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Bill on teachers’ union dues another attack

After the results of the November election, teachers across the state came to me to express their hope that members of the General Assembly would move forward and focus on bringing jobs to our state and improving our economy.

Unfortunately, some elected leaders instead have introduced anti-school-employee legislation that attacks teachers and their unions and certainly will not move Indiana onward.

Attempts by the Chamber of Commerce and some legislators to prohibit the deduction of union dues from a teacher’s paycheck have nothing to do with improving education in our state.

They are just one more attack on teachers and the professional organizations, like the Indiana State Teachers Association, that represent them.

Such legislation will not put money back into public school budgets nor replace lost educational programming like art, music and physical education. It will not prepare Hoosier students for college or future employment or create new jobs. It will not reduce class sizes or save school districts money. It’s just a classic case of a solution looking for a problem.

Let’s set the record straight:

•No public school employee is required to become an ISTA member.

•No ISTA dues dollars are used as contributions to political candidates.

•No ISTA member is forced to use payroll deduction. Members may pay their dues by check or have their dues charged to a checking or credit card account.

•Dues deduction through payroll deduction is a simple convenience for educators, just like depositing their paychecks electronically into a bank account.

•Legislation proposed to end the voluntary deduction of member dues accomplishes nothing except to take away a choice and a convenience for educators.

The chamber and its legislative supporters know that the decision to have dues deducted from one’s paycheck is voluntary and has no significant fiscal impact on school districts because fee deductions are automated – actually resulting in cost savings to some districts.

Such legislation could clearly be unconstitutional because it would violate the equal protection clause if it applies only to education employee unions. In fact, a recent federal court decision overruled a similar law in Michigan.

Our students are not served when members of our legislature, guided by the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, consider legislation that in no way advances the cause of helping state residents or the nearly 1.3 million school children in our state.

ISTA will continue to work for fair treatment of public school employees through the legislative process by opposing such legislation.

I would encourage Indiana voters to ask their legislators to turn their energy and attention toward more important issues facing our state – jobs, the economy and economic development, including adequately funded public schools in all communities.

Nate Schnellenberger is president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.