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Education Matters: Union should account for all teachers' voices

February 10, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

Last Friday I made reference to a local bond issue, Measure S, that all of us who live within the Glendale Unified School District will be voting on in April. Representatives of my (former) teachers union, Glendale Teachers Assn., having voted to oppose the measure, now asks all teachers in the district to fall into line and do the same — and that raises a few questions.

Should 1,400 teachers, all union members, agree to act as a unit even when many in that unit do not agree with their representatives? Given the importance of Measure S, considering its impact on virtually every teacher in the district, and considering that the union wants to present a solid, unified front to the district and to the community, shouldn’t it first determine just how united that front is?

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I question whether the union’s leadership is interested in discovering what the majority think. Last year, we teachers at Hoover High School took a vote on whether to continue a “banking day,” which was an hour each week devoted to school business and professional collaboration. The majority of teachers clearly indicated by their votes that they wanted to keep it going.

Following that expression of popular will, our union president descended on our school to tell us that the vote did not count because we failed to reach “consensus,” which requires 75% of all the teachers to agree.

I’ve asked a number of fellow teachers to explain the fairness of that burdensome requirement, and I’ve never received a clear answer. On the second vote at our school, 72% said “yes” to retaining our banking day. Result: no consensus, thereby allowing a small minority to impose its will on the rest of the teachers at the school. When I questioned this inequity, I was told that it was “irrelevant.”

I imagine that the present union leadership finds the input from all of its members on the bond issue to be irrelevant as well. The suggestion that reps go back to their sites and find out what all of the teachers in this district think of Measure S fell on deaf ears, and that puzzles me.

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