By Scott Farnsworth
Not to belabor the point (and, again, no pun intended), but the success of REA/REAA supported candidates in last week’s election needs to be recognized for what can still be accomplished by public sector unions when it has the active support and involvement of its membership. The REA’s efforts at phone banking, lit drops and visible support for their endorsed candidates carried the day – and members devoted hours to these activities during the aptly timed Spring Break the week ahead of the election.
I know that I am “preaching to the choir” with those of you who read the GLUE regularly, but there is a real need for you to begin “preaching” that message to your colleagues.
There is no difference between what Act 10 did to Racine – or Milwaukee, or Madison, or Green Bay, for that matter – than what it did to us. Actually, with the exception of Madison, the KEA buffered its membership from the impact of Act 10 for two additional years than those other urban districts. What has happened since, however, has been markedly different.
The KEA received the support of some 60% of the teachers in the November recertification election, which was vitally important to the continued viability of the KEA and greatly appreciated. What is needed, however, is for a greater portion of those who showed their support for the KEA in that election to actively join the association as both members and participants in advocating for their concerns.
The Racine School Board that existed before last week wanted to significantly reduce the role of the REA/REAA in the decisions that would affect the daily work of its members. Their membership turned out at school board meetings in the hundreds to tell the board that this effort to quiet or even eliminate the voice of educators was wholly unacceptable. They made their displeasure known – and the community as a whole supported them at the polls to say that voice needs to be heard.
I know that we have our own concerns and displeasures here in Kenosha. I hear them whenever a member has an opportunity to express to me how exhausted they are, how frustrated they are by the lack of prepared curriculum or adequate notice of changes to the same, of how undermined and disrespected they feel at the lack of support from their administration, at how low the morale of their building has gone.
It is important for you to know the truth: as educators you are still among the most highly respected and trusted professionals in the nation. The parents of your students support you and your work with an approval rating over 85% — over 95% at the elementary level. Your concerns are important to this community – but you need to make those concerns known, you need to make them visible, and you need to demand that they be addressed.
This message has to be delivered by more than my voice alone. It has to be supported by more active members than we can currently call upon. It has to be backed by more supporting members than we currently have.
So talk up the KEA with your colleagues. Tell them that they are the only solution to their issues and concerns, and then only if they unite with you to carry them forward. Tell them that we need them to rejoin the KEA for the upcoming school year – and that the time to do so is coming soon.