The opinion letter below was sent to the Courier Journal for publication on January 31, 2021.
By (Names Redacted)
Jefferson County Teacher Association (JCTA) General Elections are going on now through Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 5 PM. Approximately 6,000 Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) teachers are members of their union; however, historically, only around 1,000 of them tend to vote in the triennial elections, in which key officers, as well as board members, are elected. At the time of this writing, more than 1,000 members have already voted, and the election is not even half over. We believe the increased turnout is due to members’ increasing awareness of the abysmal track record of the current leadership, compounded by recent questionable election results.
As a prime example, over the past 20 years, teacher pension solvency has declined from 91% to somewhere around 35% (it’s impossible to know the actual number due to lack of transparency, which the current president also supported). Meanwhile, teacher members have been admonished for pushing for their pension promise to be kept. After all, teachers have kept their end of the bargain, paying 13% of their paycheck into the pensions. Teachers are also not eligible to receive Social Security.
When it comes to racism, JCPS educators have experienced harm at the hands of their own union leaders, who have failed, during this time period, to create policies that protect teachers and students from racist educators. And even when there is a policy, they not only turn a blind eye to the practice, they work behind the scenes to target whistleblowers and suppress their voices.
JCPS parents, students, concerned citizens and grassroots organizers have repeatedly been shut out of decision-making conversations, derailed, maligned, bullied and threatened. These stakeholders want nothing more than what’s best for their public school district, its employees, and students. Yet, the union pushes them out while continuing to endorse, against the wishes of their dues-paying members, lawmakers, who keep causing harm to our public schools. When those same outspoken members decide to step up and run for office in their own union, they, too, are attacked, outcast, silenced and their coalitions destroyed.
Unions are a bastion for democratic governance. Twenty years under the same leader is far too long for any democratically run organization, but especially given the track record referenced above. Some will say JCTA’s president has done some good things, as well. Still, members are left to fight for social justice on their own, and for far too long they have been denied the opportunity to bring new and diverse perspectives to the table. This has only exacerbated the harmful inactions referenced above. In light of the continued harm and threats to Black, brown, LGBTQ+, disabled, poor and marginalized bodies, and especially in light of today’s civil rights movement, the time is now for the current president to step aside. But because he has refused to do so, JCTA members must rise together and vote him out!
Some will say that because we are not JCTA members, this is not our fight. But as JCPS taxpayers, parents, graduates, non-union member educators, and concerned citizens, the decisions they make affect us just the same. For example, if you look at the predatory maneuvers of their ilk in other states, their goal is to unleash the albatross that is the “legacy debt” of government employee pensions by eliminating it completely, or passing it down to local taxpayers. Either way, we are the ones who will wind up cleaning up the mess and picking up the tab, while our public schools will be hit with enormous financial burdens that further endanger our most vulnerable populations.
Also, because we are not JCTA members, we cannot vote in this election, but that doesn’t mean we must remain silent. We are simply concerned about our teachers and our children. Therefore, we are raising our voices to ask for the community’s help in encouraging the remaining 5,000 JCTA members to vote.
Please reach out to a JCPS teacher you know and ask them if they have voted in the JCTA election. Tell them to vote for the betterment of their future, for our children’s futures, and for better representation within their union. It’s imperative they do so before 5 PM on Wednesday. Thank you.
The response we received was that they were unable to verify the information and therefore were unable to publish it. I sent them information verifying the claims and heard nothing back.