Reforming Teachers Unions from Within

I am a special educator because I wanted to teach students who learn differently that they can be successful in school, both academically and socially. I did not become a special educator so I could give up my social life for paper work or have summers off. I would gladly continue working through the summer if I was not so burnt out by the workload during the school year.

That being said, I have taken my concerns about how we could improve the environment for special educators to our district union representative only to be told that I “chose this profession” and that there was little if anything that could be done with my ideas.

The NEA has been responsible for driving critical social change for the last 100 years from equal rights to the women’s right to vote and so on. It was created as a vital institution for supporting teachers, parents and students but it is no longer the engine driving important social change.

I work in a Pennsylvania school. I have no choice but to join the union and pay dues. I can’t even decide which local union I want to represent me. I can’t withdraw from the union and work in any district in Pennsylvania. I am unfairly represented and I am angry.

When I take my valid concerns (gathered and supported by my colleagues) to my local union representation and I’m told that nothing can be done, it infuriates me. I willingly and wholeheartedly supported what the teachers union was supposed to do but it needs to be radically changed. I would like to have the choice to drive that change—whether it’s without representation or in formation of an independent local union that supports my concerns as a new special education teacher. This change needs to start now.

Michelle Geist
Public School Autistic Support Teacher
Chester County