Education Money Available to Teachers Spurned by Teachers Union
Again this year Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE) makes grant money available to teachers with deserving goals. One may believe giving money away for professional and student achievement purposes ought to be easy, but it is anything but easy.
Each year, NWPE offers grants and scholarships to teachers at every school in Washington and Idaho for professional development and for classroom materials which serve to improve educational achievement. Awards range from $200 to $500.
In past years, NWPE teacher scholarships have funded a variety of educational opportunities including Spanish classes for a science teacher interested in improving the science skills of her limited English students; attendance at the National Science Teachers Association convention; and continuing education courses in history, math and reading strategies. Examples of the mini-grant awards have included funds for a laptop computer for a school journalism/yearbook program; books for an all-school reading program; science laboratory equipment, fitness walking pedometers; geography/social studies software; and "books on tape" for a school library.
Much of the success of NWPE's grant program relies upon getting the grant information out to the thousands of schoolteachers in Washington and Idaho. Unfortunately, some administrators and many union leaders view such grant opportunities as a threat to their control of the education system.
The dissemination of NWPE grant information has met with hostile action at more than one campus. For example, the Moses Lake Education Association (MLEA), which is part of the Washington Education Association (WEA) and the National Education Association (NEA), took disruptive action. The teacher that distributed informational flyers to teacher mailboxes was confronted by teacher union presidents and told it was against the union contract to distribute such information, claiming that NWPE is a competing union prohibited from using school mailboxes. Fortunately, Moses Lake school administrators backed up the teacher's free speech rights.
It was a different story for an NWPE member in Omak, WA. After granting permission to distribute NWPE information in teacher mailboxes, school administrators backtracked under pressure from the teachers union. The Omak teacher union president contends that the union has authority over who uses the mailboxes and what information can be distributed to teachers.
Last year, a union member in eastern Washington was called on the carpet by her union boss and told she should have never accepted NWPE's teacher scholarship for classes to improve student achievement in math and science.
Professional organizations like NWPE and Phi Delta Kappa are not competing labor unions; they are professional associations promoting opportunities for professional development with the goal of increasing student achievement. NWPE does not represent teachers in collective bargaining and is, therefore, not a labor union. NWPE offers members legal services, $2 million liability insurance, professional development, and a voice on education issues.
NWPE welcomes both nonunion and union educators.
NWPE will continue to fund deserving teachers and projects and make money available again this year. All educators are eligible for the awards. Sadly, because of the union, not all educators will hear of the opportunity.
If you are a teacher or you know a teacher who could use extra funds to improve professionally or improve student achievement, contact NWPE as soon as possible to ensure consideration for grant monies. The next application deadline for NWPE scholarships and grants is October 31, 2004. The spring application review deadline is March 31, 2005.
Cindy Omlin, Executive Director
Northwest Professional Educators