Fort Wayne Area Teachers Split From ISTA

The Education Action Group has been doing some solid reporting in recent months on its Hoosier Report Card dedicated, in its own words, to "grading education reform in Indiana." A recent entry on the troubles of the Indiana State Teachers Association:

We’ve heard from many Hoosier educators who dislike the Indiana State Teachers Association’s collective bargaining and political tactics. We’ve written about how the ISTA has granted substantial raises to its top officials as its membership numbers have slid and school districts struggled to meet the union’s financial demands.

In Northwest Allen County Schools, those frustrations with the ISTA came to a boil last week when educators voted overwhelmingly to disassociate themselves from the statewide union. Northwest Allen County Education Association President Alan Bodenstein told NewsChannel 15 that local union leadership had been considering a split with the ISTA for about a year. About 150 of the district’s 350 teachers are represented by the NACEA, which was affiliated with the ISTA and the National Education Association.

NACEA members voted 111-17 Thursday to break ties with the ISTA and become an independent bargaining unit for several reasons, including “cost, dwindling membership and differences over tactics and perceived effectiveness,” the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports.

“The financial piece of it, there’s always the political part of it, but I think for me, the biggest part was our membership was starting to dwindle and we needed to figure out a way to build a stronger local,” Bodenstein told NewsChannel 15. “If our numbers go up locally our administration will have to listen a little bit harder to what we’re saying.”

The split is an interesting development at a time when the ISTA is pulling out all stops to recruit more members. The union is struggling to justify its relevance with recent collective bargaining changes that now limit union influence in schools.

NACEA educators apparently believe that they will attract more members if they disassociate themselves from the ISTA and NEA, a clear sign that the union’s rhetoric is wearing thin with some teachers.

Ultimately, the move will give the district’s teachers a greater say in school operations and teacher compensation, because the local union will not be forced to heed the selfish desires of ISTA bosses. The NACEA can now ensure that educators won’t lose their jobs and student programs won’t suffer to fund unnecessary union perks for older employees, as has been the practice in most ISTA affiliated schools.

With the help of a dozen other Indiana districts that have dropped the ISTA, we suspect that the NACEA will survive, or even flourish, now that it has made the split. Local educators who resented the union’s bullying tactics and unrealistic demands can now express their views without ridicule from ISTA bosses, and the NACEA will finally be free to make student learning the district’s top priority.