Teachers in the Burt Township School District, Grand Marais, have voted to become a "local-only" union, ending their membership in both the Michigan Education Association and National Education Association. The announcement was made in a press release issued by the Association of American Educators, which assisted the Burt Township educators in the process.
Members of the BTEA had been considering the change since November 2006. All of the group’s members agreed to request the decertification election, which is handled by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
The Burt Township School District is located in Alger County in the Upper Peninsula. District enrollment is approximately 70 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
"Teachers are looking forward to making decisions regarding their terms and conditions of employment without the outside interference and the excessive dues," elementary teacher Brent Hammer was quoted in the press release. Michigan Education Report was not able to reach Hammer directly for comment.
The teachers’ most recent contract with the school district expired on June 30, so the BTEA now will be responsible for negotiating a new contract. According to the release, each member of the BTEA will save about $650 per year by not paying state and national union dues. The group will receive professional services such as liability insurance from AAE, a nonprofit professional association for members of the teaching profession.
"That they took a stand and pushed forward is very significant," La Rae Munk, an attorney and AAE director of legal services, told Michigan Education Report. "Teachers should have the right to be self-governed and make their own decisions regarding their employment."
Many Michigan public school teachers are not aware of local-only union options, Munk said.
"We’re doing a very poor job educating teachers that they have that possibility," she said. Munk wrote the study "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table," published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in 1998.