- - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

August means recess for Congress, the final weeks of vacation for students (the crickets begin to take on a particularly mournful sound at dusk), and this year, teachers in Michigan have a shot at freedom — if they hurry. The teachers union has been holding teachers hostage, but if they’re diligent they can escape over the next few weeks.

The Michigan Education Association devised a clever scheme to retain members after Michigan became a right-to-work state two years ago, ending forced unionization. The union allows members to “opt out” only during the month of August. It’s “pro-choice” only if the union doesn’t abort the attempt.

Teachers unaware of the arbitrary deadline were out of luck last year and had to keep paying dues for another year. Several teachers who tried to cancel their membership were told their requests were denied. They, too, had to keep paying dues or be hounded by a debt collector.

Several teachers, including Miriam Chanski, a young Coopersville kindergarten teacher, won an unfair labor practice complaint earlier this year forcing the Michigan Education Association to allow them out of the union and refund the dues.

Michigan teachers don’t get much for the dues, which can cost more than $1,100, beyond liability insurance, a pocket calendar and discounts at certain retailers. Professional liability insurance is available through homeowner’s policies or memberships in organizations such the Christian Educators Association or the Association of American Educators at a fraction of the cost of their union dues.

Dues are steep because the Michigan Education Association regularly hands over a pot of cash to the National Education Association, which redistributes the money to political campaigns, such as the re-election of President Obama and handouts to the Sierra Club or Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

In the last election cycle, the national union used $36 million of teachers’ dues collected across the country to fund political campaigns and lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of 320 federal candidates the union supported two years ago, 301 were Democrats. Teachers who didn’t agree with the Democratic Party agenda had to finance ideas they oppose. This election season, the NEA is poised to spend even more.

No wonder Michigan teachers realized they were paying too much for a calendar and coupons. More than 10,000 teachers have left the Michigan Education Association already. Many more are looking for emancipation starting on Friday.