By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
DEERFIELD, Kan. — The doom and gloom predictions of the state’s largest teachers union haven’t come to pass more than a year after Deerfield USD 216 faculty opted to boot out the Kansas National Education Association, according to teacher Doug Crandall.
“Things are going pretty well, actually,” said Crandall, who is also president of the newly revived Deerfield Educators Association.
In May 2013, Deerfield faculty voted to decertify KNEA within USD 216, meaning the union could no longer negotiate with local board of education members on teachers’ behalves. At the time Pamela Torgerson, director of Southwest UniServ, the district headquarters for KNEA, said the decision could turn foul without warning.
“My concern with that is that without any kind of organizational backing, it’s going to be hard for the teachers there to enforce their negotiated agreement,” Torgerson said. “So, if they get into trouble during bargaining, they have to go to mediation on their own, and if things work out even worse and they decide to go to fact-finding, they’re pretty much on their own.”
If anything, Crandall said, the opposite has happened. Negotiations prior to the current school year were smooth and uneventful, he told Kansas Watchdog. The rocky part, he said, has been KNEA’s response following its expulsion from Deerfield USD 216.
“I was a member of KNEA for 27 years and the president of our local association here for over 15 years and I did not see how they manipulate statements and try to ‘bully’ others that oppose them until after I helped us to decertify,” Crandall said.
“They’re trying to tell some of our younger teachers they need to be scared, especially now with the new tenure rule, and it’s got some of our new teachers antsy,” he noted, adding he has heard KNEA is filing paperwork to have Deerfield faculty re-vote on the union’s decertified status.
Union representatives didn’t respond to calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Crandall called the actions disheartening, and said “we need to have more harmony, especially in a small school.”
Of the 25 teachers on staff at USD 216, Crandall said only five are members of KNEA.
At the time, Deerfield was only the second district in the state to cut KNEA out of local contract negotiations, but according to the Topeka Capital-Journal, four more districts made similar moves within the past year. Spearville USD 381 became the latest in early January.
According to data on the Kansas State Department of Education website, Spearville employs about 30 teachers. In total, the five districts that decertified in the past year employ about 145 teachers.
The other districts that have decertified in the past year are Deerfield, Caldwell, Vermillion and Rolla.
With rumblings of KNEA attempting to regain control in USD 216, does the union consider the local education association to be a threat?
“In my opinion, yea, probably so, just because they’re losing members,” Crandall said. “I probably had, since we’ve done this a year ago, about a dozen schools call and ask me ‘what do I need to do in order to do this?’”
The chief motivation behind decertifying the union, Crandall said, was to let all faculty members step up to the table and have a say in their contract negotiations.
“I think it is (a trend). As an educator I think it’s a good thing to have everyone involved,” Crandall noted. “I don’t have anything against unions, but it’s a no-brainer to have everybody involved without costing you any money.”
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