I just finished filling out the responses to a questionnaire sent to me by the Vermont NEA about my positions on state education and union-related issues. I’ve maintained that my own views should be secondary to the views of the citizens of Washington County, and my role should be one of an advisor, doing the hard legwork to bring as many pros and cons to light as possible.
That said, I’ve been asked by more than one person (before the Vermont NEA) what my personal position on issue X is. I think these are fair questions, and I will not hide behind the shield of “whatever everybody else wants” and avoid talking about my own opinions. This is the first installment of what I hope to me many discussions of important issues.
Fair Share Fee: Those Who Don’t Pay Their Fair Share
Vermont-NEA believes it is long past time for Vermont to stop permitting public employers to stand in the way. It is time for Vermont to have a law, similar to that in other states, requiring employees in a bargaining unit either to join their union or at least pay their fair share of the cost the union is required to incur in representing them.
I agree, provided that all parties maintain transparency.
All employees should be advised of their “Beck rights” according to the Supreme Court’s 1988 ruling in Communications Workers of America v. Beck. Employees should also be advised of the difference in cost between the “fair share” and the “full share” and how the difference between the two is calculated. I should point out that this and my other four answers are strictly my opinion and do not reflect the opinions of the citizens of Washington County. Details of my plan to accurately represent Washington County citizens may be found here: http://vermontelection.org/2012/06/04/jeremys-plan/
Teachers’ Retirement: Support in the State Budget
Vermont-NEA believes the state must meet its continuing annual funding commitment to the State Teachers’ Retirement System.
I admit that I am not an expert on this particular issue, but at a shallow level, I support funding the pension plans. If the current system of funding seems to be working, I am not inclined to change it without cause. If the current system does need changing, I am not sure that I support the state (and its taxpayers, in turn) bearing this burden exclusively. I suspect that there are probably creative but effective steps that don’t require dramatic increases in taxes or dramatic decreases in benefits. I admit that I don’t know what these steps might be, and will continue to educate myself about this issue.
Health Care: Continuing System Reform
Vermont-NEA believes that the state should acknowledge the sacrifices made by active and retired school employees (and other unionized employees) to obtain and retain good health coverage by (1) insulating employees in the transition to the new health care system from potential economic loss and (2) enabling employees to continue to negotiate with their employers regarding matters of health care.
I disagree, partially because of the way the question was worded. As the question suggested, the costs of the statewide health care system are still in doubt. To offer preemptive compensation or benefits to offset *possible* future coverage reduction or cost increases seems somewhat premature. If these coverage reductions or cost increases become reality, I would support maintaining current benefit levels and costs.
Teaching Career: Retaining New Teachers
Vermont-NEA believes the most important education policy matter our state faces is to make teaching sufficiently attractive to high caliber young professionals both before entering and during their initial years in their own classrooms, and the state should address this issue by investing in proven ways of helping young professionals.
I support improving mentoring programs, extending student teaching, providing for a reduced workload for new teachers, and improving special needs training programs. I also support training programs for and research into alternative pedagogical techniques. I am lukewarm on providing funds for new teachers’ student loans. (I think there are better ways to approach that problem.)
Teaching Profession: Simplifying Professional Relicensing
Vermont-NEA believes the relicensing process for teachers should be simplified.
This is another item on which I do not feel fully qualified to comment, and would be happy to learn more. Having briefly looked over the materials required for relicensing, I do believe that it is possible to streamline the process without undermining what I see as the goals of the licensing process: to ensure that teachers meet or exceed expected standards and continue to improve their skills via additional training and professional development.