In a 5-4 decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector unions can no longer collect agency fees, a ruling that will have consequences for teachers unions, and for teacher advocacy more broadly.
PIE Network members are weighing in on what the decision means for the work of improving education.
Educators for Excellence
In a statement, co-founder and co-CEO Evan Stone said, “We are disappointed in this decision. We believe teachers unions play a critically important role, and the vast majority of teachers believe they are essential or important. We also know, based on survey data we recently released, that nearly three-quarters of union teachers believe their unions’ policy decisions are not greatly aligned with their own policy preferences. To retain members long-term and remain strong, unions will need to better connect with their members and ensure their policy positions and priorities reflect the beliefs of their diverse memberships.” E4E’s survey was also highlighted in a New York Times article on the Janus decision this week.
CEO Roberto Rodriguez said in a statement, “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is deeply disappointing. Unions have played and will continue to play an important role in the lives of working men and women, especially America’s teachers…This decision, however, doesn’t change the importance of teacher voice and its potential for change in American education. Teachers recognize the power of their unified voice in supporting their peers and the students they serve. Teach Plus will remain steadfast in our commitment to elevating and empowering teachers to lead in building a stronger teaching profession and advocating with our partners, including our teacher unions, for the opportunities that students deserve.” Earlier this year, Teach Plus Massachusetts executive director Paul Toner asked, Will Post-Janus Unions Go Beyond Traditional Models?
National Council on Teacher Quality
President Kate Walsh said in a statement, “This is a powerful opportunity for union leaders to hit the reset button and show their members and the public that the number one priority is putting effective teachers in the best position to provide students with a quality education…We encourage union leaders to use this moment to breathe new life into the teaching profession, which will ensure that teachers will be even more engaged in the future.” Earlier this year, NCTQ released an analysis on how the decision is likely to play out state to state.
Dan Weisberg, CEO, wrote that the Teachers Unions Could Win by Losing Janus. “I personally think the court was wrong to overturn the half-century-old precedent here; it’s a matter of basic fairness that teachers who reap the benefits of collective bargaining should also share in the costs,” Weisberg said. But, the decision also presents an opportunity for transformation of purpose. “As professional associations, unions could put all their resources and political clout behind a long-term plan for elevating the teaching profession through higher pay, more rigorous performance standards, and better working conditions. They could support their members’ grassroots advocacy for this agenda without any obligation to defend individual members who engage in misconduct or who simply aren’t up to the job, a change that would probably win them new allies.”
Foundation for Excellence in Education
Governor Jeb Bush, ExcelinEd’s board chair, said in a statement, “Public employee unions, including teachers unions, have long been able to put the agenda of Big Labor bosses above the needs of the broader membership they serve. No longer forced to fund an organization unaligned with their values, teachers now have the power to consider a union’s agenda on their own terms. I am hopeful that the era of teachers union bosses playing politics with our schools will give way to a 21st-century model of education that focuses on the students, not the adults. Today’s decision ushers in a real opportunity to transform education in America.”
American Federation for Children
AFC President John Schilling released a statement saying, “Today is a win for families and educators across the country. We’re glad to see that educators will be able to keep more of their hard-earned money in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus case. Educators shouldn’t be forced to give their pay to union leaders whose self-serving political agenda opposes giving parents the right to choose the best school for their children. As the American Federation for Children fights to give families options for every child’s K-12 education, we believe this Janus decision will empower educators with political choice and will allow for more student-centered reforms, like educational choice, in our K-12 education system.”
Center for American Progress
President and CEO Neera Tanden said in a statement, “Today’s decision limits the power of millions of hard-working Americans to come together in strong unions to bargain over fair wages, decent benefits, and a voice on the job. The ruling affects all working people—regardless of union membership—since strong unions help boost equality and build our nation’s middle class. Weakening collective bargaining will almost certainly mean smaller paychecks for many working Americans—as has been the case with Wisconsin’s teachers. Yet support for unions is on the rise: The widespread teacher strikes taking place across the country show that everyday Americans, in red states and blue states alike, are ready to stand up for fair pay and decent work.”
In a statement, vice president of legal affairs Leslie Hiner said, “Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of teachers and other public sector employees, recognizing their right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to decide whether to join or otherwise support a union. Just as we support the right of parents to choose how and where their children are educated, we support the right of teachers to choose whether to support a union at the schools where they teach our children. Our teachers have been empowered today, as they can no longer be compelled to financially support a union that does not represent their interests and values. If their interests align with the union, they are still free to join that union, but teachers now have the freedom to choose.”
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Senior Visiting Fellow Erika Sanzi wrote on Fordham’s Flypaper blog that, “As a former member of two teachers’ unions, I celebrate the ‘Janus’ decision.” Sanzi wrote, “While people scream from the rooftops about how wrong and unfair the Janus ruling is, let’s pause for a moment and at least acknowledge that, in the context of the teachers’ unions, almost no one is even talking about what’s best for kids in any of their passion filled proclamations about the destruction of the middle class. And if the well-being of children—who are mandated by law to attend school—isn’t front and center, I don’t want to hear the wailing.”
Please let us know if you’d like to connect with any of these advocates about the impact of the Janus ruling.