St. Olaf College states student teachers “must” join union’s pre-professional organization

Students at St. Olaf College are being told they “MUST join EMAE” [Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators] if they are licensure candidates completing field experiences or student teaching with the Education Department.

Education Minnesota—the state’s teachers’ union—runs Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators, a pre-professional organization for college and university students who plan to be teachers. Students are eligible for the student membership if they are enrolled in an Education Minnesota affiliated post-secondary school as an undergraduate or graduate. Annual dues are $25 ($15 for the National Education Association, $10 for Education Minnesota) and then whatever dues the campus chapter charges.

But joining a union or financially supporting a union is not required to get or keep a job in the public sector, teaching included. Nor is it required to become a licensed teacher. In fact, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, teachers and all other public employees cannot be forced to be union members or pay money to a union if they choose not to.

St. Olaf’s message that its licensure candidates “must” join the union’s organization is improper, and it appears to be in violation of student teachers’ First Amendment rights upheld in the Janus decision.