Deerfield teachers split on leaving KNEA

5/16/2013

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

A vote to determine whether Deerfield teachers would part ways with a state and national teachers' organization wound up in a tie Tuesday.

The vote resulted in 13 votes for, 13 against with one teacher abstaining. The decision Tuesday, had it passed, would have separated the district from the Kansas National Education Association. The district has 27 certified teachers.

Joel McClure, a former Deerfield High School social studies teacher and an organizer for the petition filed on behalf of the Deerfield educators, said the idea was to open up representation to all teachers on a local level, instead of having to pay for it on a state and national level.

"So many of us don't want to do that because of the exorbitant high cost. It's almost $600 in annual union dues to do that," he said.

McClure said many of the teachers don't like how the money is being used, but they have no control over it.

"Because that is the way the system is structured. You have to buy into it if you want a place at the table," he said.

Going into Tuesday's vote, McClure was under the impression a majority of the teachers felt the same way.

"We had a clear majority of teachers going into this. But two of our teachers turned against us, choosing instead to believe the lies and scare tactics of KNEA. This is a mess, and I don't see an end to it. If we are to lose a runoff election, the teachers will file another petition next fall, and will do so year after year until the system changes," he said.

In a previous interview with The Telegram, McClure had said only five local teachers are local members of the KNEA chapter.

"There's 27 certified teachers in the district. Five speaking for 27 seems a little out of balance," he said.

McClure said there were obstacles getting to Tuesday's vote.

He filed a petition signed by a third of the teachers on Nov. 27 with the Kansas Department of Labor. The petition was approved in late April, and the vote had to be done before Tuesday.

"It was a slow process. It should have all been taken care of," he said.

McClure said it's been a nationwide movement for districts to go to local options.

In 2009, the Riley County teachers' union formed a new organization, Riley County Educators, which was appointed the official negotiating representative for the district, according to the Wichita Eagle.

McClure said if Deerfield does turn to local control for the official negotiating representative, there may be some drawbacks.

"But if anything, it's going to add more voices to the table. I can only think of actual good things that will come," he said.

No union backing will create some concerns when problems arise, however, he said.

Mike Quilling is the vice president of the local affiliate of KNEA, Deerfield Teachers Association.

He said Tuesday's decision means the district will have another vote. The issue is whether teachers who are no longer on contract, or newly-hired teachers, will get to vote.

Quilling said many teachers are in favor of sticking with KNEA.

"The first issue is the governor's unfortunate tax cuts. We're concerned that support of education is going to bear the largest part of tax cuts. We need supportive education representation in Topeka. Right now, KNEA is that supporter of education," he said.

The second issue, Quilling said, is teacher negotiations.

"Most teachers are probably more concerned about not having KNEA on our side to enforce negotiated agreements," he said.

Quilling said the district needs the resources of KNEA.

"They are always there to help us with legal questions, and come to our support whenever we need them to," he said.

McClure has resigned his teaching position. He said he is going forward with the cause.

"When I started this last June, I didn't expect to leave. I continued it because it was never about me. It was about all the teachers who supported this petition," he said.

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