Teachers aren’t required to join the Clark County Education Association. But once in, they may leave only during the next two weeks.
That’s because the union is more interested in preserving its bank account than allowing teachers the freedom to make their own decisions.
“Any teacher desiring to have the school district discontinue deductions previously authorized must notify the association in writing between July 1 and July 15 of each year for the next school year’s dues,” the contract between the union and Clark County School District reads.
In contrast, a teacher may join the union at any time. The district even allows the union to pitch membership at the district-run new teacher orientation. Many new teachers don’t realize that union membership is optional. Once they sign up, they may not realize they have the right to opt out. Even if they do understand their rights, the two-week opt-out window is intentionally set during the middle of summer vacation. That’s a very inconvenient time for teachers — which is exactly what the union counts on.
Union bosses rely on teacher dues to pay themselves handsome salaries. Six union employees made more than $150,000 in 2017 working for the union and related organizations. That’s the latest year for which tax records are available. Executive director John Vellardita raked in more than $240,000.
The union is an especially bad deal for new teachers. They earn less than more experienced teachers, but the dues of $630 are the same for everyone. For a first-year teacher, dues represent 1.5 percent of salary. For a more experienced teacher, dues could shrink to 0.75 percent of salary. Many teachers find they’d rather have a little more money in their paychecks or spend that $630 on car payments or a vacation.
Teachers also have reason to be concerned about how the union spends their money. The CCEA has called for an illegal strike this August if the district doesn’t meet its pay demands. Any teacher participating in the strike could be fired or suspended, per Nevada law.
A teacher could also be put off by the union’s political involvement. CCEA endorsed Gov. Steve Sisolak for governor early in the Democratic primary. Vellardita promised that Sisolak would increase teacher pay and lower class sizes. Sisolak’s initial budget, however, didn’t include enough money to fund teacher pay raises. It was only after the school district went public about the lack of money, that the Legislature found additional resources. It’s easy to understand why teachers wouldn’t want to give their money to political operatives,especially ones with poor political judgment.
These are some of the very reasons why thousands of teachers have left the union or never joined in the first place. Data from last school year showed that just 54 percent of teachers were members of the union in October 2018. The district employed 18,737 teachers, but just 10,066 were CCEA members.
If you know any teachers, tell them they have the option to leave the union — but only by submitting written notice between July 1 to 15. If you know any new teachers, let them know they don’t have to join the union despite the high-pressure tactics coming at orientation.
When teachers have a choice, teachers choose to leave CCEA. No wonder the union wants to make leaving as difficult as possible.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns eachMonday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoeckson Twitter.