Once again teachers are under attack.
Every two years, men and women elected by the voters of their districts arrive under the pink dome of the Texas Capitol to draft laws for the betterment of our state and the folks back home. Yet predictably as sunrise, some are co-opted by deep-pocketed special interests to serve lesser ends.
The results are crooked works of legislative effrontery that hurt Texans and soil the dignity of the Texas Legislature. Two bills filed this session to limit the way educators support professional organizations are among the worst examples. Senate Bill 13 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and House Bill 510 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) are being sold as anti-union bills, but make no mistake: They are malicious instruments aimed squarely at teachers.
Designated a priority item by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and touted by Gov. Greg Abbott in his State of the State Address, this legislation claims to get the state out of the business of “collecting union dues” by banning the ability of select public employees to deduct voluntary membership fees from their paychecks. In actuality, it singles out educators — many of whom do not belong to a union — while explicitly exempting favored unions, including those representing law enforcement, firefighters and first responders.
Why would an “anti-union” bill create a special class of protected unions? Why target teachers?
You’ll have to ask the authors or the private business interests backing this bill despite the fact that the legislation deals only with public sector employees.
The Association of Texas Professional Educators is the state’s largest educator organization. A bipartisan organization existing only in Texas, we provide insurance and advocacy for more than 100,000 members. ATPE is not a union. Membership is voluntary. We support right to work. We are against strikes, exclusive consultation and collective bargaining in the field of education. We advocate for high standards for educators, accountability and for an exemplary public education to be offered to every child in Texas.
As with numerous professional associations, health care organizations, and charities, many of our members choose to deduct their contributions directly from their paychecks. Without involving credit cards or checks, payroll deduction virtually eliminates the risk of identity theft. It’s the simplest and most convenient method, and it allows school employees — some of whom don’t have a credit card — the ability to safely and reliably manage their contributions. The process incurs no cost to school districts, which are entitled under current law to charge associations for any extra administrative effort.
In a capitol that has seen no end of legislative chicanery, SB 13 and HB 510 are crooked as a bucket of fish hooks. Educators have long fought to protect class sizes, strengthen school services, and reduce the emphasis on standardized testing. By making membership in educator associations as burdensome as possible, these bills are designed to hurt teachers and students.
Lawmakers wisely shelved similar legislation last session — and we urge them to do so again. The deceptive marketing of these bills should be the first clue: They are ill-conceived and unnecessary political instruments that serve no public interest. The bills’ authors have yet to explain why they believe the state should pick and choose which professions get a voice in the Texas Capitol.
Instead of attacking teachers, let’s focus on ensuring all kids have access to the best schools and services in the country. It’s a job big enough to take us all working together, even as special interests try to pull us apart.
Godsey is executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.