True Teacher Appreciation: Restoring educators’ voice and choice

Teachers were celebrated last week during National Teacher Appreciation Week. But even though the five days of nationally honoring educators has come and gone, teachers can and should continue to be recognized and supported outside the second week of May.

We ask a lot of our teachers, and while BOGO at Chipotle and coffee gift cards are amazing (I loved those deals and freebies!), we want to make sure teachers are supported year-round to do our nation’s most important work.

In order to acknowledge what they really need—and deserve—we need to listen to their voices and restore respect for their choices. After speaking with numerous teachers, it is clear there are many burdens placed on today’s educators. Many don’t feel as supported as they would like to when it comes to handling student behavior in the classroom; they are overwhelmed with endless paperwork; and they are concerned their professional needs are being overshadowed by a political maelstrom.

But teachers are resilient, and they are not alone. A new project called Educated Teachers MN will equip teachers with resources and knowledge to help them better understand issues they have asked for more voice on—from student behavior and paperwork to union membership and pension plans.

Our educators have powerful voices and deserve the freedom to make those voices heard. There is currently an opportunity before the Supreme Court that aims to give back freedoms that have been restrained for 40 years. Mark Janus, the plaintiff in the case Janus v. AFSCME, is fighting for teachers and all public employees to have their voice and choice restored when it comes to exclusive union representation. Millions of American workers are forced to support a government union as a condition of employment. But the freedom to say “no” to a union is just as important as the freedom to say “yes” to one.

The goal of this case is not to eliminate unions. Nor is this case anti-teacher or anti-education. Teachers deserve options, they should be able to choose what’s best for their students, themselves, and their profession. The goal of Educated Teachers MN is to bring awareness of what the Janus case means for Minnesota teachers and offer educational material to help them evaluate their union relationship and decide if it’s a good fit. It will also provide resources to organizations (like the Association of American Educators) that provide liability insurance and other benefits to teachers for a fraction of what they pay in union dues or fees.

Informed and empowered teachers are better suited to serve the needs of students and deserve the freedom to choose who represents them and how.

As Colin Sharkey—executive vice president of the Association of American Educators—wrote:

Educators should be free to make their own choices unencumbered by union restrictions. We cannot respect and appreciate educators without trusting them with the independence and autonomy to decide which organization best represents their interests.

We rightly entrust teachers with our future, we can trust them to decide which professional association has earned their money. … Appreciating teachers means respecting their choices, union and non-union alike.

If you or anyone you know is looking to have their voice and choice restored, join us at Together, we will work to inform and empower teachers all across Minnesota.