Week in Review: For my next number ...

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


For my next number...

Seriously, I love you guys, but you’re killing me here.

Last week I wrote what I thought was one of the more important Week in Review columns of the year. I discussed NPRI’s brand-new study on the dangers of the margin tax, and shared with you some of the extensive media coverage of our domino-toppling spectacle, which we used to illustrate the 3,610 jobs the study found would be wiped out if the tax were to go into effect. Lots of useful, substantive stuff in there.

So which line from that 700-word column triggered the most email responses? A reference I made in passing — parenthetically, no less — to my acoustic guitar. It’s really encouraging to see you all have your priorities in order.

All right, all right. I’m just giving you a hard time. Actually, I get it. Sometimes our minds need a break from the worrisome world of public policy. So let’s do this: I’ll reserve some space at the end of this week’s column to answer some of your questions on my burgeoning career as a rock star. Sound good?

For now, though, let’s get down to business.

***

Pop quiz: What’s better than quitting an organization you don’t wish to belong to? Answer: Never joining in the first place.

Those of you who follow NPRI’s work know that for three straight years now, we’ve been informing teachers throughout Nevada of their right to leave their union if they want to. The unions try to keep that right a secret, of course, but thanks in part to our efforts, more than 1,400 teachers across the state opted to leave their union between 2012 and 2013. This year’s opt-out window just closed, and we should know in a couple months how many teachers followed suit in 2014.

Teachers who have left their union cite all kinds of reasons for doing so. But the fact is that many of them only joined the union to begin with because they thought they didn’t have a choice. In actuality, they do. And for new Clark County teachers, the coming weeks will provide an opportunity to make the choice that’s right for them.

On August 13 and 14, representatives from the Clark County Education Association will be at the school district’s new-teacher orientation, in an effort to get those new teachers to sign up. From what we’ve been told by some teachers, these union reps can make it seem as though joining the union is a requirement. Teachers should know, however, that joining the union (and paying the $780-plus a year union membership will cost) is entirely optional.

And here are a couple other things the union doesn’t want new (or any) teachers to know: In Nevada, non-union members and union members enjoy the same compensation, and for teachers concerned about liability insurance, there are alternatives to the union — such as the Association of American Educators — that offer better coverage for a fraction of the cost.

There are plenty of other reasons why belonging to the union might not be the best option for some teachers. But the bottom line is that each individual teacher should be trusted to make an individual decision regarding union membership. It’s been humorous these past few years to see union leaders accuse NPRI of being “anti-teacher” simply for informing teachers of their rights. Increasingly, however, teachers aren’t buying it. They’re showing an eagerness to trade the hot air of union rhetoric for the cool breeze of reason and logic, and are recognizing that whether to belong to the union is a decision they can and should make for themselves.

So if you’re a new teacher, remember: Union membership is a choice, not a requirement. We won’t tell you what to do, and neither should a union official. Keep that in mind at your orientation.                                      

***

OK, so … I bought my guitar (a steel-string acoustic, for those of you who asked) a few years ago, after a conversation with our own Joe Becker, actually. We were at a conference together, and Joe had his guitar with him. He’d been playing for about 15 years at that point, and as we got talking, it brought back fond memories of a Fisher-Price four-string I had as a kid, and I thought it might be a nice thing to take up. So I bought my guitar, and then — life being full of so much other stuff — I stuck it in a closet and pretty much forgot I even had it for a while.

But over the past few months, I’ve been playing pretty often, and it really is a lot of fun. I’m still getting the hang of it — I’m not sure what the technical names for the various skill levels are, but I’d guess I fall somewhere between “terrible” and “I think maybe you’re holding it upside down.” But I’m one of those artists who’ve never cared much for what the critics think.

In all seriousness, I do appreciate those of you who wrote in on that subject. A bunch of you asked what kind of stuff I like to play, so let’s have some fun here. I’ll buy a cup of coffee for the first person who can write in and accurately guess the first song I learned. (Hint: There’s a reference to some of the song’s lyrics somewhere in this column.) Good luck to you all!

Take care, and I’ll see you next time…

 

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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