OPINION | After Janus, will we see teachers union of tomorrow?

by Kate Walsh, President, National Council on Teaching Quality (NCTQ)

Make no bones about it. Teachers unions are reeling from a game-changing decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, issued the same day as the news of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, so largely overlooked in news coverage. The public may not have much noticed, but unions feel they are standing at a precipice, not at all certain they can maintain the power they’re long accustomed to wielding.

After the high court sided with Janus in Janus vs. AFSCME, public-sector workers will no longer be required to contribute to their unions, something nearly half of all states — including Minnesota — require regardless of whether teachers choose to belong to the union. The nation’s largest union, the National Education Association (NEA), having just held its annual convention in Minneapolis, expects to be hard hit. It’s anyone’s best guess how many of the 78,000 active teachers who currently contribute to the Education Minnesota union will opt out in the years ahead, but the initial hit will almost certainly include some 7,000 teachers who have already registered their discontent over having been forced to contribute.

The fast-flowing pipeline of dollars from teachers to unions ($600 million a year, nationally) is bound to be disrupted, and here’s why. Independent surveys consistently report that only half of all teachers see their union as “essential” and that many see dues as too high, political activity as too leftist (only half of all teachers voted for Hillary Clinton) and positions on education issues counter to schools’ paramount interests. And with much of this disaffection skewing toward younger teachers, the unions have their work cut out for them.

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