Research & Commentary: Teachers Association Options

Published April 20, 2012

For many decades, unions were the only large-scale professional organizations available to teachers and education administrators. The largest teachers union, the National Education Association, came into existence as an administrators’ professional membership organization. Recently, independent teachers associations have begun to spring up, and their union competitors have attempted to silence and intimidate them.

A few states are considering legislation that would give all professional teachers associations equal access to teachers and administrators: the ability to visit teacher in-services, post informational flyers, speak at teacher orientation, and the like. In early 2012, Idaho and Utah considered such legislation, and in 2011 Kansas did. Colorado is considering a related 2012 bill that would give teachers more than their current two weeks per year allowed for opting out of union membership.

Legislators tend to oppose such bills when teachers unions voice disapproval. Idaho’s bill was considered likely to pass, but it didn’t make the state Senate’s voting calendar in time for the close of session. Teachers unions often resort to legal arguments to prevent access, saying their contract requires they have exclusive bargaining even though teachers associations do not engage in collective bargaining.

Supporters of equal access laws note they help guarantee the U.S. and state constitution provisions and national traditions ensuring freedom of speech and association. They also deplore the pattern of harassment and intimidation against individuals attempting to decide how they would like to assemble and associate, spend their money, and develop their professional skills.

The following documents offer further information about teachers association options.


Bill Would Penalize Utah Schools for Unequal Access to Teacher Associations
Though current Utah law requires schools to offer all teachers associations equal access to teachers, several schools and districts are not complying, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. That has prompted state Sen. Mark Madsen to offer a bill that would fine principals, school districts, and charter schools for failing to comply with the law. 

Idaho Legislation Would Give Teacher Associations Equal Access
In 2011, Idaho legislators passed a bill to give teachers associations equal access to teachers, but the mechanism it provided required piles of paperwork from school districts and did not alleviate the problem, School Reform News reports. In the next session, it considered a rewritten bill that would prevent discrimination against some teachers associations and preferences for others. 

Non-Union Teacher Groups Grow as NEA Numbers Shrink
Membership is up in nonunion teachers associations even as teachers union membership declines slightly, writes Rachel Davison in School Reform News. The article describes the activities, goals, and reach of such associations and documents how they give a voice to teachers who do not feel represented by unions they are often required by their employment contracts to join. 

Non-Union Educator Groups Challenged by Seeking Equal Treatment
Though nonunion teachers associations are growing, the playing field they are entering in attempting to win members is decidedly tilted, writes Alexandra Schroek for the Association of American Educators. Members of her organization have been repeatedly shut out of teacher orientations, harassed, forbidden from presenting to faculty meetings, and denied the ability to deduct dues from payrolls even though teachers unions are allowed all these privileges and access. 

Association of American Educators Testifies Before Utah Senate Education Committee in Favor of SB 82
Two teachers and one former teacher testified in support of a Utah bill that would penalize school districts for breaking the law by barring equal access to teachers by union and nonunion teachers associations. They detailed how school districts favor unions, perpetuate the union monopoly, and discriminate against their similar but nonunion teachers association. 

Testimony Supporting Idaho House Bill 671
Cindy Omlin, director of Northwest Professional Educators, testifies before the Idaho House in support of a bill that would allow nonunion teachers associations like hers equal access to the state’s teachers. The bill is necessary, she says, because of “unethical teacher union practices” that attempt to block NPE from the same avenues the unions enjoy. Unions have threatened school districts with lawsuits and unfair labor practice complaints just for allowing the NPE to put flyers in teachers’ mailboxes and set up a previously approved booth at informational events. The testimony includes copies of intimidating emails, flyers, and letters threatening legal action. 


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland education policy research fellow Joy Pullmann, at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].