- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A fifth group of Kansas teachers has decertified from the state’s main teachers union in what a rival organization described as a statewide trend.

Teachers in the tiny Spearville Unified School District near Dodge City voted Wednesday to leave the Kansas National Education Association, meaning the teachers will no longer negotiate their annual contracts through a union local, the Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/KTIBWo ) reported.

Spearville employs about 30 teachers, according to the Kansas State Department of Education website. The five districts that have decertified in the past year - Deerfield, Caldwell, Vermillion and Rolla - have about 145 teachers combined.

A spokesman for the Association of American Educators, the KNEA’s non-union rival, said the latest defections are part of a trend across Kansas and indicate many teachers are frustrated with the political activities of the KNEA or its parent organization, the National Education Association.

“A lot of these local educators aren’t finding value with the state and national unions,” said Alix Freez, a spokeswoman for AAE in Alexandria, Va., describing the defections as “clearly a statewide trend.”

AAE and its Kansas branch, KANAAE, compete with KNEA for members. KANAAE informs teachers on how to certify form KNEA and offers services such as insurance teachers might otherwise get through KNEA, but it doesn’t bargain teacher contracts.

KNEA calls AAE and its state branch front groups for anti-union interests whose goal is to undermine collective bargaining. While AAE says it isn’t opposed to bargaining rights, it considers collective bargaining an “outdated” model and chooses not to engage in it.

KNEA says it has about 25,000 members, and KANAAE says it has about 1,300.

KNEA spokesman Marcus Baltzell said KANAEE uses “smoke and mirrors” tactics and seems to be pushing for decertifications.

“They take your money for an insurance policy,” Baltzell said. “That’s not what we are.”

KNEA and AAE also accuse each other of being partisan, but both say they aren’t.

Baltzell said his organization has a political action committee but that KNEA members don’t have to contribute. Contributions are used only for Kansas elections, he said, and in 2012 they supported 32 Republican candidates and 21 Democrats for seats in the Legislature.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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