MacIver News Service | November 2, 2012
[Madison, Wisc...] With the passage of Wisconsin's recent labor reforms, public employees were empowered to choose whether or not to join the unions that purported to represent them in labor-management and professional development issues. Nowhere has this significant change been more evident than among the state's public school teachers.
The state's largest teachers' union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), has had to let staff go. Recently, they have begun to discuss the merits of merging with the Wisconsin arm of the American Federation of Teachers.
Now, there's a new kid on the block.
The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, non-union, professional educators' organization and they're making an impressive push in Wisconsin.
"Teachers across the state are demanding options and voters have clearly rejected forced unionism," said AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner regarding the Act 10 reforms and the failed recall of Governor Scott Walker. "Since this law took effect, AAE has welcomed teachers from across the state seeking a professional and nonpartisan option."
While AAE is not opposed to teachers having collective bargaining privileges, they say they find that the model outdated. AAE has found that teachers in a modern workforce do not necessarily need one-size-fits-all salary and benefits packages that do little to recognize teachers who go above and beyond in their schools, the organization contends.
AAE has members in all 50 states and welcomes professionals from all education entities. Membership is $15 per month and includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional development resources and a host of other benefits.
"In the wake of Act 10, teachers are now hyper-aware of their options with regard to teacher representation," AAE Director of Communications and Advocacy Alexandra Schroeck told MacIver News Service. "We hear from teachers across the state that are searching for a nonpartisan choice that promotes positivity, not conflict and strife. "
Schroeck said AAE is energized by the recent emancipation of Wisconsin's educators.
"It is our hope that all Wisconsin teachers make educated decisions about association membership and choose an organization that best aligns with the budget and beliefs," she said.
AAE members are opposed to merit pay systems based solely on test score results, however, AAE recommends a multi-pronged approach that would include faculty reviews, test scores and level of education among other criteria.
They say it is important that the organization work with policy makers to come up with a system that is fair for teachers. AAE says it recognizes that a comprehensive evaluation system is coming in many states. The organization believes its job is to make sure that teachers have a seat at the table in working toward an effective and just policy.
Schroeck explained that Act10 has empowered teachers to make informed decisions about their professional development and that many here welcome her association's non-confrontational, professional approach.
"AAE is thrilled to be expanding our presence in Wisconsin. Just in the last few months, we've seen a record-breaking explosion of growth across the state," said Schroeck. "Our high-quality benefits and services, coupled with our message of professionalism and positivity, have truly resonated with the hardworking teachers of Wisconsin."
While they oppose forced unionism, AAE believes that teachers, as college-educated professionals, should be able to decide whether union membership matches their budget and beliefs.
However, unlike WEAC--which had become omnipresent in a wide array of policy debates in recent years--AAE only takes policy positions on issues germane to education, providing another selling point that may see AAE's Wisconsin membership rolls swell.
For more information on AAE, visit: aaeteachers.org.