specific characteristic only.
How many people have been cut off in traffic by someone with a
California license plate and then blasted those “California drivers?”
Generalizations are especially prevalent in politics. Who’s heard that
rural Nevada is conservative, but Las Vegas is liberal? Or that
“rednecks” vote Republican, but Latinos vote Democratic?
Now, sometimes, generaliza-tions serve an important purpose — like
informational predictions of how many seats Republicans will pick up
in the House and Senate in the 2014 elections. That’s an event a few
months away that will be heavily influenced by how things stand now.
But in the long term, generalizations ignore the sea changes that
occur beneath the surface. These changes occur in small steps and
create the large-scale movements that seem to appear out of nowhere.
A change like that is happening right now within Nevada’s teachers union.
The Nevada State Education Association claims it is teachers “voice in
education.” It doesn’t seem misleading for the NSEA to say it speaks
for teachers, except for one very significant fact: The teachers union
doesn’t represent two in five teachers in the state.
In the Clark County Education Association and Washoe Education
Association, NSEA’s two largest local chapters, only 59.5 percent and
60.5 percent of teachers, respectively, are union members. These
districts also contain over 85 percent of the state’s teachers.
In Nevada’s 15 smaller districts, less than 68 percent are union
members. In total, only 60.6 percent of Nevada’s teachers belong to
the teachers union.
Union membership wasn’t always this low. Nevada is a right-to-work
state ——and no teacher has to join the union; however, once a teacher
joins, he or she can leave only by submitting written notice between
July 1 and July 15.
That two-week window is in the middle of summer when school-related
activities are far from the minds of most teachers. That’s
intentional. Union officials know that many teachers, seeing an
opportunity to leave, will.’
One catalyst for the recent drop in union membership has been a Nevada
Policy Research Institute effort to let teachers know that they can
leave the union and when and how to do so. For the last two years,
NPRI has run information campaigns to let teachers know about the
15-day period when their personal decision about union membership can
The response of teachers has been profound: many have thanked NPRI for
sharing the information, and many more teachers are abandoning the
union in droves. In just two years, over 1,400 teachers have left
NSEA, reducing its annual union dues income by more than $1.1 million.
So, why are teachers leaving? Here are some of the reasons teachers
have given NPRI:
—Poor customer service. Why would a teacher pay over $700 a year to an
organization that won’t return their phone calls or treat them with
—Save over $700 a year. Teachers recognize the value of money. Many
believe they can spend the $700-plus that would have gone to union
dues better than union officials. Mortgage payments, vacations and
educational supplies for teachers’ own children are some of the uses.
—Alternative professional educator associations offer better benefits
for less. Union members do receive a $1 million liability protection
policy, and many teachers do want financial protection from potential
lawsuits; however, teachers have choices, and they can get insurance
and benefits superior to what NSEA offers by going through certain
national, nonpartisan, professional educator associations. For
instance, the Association of American Educators provides each member
with a $2 million liability insurance policy, along with legal
protection and supplementary insurance options for only $180 a year.
—The union is playing politics with teachers’ money. Last year, NSEA
made a $1 million donation to support the margin-tax ballot
initiative; this year, it’s likely to spend even more. And union
bosses brag often about their ability to play politics in Carson City;
yet, most teachers — whether leaning to the right or the left — aren’t
involved in education because they enjoy politics. Many teachers just
want to teach and leave political pursuits to their personal lives,
not their professional ones.
Just like their students, every teacher is unique and has unique
reasons for wanting to leave their union. What’s undeniable is that
many believe leaving the union is best for them.
Victor Joecks is executive vice president of the Nevada Policy
Research Institute. For more information, visit NPRI.org.