One Quarter of Dougco Teachers Drop Union

July 31, 2014

ABC-appleThe teachers’ union representing the Douglas County school system has lost one-quarter of its membership, signaling a growing frustration within the ranks that dues are used to finance politics instead of professional development.

The significant drop in membership of the Douglas County Federation (DCF) was revealed in a July 21 letter from two board members to Courtney Smith, union president, and was based on the union’s most recently released tax returns.

The letter pointed to the drop in membership as undeniable proof that teachers had chosen the district over the union and the need for major changes within the organization.

The letter called for union leaders to “unequivocally reject” five financial practices, including the use of dues for elections and a means of political leverage on the board, demands the district pay dues without providing a return of services, and failing to use union funds for professional teacher development.

“You should strongly stand for not pulling money out of the classroom to run a union,” said the letter signed by Kevin Larsen, board president, and Doug Benevento, vice president.

The school board officials noted that prior union leadership had remained uncommitted to its members and their professional development, and instead pushed funds towards political endeavors and seemingly subjective wage scales.

“It was a system that left the impression of cronyism,” said the letter. “Your leadership should put teachers first.”

Benevento told The Observer in an interview that board officials believe even more members may have left the union since the last numbers were provided.

“That was a year ago,” Benevento said. “I think their membership is probably even more significantly down by now.”

Union-backed board candidates were defeated in the last 11 elections in Douglas County according to the letter, providing further evidence of the union’s failure to meet the needs and expectations of teachers and voters within the community.

“I think the community is telling them: stop trying to buy board members that will reward you with a contract that will pay big money out of the classroom to pay union leadership,” said Benevento in the interview.

“Start investing in teachers and professional development for them, and stop investing in politics and in protecting [your] own salaries and benefits,” Benevento said.

Contrary to the acute drop in union membership, 95 percent of highly effective teachers and 93 percent of effective teachers have stayed within the district thus far, pointing to the success of the district’s pay-for-performance system.

“It’s very, very clear that our pay-for-performance system works,” said Benevento. “The union should stop trying to bring back the one-size fits-all, union-approved wage scale. We firmly believe teachers are professionals and need to be compensated like professionals.”

Earlier this month, the Colorado Department of Education rejected five union challenges to the Douglas County school district’s pay-for-performance program.

In the letter, the board further urged the union to establish financial integrity, accountability, and reconciliation with the community, saying the organization should take such action if they “seek to stop teachers from fleeing [their] union.”

The school board officials offered pointed advice for Smith, who took over as president of the DCF in January.

“Your predecessor failed because she believed that attacking the district and attempting to foment crisis would help elect union candidates,” said the letter.

Instead, board officials believe the teachers union must take firm steps away from past practices in order to retain their membership and reestablish a relationship with the Douglas County community.

“It is clear that voters and teachers believe that the leadership of the DCF is not in touch with the community,” said the letter. “As the leadership of the district, we sincerely hope that you reengage with the community in a productive manner that recognizes that union leadership must disavow the past practice of attacks and untruths. If you choose that path, we are confident you can reconcile with our community.”

Benevento said the district-union relationship is now in the union’s hands, but so far the union has been largely unresponsive to the messages being sent by the district, community, and former union members.

“Unfortunately [Smith] didn’t seem to want to go that direction in a recent talk that she gave,” said Benevento. “But we’re hopeful that she will read these signs for what they are: a rejection of their past political operation and their members wanting to refocus on education in Douglas County.”

“We’re hopeful that Courtney will hear that message and that she will respond to it in a manner that turns the union’s attention back to its members and back to maintaining and improving educational excellence in Douglas County,” said Benevento.

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9 Responses to One Quarter of Dougco Teachers Drop Union

  1. oatka
    July 31, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Follow Scott Walker’s example in WI, empower the people, and watch those rates drop another 50%.

    Many unions today exist only to feather their own nest – and their Democratic allies – and the members suffer for it.

  2. Former Teacher
    July 31, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    The ignorance expressed in this article is almost beyond comprehension. Try actually gathering information and reporting ALL of it truthfully for a change instead of being a megaphone for narrow-minded extremist self-interests bent on destroying our district.

    • Dale Anema
      July 31, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      I’m glad that you’re a former teacher.

    • Brian McFarlane
      July 31, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      This was YOUR opportunity to add some… truth? and all you could do is blast rhetoric with NO facts/truth of your own. It would really be nice to know what the article got wrong…

      Unions are a good example of “self-interests”… from what I can find on this issue it sure looks like the school board and voters have the students interest in mind, not so much with the union.

    • Hunter
      August 1, 2014 at 6:32 am

      So…Former Union Teacher. Are you disputing the teachers union has lost one fourth of their union members in Douglas County? If so, please, Glorious Teacher, Please Spell It Out. How many Douglas County union members has your glorious teachers union lost?

    • silver
      August 1, 2014 at 9:13 am

      God saved us and our children from you “former teacher”……………

  3. Tim Slekar
    July 31, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    This isn’t really news right? This is simply a district press release posing as journalism. Not a single assertion was supported by an single ounce of evidence. People of Douglas County you need to insist that your media stop printing propaganda.

    • Brian McFarlane
      July 31, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      Please shed some light on the issue.

      Evidence? The letter that was referred to is not evidence? Please tell us what was inaccurate in reporting what the letter stated. The drop in membership was based on the union’s most recently released tax returns; is that not evidence? Were union backed candidates not defeated? That seems to be evidence that at least the voters wanted a change.

      Colorado Department of Education rejected five union challenges to the Douglas County school district’s pay-for-performance program… is this not true? The rejections were not from the district.

      I suppose that teachers ARE wising-up that paying dues is a waste of their money. And a VAST majority of teachers are staying at Douglas County schools… or is that not accurate?

  4. TB
    August 1, 2014 at 10:58 am

    The negative comments on this article illustrate the rhetoric employed by the radical leftist teachers in DougCo. In the last school board election there was so much propaganda – from their side – and hostility towards civilized debate. The crayons on their car windows, the violation of Highlands Ranch HOA rules with their sidewalk scrawls and sign posting… It was truly a spectacle THEY should be ASHAMED of. Please leave the District. Our community would be much better off without YOU! I have to agree with Dr. Michael Savage – Liberalism IS a mental disorder.

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