Education Policy Positions
The issue of compulsory unionism is at the heart of why AAE was founded. AAE is adamantly against any policy where teachers are forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, also known as compulsory unionism or forced unionism. (The friendlier term used by the union is "fair share.")
This practice is big business for the unions and is still law in 22 states. In 2007 alone, teachers unions collected $2 billion in union dues. $1.3 billion of those dues came from states with compulsory unionism. Union dues are highest in states where there is compulsory unionism – sometimes twice as much as compared to states where teachers have the option not to join the union. The numbers speak for themselves.
AAE believes that teachers, as college-educated professionals, should be able to decide whether union membership matches his or her budget and beliefs. The fact is there are thousands of educators who do not want to be represented by a union and do not want to pay union dues but are forced to because of state laws.
AAE is not necessarily anti-collective bargaining although we recognize this is the union's main tool. The value of collective bargaining is debatable as research is showing many teachers in right-to-work states are thriving with above average salaries and generous benefit packages.
While AAE is not anti-collective bargaining privileges, we find the model outdated. Teachers in a modern workforce do not necessarily need one-size-fits-all salary and benefits packages that do little to recognize teachers who go above and beyond in their schools. Further, by principle and tax status AAE will never engage in collective bargaining for teachers.
AAE surveys suggest that our membership supports policies in which teachers can earn more for added responsibilities in the classroom, whether it be through coaching, leadership roles, or staying after school to tutor. Further survey results show that teachers of high-need subject areas and in high-need schools should be given even more. With rigid bargained contracts, teachers are rarely able to do so. AAE recognizes teachers as college educated professionals who are capable of negotiating their own contracts, should they choose.
Educators should know that without collective bargaining, there are many state and federal laws that protect teachers' due process rights. While the union would have you believe that teachers are left unprotected without union negotiated contracts, states like Virginia and Georgia have thriving teacher populations with state and federal worker protections in place.
Teacher tenure is one of the most talked about policies in American education today. Once meant as a safeguard against the whims of administrators, tenure protected teachers from being unfairly terminated from their positions for political reasons. Presently, forward thinking reformers all support eliminating tenure, citing its outdated nature and the fact that it can protect ineffective and, sometimes criminal, teachers from disciplinary action.
Our members are split on eliminating tenure all together; however, opinions are shifting as public opinion moves in the direction of elimination. An overwhelming majority of AAE teacher members believe that tenure is not necessary for an educator to properly perform his or her job effectively and a vast majority asserted that achieving tenure does not indicate that a teacher is, in fact, effective.
Further, AAE is against the "last hired, first fired" policy by which newer teachers, regardless of performance are let go first to meet lay-off requirements. This policy is unfair to both new high performing teachers and the students they serve, often in urban and low income schools.
Performance Pay & the Value-Added Model
Opposition against teacher evaluation based solely on student test scores is strong among our membership. However, the perception that educators do not want to be evaluated by test scores is a sweeping union-led generalization that leaves many caveats unaddressed.
AAE and our members support a value-added model of student assessments when student test scores are used in part of teacher evaluation. Value-added models take into account important student characteristics such as eligibility for special education services, free and reduced lunch status, school attendance and other factors beyond a teacher's control, thus evaluating educators who teach similar students.
Value-added models also ensure that teachers and schools get credit for not only leading their students to achieve high absolute levels of academic success but also ensuring that students continue to make positive academic gains each year. This is despite the fact those students may not be proficient at a specific grade level.
AAE recommends a multi-pronged approach that would include faculty reviews, test scores, and level of education among other criteria. Notably, years in the system continually ranks last among possible quantifiers of evaluation to our members.
It is imperative that AAE works with policy makers to come up with a system that is fair for teachers. AAE recognizes that a comprehensive evaluation system is coming in many states. It's our job to make sure that teachers have a seat at the table in working toward an effective and just policy.
School choice is a vital component of the education reform movement. We know that students learn differently, so a one-size-fits-all learning environment is mostly counterproductive. Parents must have the choice of where to educate their individual child. And as educators we must recognize the possibilities for advancement and positive growth in the profession through school choice.
AAE recognizes that not all of our members agree with all school choice options. Our surveys indicate, however, that our members agree that the status quo is not working and changes must be made for the sake of our children. While AAE is happy to advocate for choice for teachers, our membership has not embraced certain choice policies, including vouchers or tax credits. What we do support are the possibilities for education with school choice options in play.
Once limited to rigid traditional school-terms and schedules, teachers are employed in traditional public schools, charters, private schools, religious schools, and online schools just to name a few. Educators will in turn have choices themselves when deciding when, where and how to teach kids. AAE supports any policy that gives teachers new and rewarding career opportunities.
Charter Schools & Virtual Schools
AAE is pleased to be partnered with several networks of charter schools across the country. While unions resist change and new opportunities for teachers, AAE sees opportunity to serve teachers free from stifling union contracts and bureaucracy.
AAE is in support of any legislation that paves the way for new and innovative learning environments, including charters and virtual schools.
Further, we support fully funded charter schools, lifting caps on charter schools and the expansion of virtual and blended education.
AAE is in favor of paycheck protection, a policy that would prohibit unions from collecting dues via payroll deduction for political purposes. This policy provides a check on union power by ensuring that tax dollars are not used for partisan politics.
Teacher unions in right-to-work states use payroll deduction as a means to trap teachers into paying dues, leaving ridiculously small windows to drop union membership. According to the Alabama Education Association, a paycheck protection bill admittedly would cost the organization $1.4 million dollars in lost dues each year.
Common Core State Standards
AAE is member-driven and has polled members on the merits of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Overall, while the jury is still out on the implementation process and its effect on the flexibility of curriculum, AAE members appear to be moving in the direction of support for consistent standards:
Ninety percent of our member educators are in the process of implementing CCSS. AAE seeks to give members the opportunity to voice their views on the subject and participate in a process that will work to establish best practices for these standards. While AAE does not endorse CCSS as an organization, we support teachers and are interested in providing educators with a seat at the table.