. For 20 years, I have heard how great teachers are and how we are the most underpaid, under-appreciated profession in the world…. But the second their child has a problem in school, the first person they attack is the teacher. I have seen this happen hundreds of times. So this poll is about as reliable as saying ‘the check is in the mail.’”
In the release, Beckner continued, “Teachers are not synonymous with unions, as union leaders would have you believe; rather, they are individual professionals with ideas to bring to the education dialogue that will aid in student learning and the American people are taking notice. Because of the unprofessional tactics and support of left-wing causes, teachers are fleeing the unions and seeking alternative organizations that will better represent them as professionals.”
Scott Austin, another Las Vegas educator, is a member of the AAE as well as the Clark County Education Association (CCEA).
“Most of my colleagues who do not belong to the union belong to AAE, and a few teachers like me belong to both. My impression of the public’s take on unions is that they do serve a purpose. Public sector managers have the same tendency toward abuse, tyranny, and harassment as in other occupations, and therefore people do not begrudge anyone the right to freely associate with groups like the CCEA/NEA. I would consider myself a staunch conservative, and choose to belong to the NEA (National Education Association, of which CCEA is a member).
Blockey acknowledged that other teachers organizations exist, “but they have little or no impact. I know of no support organizations for teachers that would be large enough to make even a dent.”
On the Clark County Education Association Web site, the CCEA claims to represent 12,000 teachers, providing “a cohesive network of support to all educators in Clark County, and that the CCEA “represents their best interests as employees of the Clark County School District.”
The Association of American Educators claims to be the largest national, non-union, professional educators’ association, and it does not endorse, support or contribute to any political cause or candidacy.
CCEA claims that it is the “exclusive representative for all Clark County licensed personnel employed or to be employed by the school district.” Although the CCEA site does not explicitly state whether it supports specific candidates, its officials and members of the union do actively participate in political issues. CCEA president, Ruben Murillo, tweeted on March 19 that the CCEA endorsed Chris Giunchigliani for Las Vegas mayor.
Beckner concluded by urging educators to move out from the auspices of the typical teachers union: “Clearly as respected professionals, teachers should distance themselves from the self-serving interest of labor unions and align themselves with an organization that respects their true priorities.”
Both Blockey and Austin echoed that thought.
Austin said, “Of the 12,000 or so teachers who belong to the CCEA, perhaps only 600 or so of them actually vote. Consequently, we end up with a fringe element representing us.”