Should New Teachers Join a Teaching Association?
Good question! Before you commit to 12 months of having dues deducted from your paycheck, you should make sure you know the various teacher association options that exist and the benefits they offer.
The first thing to note is that no teacher can be required to join a teacher association. Your teaching contract and negotiated benefits are not dependent on membership. Neither is your tenure.
The second thing to note is that no one should pressure, bully, or guilt you into joining a teacher association. In 2018, the Supreme Court restored our First Amendment right to decide whether or not we wanted to join a union. Trying to prevent you from exercising that right is just plain wrong.
Now that we have that covered, let’s move on to answering the question: Should new teachers join a teaching association?
Let’s look at the benefits they can offer:
- Legal Protection – Should you have workplace issues or face a lawsuit arising out of your educational duties, legal protection ensures you have access to legal counsel at the onset and can cover your defense costs.
- Liability Insurance – A professional insurance policy acts as a safeguard to protect your assets if you are sued as a result of an event arising out of your educational duties and have to pay damages. It is good to have your own policy as your school district’s liability insurance policy covers the district, not individual teachers which means it may not cover you, your attorney fees, or the act that triggers a lawsuit.
- Professional Resources – Through member forums and other resources you can access timely advice on navigating classroom and workplace difficulties and stay abreast of new trends.
- Advocacy – Teacher associations speak up for the members they represent, drawing attention to teacher-specific needs and highlighting the current issues they are facing.
- Discounts on supplementary insurance, shopping, and entertainment – Members often receive additional discounts on health insurance, auto insurance, retail purchases, entertainment venues, and more.
If you think these sound like something you’d want for your first year of teaching, the next question is: Which teacher association should new teachers join?
Thanks to that Supreme Court decision mentioned above, ALL teachers now have the right to decide which organization, if any, to join.
There are two types of associations:
- Teacher union: You may already be familiar with teacher unions. Typically, there is a local teacher union which is involved with the day-to-day teacher concerns. They provide a host of benefits to teachers including representation if you have an issue with your school or with a student, liability insurance, professional development, and discounts.
The local union reports to the regional or state-level union which then reports to one of the national teaching unions. The regional and national unions are often involved with policy beyond education and frequently support political campaigns. You will pay dues to the local union, most of which will be sent to the state and national unions.
Teacher unions currently have exclusive collective bargaining rights, which is the power to negotiate salary and several other factors. Strikes can take place as part of those negotiations and members are expected to take part even if they don’t agree on the issue.
Union membership is annual and if you decide to leave, the union may try to limit your opt out period to a few weeks during the year, typically around your membership anniversary or a designated time frame.
- Nonunion teaching association: These organizations include national, regional, and discipline-specific options and and can offer a host of benefits to their members including legal representation if you have an issue with your school or with a student, liability insurance, professional development, and discounts.
While these organizations advocate on behalf of their members, they do not have collective bargaining rights. They are also non-partisan and do not take political stances or support political campaigns. Typically, the focus of these associations is on fostering member development and success. Because they are not supporting outside issues, dues are often much lower than teacher unions.
Here are a few of the nonunion teaching associations available to teachers in the United States:
- Association of American Educators
- Christian Educators Association International
- Arkansas State Teachers Association
- Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana
- Kansas Association of American Educators
- Professional Association of Colorado Educators
- Northwest Professional Educators
Check out this chart for an overview of the benefits each teacher association type offers: