By Colin Sharkey, Executive Vice President, Association of American Educators (AAE)
As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week this week, teachers across the nation remain remarkably underappreciated. In at least five states so far this year, educators are voicing their discontent by organizing walkouts and strikes to protest lagging salaries and woefully inadequate supplies. Viral social media posts of classrooms in deplorable conditions and stories of educators moonlighting in the gig economy to make ends meet have likely increased support for more investment in education.
While there are many education policy questions that divide Americans, we can all agree that our hardworking and talented educators deserve great compensation, clean and safe workplaces, and our genuine appreciation for doing a job critical to our country’s future.
Here’s something else we should all agree on: educators, as professionals who are tasked with teaching our children to become independent, critical thinkers, should have the power to decide whether or not to join and fund the national teachers unions.
The freedom to fund a union – or not – means freeing teachers to support the policies they choose, not solely the ones dictated by union leadership. For those educators who think unions are too focused on advancing a partisan political agenda instead of meeting their professional needs, freedom means the dignity of keeping their own money. For those teachers who choose to fund a union, their dues will be more impactful, since they are no longer coerced but earned annually by satisfying voluntary members.