By Ashleigh Costello
TOPEKA, Kan. – Lawmakers in Kansas are considering a bill that would prevent school districts from granting teachers unions exclusive access to educators.
The House Education Committee heard testimony Monday in favor of House Bill 2221, reports CJonline.com. Also known as the Equal Access Act, the bill would make it easier for nonunion professional education associations to interact with teachers.
Many teachers around the nation have been joining professional organizations, like the Association of American Educators, and dropping out of teachers unions. The professional associations offer perks like insurance and medical benefits, but do not collectively bargain or engage in partisan politics.
But as it stands, nonunion teacher organizations have trouble contacting and recruiting teachers. They are routinely denied access to events where teachers gather, the ability to use school mailboxes to deliver letters, or access to teachers lounges to post flyers – all privileges granted to teachers unions.
Teachers unions have maintained a monopoly on access to public school teachers. Most school districts formally recognize their local NEA or AFT affiliates as the exclusive representatives of teachers, and new teachers are forced to accept membership if they want a job.
The Equal Access Act would require that schools grant equal access to all organizations, or else grant no access at all, according to the news site.
Kansas Association of American Educators executive director Garry Sigle said the current system inhibits a free flow of information.
“Without equal access, teachers are underinformed and underprotected,” Sigle said.
The Kansas National Education Association, the state’s main teachers union, has unsurprisingly voiced opposition to the bill.
KNEA attorney Majorie Blaufuss called the bill “inappropriate” and expressed concern that it would redefine “professional employee organizations” to include organizations that are not part of bargaining units, according to the news site.
The bottom line is that teachers unions don’t want any competition for dues money.
James Franko, director at Kansas Policy Institute, said the bill would “level the playing field.”
“Government-sanctioned monopolies raise eyebrows,” said Franko.
Similar bills in Colorado and Idaho were tabled after the unions lobbied against them.