Teachers in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District voted recently to remain affiliated with the National Education Association-Alaska.
Members of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association participated in a mail-in ballot earlier this month, voting overwhelmingly in favor of continued affiliation with the country's largest teachers' union. A total of 306 KPEA members voted, with 249 in favor of the affiliation. Fifty-six teachers voted to disassociate.
The decision is the result of an October meeting of the KPEA's policy assembly, in which conversations revolved around the relationship between the local and national associations.
Skyview High School teacher and association representative Dave Carey, who also is mayor of Soldotna, said in October that some teachers were unhappy with the "closed shop" situation in the district. All teachers in the district are required to be NEA members, paying dues of nearly $800 a year, or to pay an "agency fee" of about $740 a year.
Much of that money goes out of state and often supports NEA goals that sometimes conflict with those of teachers in Alaska.
However, he noted that proponents of the relationship between KPEA and NEA argue that the affiliation lends credence, power and support to the relatively small number of local teachers.
KPEA President Cathy Carrow, who teaches first grade at Redoubt Elementary School, said she believed it was time to give the membership an opportunity to weigh in on the matter formally.
"This small faction has made several attempts to decertify or disaffiliate our union over the last few years," she said. "One of the statements we heard frequently from the handful of disaffected members was that they wanted to settle this once and for all; that if this effort failed, they would accept the will of the group and discontinue these efforts."
The KPEA sent out mail-in ballots for a full membership vote, and the results were counted Jan. 27 by the League of Women Voters. A two-thirds majority would have been needed to disassociate with NEA-Alaska and form an independent association.
Carrow said the results were predictable.
"We're pleased, but not surprised at the vote of our members," she said.
Now, she said, she hopes the matter is settled and KPEA members can move on to bigger issues.
"I expect them to live up to that promise," she said. "These internal fights do nothing but distract us from the important challenges we all face: providing an excellent education for the children of the Kenai and working with the district to secure adequate funding for our schools."
KPEA represents 600 teachers on the peninsula. NEA-Alaska, the state's largest union, represents 13,000 educators, and NEA, the nation's largest teachers' union, represents about 2.7 million members.
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