Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Teaching association seeks ‘professional’ path sans politics

A new school year is here again. As our students and teachers settle into a productive routine, I hope that all Idahoans take the opportunity to renew their commitment to our state’s educators with the support they need to meet today’s challenges. I am proud to be a part of a new teacher movement that reinforces that support.

After many years in the classroom and as a former union member, I witnessed firsthand the union mentality that lead to teachers feeling comfortable with the status quo. Complacency and outdated labor tactics do little to raise the level of professionalism needed in today’s classroom.

Teachers are academic professionals like lawyers, scientists and engineers. They deserve to have a member-driven, professional association, which serves their needs without a political agenda. Industrial-style union representation does not advance the respect that educators deserve in Idaho, or nationwide.

I never felt the union provided me with sound information about the future of the profession. It was always focused on leadership and building the organization while promoting an “all for one, or none for all” agenda. After my experience, I am convinced that this approach leads to counter-productive entrenchment, instead of cooperation towards what should be the goal: improving student achievement.

Discouraged by their lack of support for school reform or teachers like me who chose alternative career paths, I was thrilled to learn about an organization that took a professional approach to education. Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE) is leading the way in Idaho by providing all teachers with a choice for their support and protection. NWPE is a nonunion professional association that focuses on elevating the profession of teaching and improving public education for every student.

I think it is critical that more teachers learn about this movement, which is why when I left the classroom I went to work for NWPE full-time as Idaho’s regional director. As we celebrate back-to-school traditions, it is also time for educators to understand their options and make decisions that reflect their values.

Too many teachers join the union because of their desire for liability insurance. NWPE provides this peace of mind to teachers to the tune of $2 million in personal educator liability insurance, as well as coverage of legal fees for a host of situations that a teacher might encounter.

NWPE does not engage in partisan politics and does not spend money on political candidates, endorsements, or issues that the members might not agree with. This leads to more affordable member fees: only $16.50 a month. After countless conversations with teachers around the state, I know they are looking for a less politically-charged solution to improving the education profession, that raises teachers to the status they deserve in our communities.

Teachers deserve to be treated as individual professionals with ideas and experiences that can be brought to the policy table. To create and implement meaningful and common sense education reform, the true voices of Idaho’s teachers needs to be heard. We need to empower teachers to not only have the tools they need to succeed but give them the facts to make the choice for themselves how to be represented. It is not only important for today’s teachers but the future of a shrinking workforce.

We often hear about the necessary reforms needed in Idaho classrooms, NWPE is there to steward the teaching profession into a positive, professional direction. I am proud to be an Idaho educator and invite you to join hands with me and other nonunion teachers as we elevate a movement that I know will be successful.

Brenda Miller is regional director for Northwest Professional Educators, Idaho’s nonunion choice for educators. She is a former charter school educator, Idaho PTA president, and Idaho Education Association student chapter leader.