Indiana News

Union: Teacher Dues Fight Makes Us Stronger

ISTA not happy that bill to eliminate automatic paycheck deductions still alive

2/26/2013

The head of the state's largest teacher's union says he thinks making it more difficult for it to collect dues could actually make the union stronger.

The state Senate could soon consider a bill passed by the House that bars school districts from collecting teacher's union dues through paycheck deductions unless teachers request the deductions. Teachers also have to renew that deduction request before each school year. The bill also says money cannot be deducted from a teacher's paycheck for "political activity."

The bill is supported by many Republicans, including Governor Pence, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. They argue that public school districts should not be involved in collecting money that is used for party politics.

But Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, says it is already against the law for the group to use union dues for political activity - he says they have to keep documented, separate accounts for each, and says teachers are unfairly being singled out.  "It doesn't affect any other group or any other kind of deductions that occur from a teacher's paycheck, like United Way or any other kind of health insurance or retirement or any other membership fees that they might have."  Schnellenberger says the union also already requires teachers to tell them whether they wish to have the dues withheld from paychecks or if they wish to pay them in another manner. 

Many supporter say this will reduce the amount of money the ISTA can spend on political candidates, but Schnellenberger says he believes that might backfire and cause teachers to give more money to political candidates who oppose what Schnellenberger called "an intrusion" on teacher's rights. He says there also seems to be a dichotomy, "(from) some political leaders who, on the one hand suggest that public educators for a large part are underperforming. On the other hand, they seem to be concerned that public educations are effective and some kind of cunning political operatives," Schnellenberger says.

Last year, union members appeared to be virtually united as they helped elect fellow union member and Democrat Glenda Ritz as State School Superintendent over Tony Bennett. Many of Bennett's policies, including the state's A-to-F grading system and school voucher programs, were opposed by the ISTA.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruze, though Kruze last week said he wasn't sure if he would schedule a hearing for the bill.

@WIBC_RaySteele

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