Teacher’s Bill of Rights: PA Educators Should be Free to Teach

Teacher’s Bill of Rights:
PA Educators Should be Free to Teach

Removing Workplace Barriers Will Foster Best Learning Environment in Public Schools

August 25, 2015, Harrisburg, Pa.—Mary loves teaching culinary arts, but doesn’t want her name used in political mailers. Jane spent a career in the classroom but can’t donate money she’s earned to her chosen scholarship fund. And Frank is a veteran teacher who wants to resign his union membership but can’t until 2017, after he is eligible for retirement.

Meet Pennsylvania’s teachers—inspired by a passion to educate but, ironically, stymied by the union leaders charged with representing them. Now, they are speaking out in support of the Teacher’s Bill of Rights, presented by Free to Teach (FTT), a project of the Commonwealth Foundation.

The Teacher’s Bill of Rights:

As a public educator who loves the teaching profession, I believe the following rights will best secure my professional growth and freedom and foster the best learning environment for Pennsylvania’s students:

  • The right to associate professionally as I choose, without being forced to contribute financially to any organization I do not support.
  • The right to be rewarded as a professional based on my job performance.
  • The right to protect my paycheck and not be forced to fund political views I oppose.
  • The right to have flexibility to meet the learning needs of students regardless of job action stipulations by the union.
  • The right to employment based on merit, not just years of experience.

Unfortunately, these rights are only aspirations for most Pennsylvania teachers. That needs to change if we want the best for our public educations and the students they teach. Here’s why:

Frank is trapped…

Frank, a high school teacher in Lackawanna County and 28-year member of the National Education Association, disagrees with the political causes his dues support. When he learned of his right to resign union membership, he also learned his current contract prohibits him from leaving the union until June 2017, after he is eligible for retirement. “The union does not represent or even respect my deeply held convictions,” Frank says. “It forces me to violate them.”

Mary was exploited…

Williamsport-area educator Mary Trometter was a member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) for more than 20 years. She was shocked when her name was used—without her consent—in a political mailer the union sent to her husband asking him to “join Mary in voting for Tom Wolf for Governor.”

“I was so appalled by the content of this election letter, I ripped it in two before realizing that I should speak up about my experience,” Mary wrote. “Unions used to protect the little guy, like my great-grandfather. But they’ve become what we used to fight against. Now they’re the big bosses and ordinary union members are the little guy.”

Jane was rejected…

As a religious objector to union membership in Chester County, Jane Ladley donated her “fair share fee,” otherwise “owed” to the teachers’ union, to charity. But the PSEA rejected her choice of a scholarship fund that was designed for high school seniors who displayed an interest in the U.S. Constitution. “They are telling me which groups I have to choose,” Jane said. “It’s a wrong that needs to be righted.”

…They should be free to teach.

Brittney Parker, project director for Free to Teach, says it’s time for an alternative. “Teachers often start the school year by explaining classroom rules to their students, but these same teachers are forced to play by arbitrary union rules that flagrantly disregard their rights as educators and as individuals,” she said.

“The Teacher’s Bill of Rights equips teachers to know their rights so they can be free to teach, instead of bound in constant battle with union leaders.” Parker continued. “As teachers head back to school, Free to Teach offers practical information and support, so they can focus on their students without union interference.”

What is Free to Teach?

FreetoTeach.org is an online community and resource center that equips and empowers Pennsylvania teachers hungry for information about public education and the teaching profession. Free to Teach covers topics that affect teachers’ professional lives, like public pensions, performance pay, seniority, school spending, and labor rights.

Brittney Parker is available for comment today. Contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.